What does a fulfilling holiday season look like to you? What does it smell, sound, and taste like? What does it feel like?
When was the last time you asked yourself these questions?
Maybe it’s been a while.
It’s easy to get swept up in long to-do lists and sky-high expectations. It’s easy to get swept up in what everyone else is doing (and you’re not!): Why can’t I get my shopping done as quickly as she can? Why is my house such a mess? Why does everyone seem so calm?
The key to savoring a satisfying, meaningful holiday season is to carve out some time to think about what that actually means to you.
Therapist Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LCSW-C, shared how we can do exactly that below. Rollin is the founder of The Eating Disorder Center in Rockville, Maryland, which provides eating disorder recovery coaching, along with therapy for adolescents and adults struggling with eating disorders, body image issues, anxiety and depression.
Start with your needs. What do you need this holiday season? Maybe you need deep connection, some contemplation, and gentle movement. Maybe you need calm and coziness. Maybe you need play and humor.
According to Rollin, many people feel the need to set boundaries. For example, some of her clients have asked family members to stop commenting on their weight. Others have declined invitations to certain gatherings.
Setting boundaries is hard for most of us, but it can absolutely be done. When you know what boundary you’d like to set, Rollin suggested communicating it “in a way that feels safe,” such as sending an email before an event or pulling the person aside. Be firm with your boundary regardless of the response, which “is not your responsibility,” she said.
Remember, too, “boundaries actually help relationships in the long-term, because otherwise we build resentment, which can strengthen over time.”
Do what enlivens your soul. Think about your favorite holiday traditions and new memories you’d like to make. Think about the people you’d like to connect with and the experiences you’d like to enjoy. Think about what excites and energizes you. Think about what brings you joy and meaning. Think about what makes the holidays such a special time for you.
Then look at your calendar and prioritize these activities. (And do the same for after the holidays. How can you fit these activities into the new year?)
And if you’re not sure what activities enliven your soul, experiment, Rollin said. Get curious. Be patient. Think of this as an opportunity to learn, grow, and focus on what nourishes you.
Be fully present. “Think about how you can be more present, mindful, and connected,” Rollin said. For example, she suggested setting a limit around screen time. Maybe you also wrap up certain chores or projects so you can completely take a few days off. Maybe you think about the moments you’d like to fully experience ahead of time, such as “mindfully look[ing] at the snow falling with your family,” Rollin said.
Also, as Rollin noted, “the holidays aren’t a joyful time for everyone and it’s 100 percent normal and OK if you aren’t feeling super festive this year.” Be sure to acknowledge how these feelings and soothe yourself.
“Your needs matter and are important, and I hope that this holiday season (and beyond!) you will practice honoring and respecting them.”