I have a question for you. Do you enjoy the holidays? Or let me phrase it another way, are the holidays more stressful or enjoyable for you? Is it a toss up? Based on what I see all around me, and the anxious and stressed patients showing up on my table in the last few weeks, I’d venture to guess that stress may trump enjoyment at times. For some reason, this time of year has become fraught with demands- from ourselves, from our families, and from our society. There’s family expectations of seeing one another, or to have the “perfect” day together, there’s pressure to find the perfect gift- for everyone in your life, don’t forget the holiday card mailings, holiday parties, gift lists from your kids that are four pages long, full of electronic devices and other toys you’ve never heard of. I could go on, but you get my point…
Personally, I have always struggled to find joy this time of year. In part it is because of the lack of light and short days, but the other part is that the holidays were always fraught with tension, unmet expectations, and arguing in my family. My husband has the same feelings about the holidays, though for different reasons, and so together, we can be quite the gloomy pair from November through the new year. After another gloomy year last year, I swore that 2015 would be different. I engineered my Starling Holiday Survival Plan, which had one simple strategy: Leave town for the holidays, shake up the scenery, and escape the holiday blues. I know this may sacrilege to some of you, and I get that. But most of you know, I’m not your average bird, and I have always had a tendency to eschew traditions. Moreover, for me, that rebellion has been about my survival. My heart’s survival.
What do you when you are faced with the prospect of stepping into a negative environment? Negativity impacts me on a very deep level, as I am sure it does with each of you. Sometimes, the situation is unavoidable, in which case we must attempt to be the best versions of ourselves- and sometimes, admittedly, I fail at that and I devolve into my 5-year old self. The times when I can avoid the negative situations, I do, and often I seek out something that will bring me joy instead.
Joy is highly underrated, in my view. Too many of us go through our lives, foregoing joy for Ok-ness. Things are “ok”, I am “ok”, I can get through…, etc. Of course, life has its mundane moments, and difficult times. What I am getting at is that too often, joy falls by the wayside completely.
When was the last time you had a truly deep, authentic, belly laugh, where you laughed so hard you thought you might cry? For me, it had been a really long time. Until our holiday survival plan set in motion and I found myself at Universal Studios and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, FL. Yes, my friends, that’s right. We escaped to the fantasy worlds in Universal Studios. And you know what? We had a blast! I laughed harder than I have laughed in months. We all did. It was the perfect and refreshing getaway. Who’d have thunk? I never imagined that it would be refreshing, nor did I think it would be relaxing, but I knew it would be fun, and getting away would be good for us… I suppose it helps to have low expectations sometimes- then it’s hard not to be pleasantly surprised!
Part 2 of our survival plan is quickly nearing as we are heading out to San Francisco for the Christmas holiday. Again, choosing joy and excitement, over the holiday blues. We will be visiting with my oldest and dearest friends and staying in the city that is always with me in my heart (as the song goes, “I left my heart in San Francisco!”). Interestingly, I’ve noticed that we haven’t had the holiday blues this year. Instead, we have been busily taking care of business and house stuff as we prepare for our trips. The plan seems to be working!
I’m sharing with you about my struggles and ways of dealing with them to offer a little inspiration to those of you who like me, tend to get a little down or uber stressed out this time of year. Sometimes all it takes is to give yourself permission to say “no” to obligations, guilt, or tradition, and “yes” to life to get your heart, mind and body aligned again. In whatever way this resonates for you, at any moment in the next couple of weeks, I encourage you to seek out JOY and laughter!