Great, Unmet Expectations: 5 Paths to Comfort & Joy This Holiday Season

By now, you probably still have a pumpkin on your porch. And most likely, your Thanksgiving turkey still has its feathers and a beak. Your Christmas list doesn’t exist.

But if you’re like a lot of people, the pre-holiday dread that rears its head upon first sight of holiday décor in department stores is already present, like a big, fat fly buzzing around your head.

Maybe it’s the strained relationships with parents or disapproving in-laws or the totally out-of-control children of your siblings or simply the insanity and exhaustion of getting from point A to point B with the kids, the food and the gifts in tow.  And with its constant buzzing often comes a defeated resignation that snuffs out the comfort and joy and peace we’re supposed to experience. Right?

Now, I’m the entertainment writer, not a relationship expert. But, in addition to the delightful Christmasprogramming all over the UP sure to keep you in the spirit of Christmas longer than it takes to bake a pumpkin pie, here’s a few quick ‘sanity-keeping’ bits of advice in hope that comfort and joy finds you early this holiday season and stays curled up in your heart long after Christmas Day.

One: Pray daily for peace… in your spirit, and in your family. Imagine what peace might look like in your family during the holidays. What could it look like in you?

Two: Give up your need to control. The person who tries to control or influence the actions and behaviors of others will always be disappointed and frustrated. Instead, focus on your own actions. Limit the obligations that stress you out, plan in advance how you will respond to difficult people and situations, and make time for the people and activities that remind you of what matters.

Three: Change your expectations/assumptions. How we perceive our family situations is very important. Instead of focusing on the unchangeable negatives about relatives, ‘accentuate the positive’ as the old adage says. Look for the common good, the compliment, the one thing about that person you can honestly relate to or appreciate and make that the focus of your connection.

Four: Reach out. Think your family is crazy? Think your financial situation couldn’t be any worse? Think your kids need a reality check. Nothing cultivates gratitude (or wipes out entitlement) better than serving others. Give socks or hot coffee to homeless people.  Visit the elderly. Get to know your neighbor. See a need and try to meet it.

Five: Say little. Show more. Some things really are better left unsaid. The holidays are emotionally charged enough and rarely a good time to address the pink elephant in the room. Leave that elephant alone and make it your mission to love. Love has always been less about words and more about action.

If we can manage even a few of these, the holiday season is bound to be more relaxing and certainly more memorable. And who knows, this year could actually be “the most wonderful season of all….”