It is easy to have unrealistic expectations for the holidays because you want them to be like a "Hallmark Moment" and typically they are not. The reality of the situation is that most people try to cram too much into the holidays and it leaves them feeling fragmented and depleted. There seems to be a universal hope that family members will be able to come to events and more importantly that everyone invited will behave themselves. Unfortunately, the holidays can prove challenging because of these unrealistic expectations.
So today's column is going to remind you to keep your expectations realistic. You know that you can only control your feelings and reactions to what is happening in your life so I would encourage you to use the all encompassing Serenity Prayer to navigate you through the next couple of months. I find that the Serenity Prayer is a great reminder of what you can do in any situation. Here is a refresher in case you can't recall it:
The Serenity Prayer
God, grant me the Serenity to accept the things that I cannot Change, courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the Difference. Reinhold Niebuhr
This is a wonderful coping statement for any situation because it reminds you that only you have the power to change your feelings and reactions to things.
Let's face it, as the holidays approach, you may already be anticipating the family conflicts or problems that may arise. In today's world of blended families and hectic schedules it can be difficult to have the family get-togethers that you experienced as a kid. As a life coach I would encourage you to put together a holiday plan that works for you regardless of the outcome. If kids have to arrive late enjoy who is there at your home and stop worrying about when to serve the meal. If there is family discord, remind yourself that the only thing you can control is how you relate your clan and focus on that. If someone has a drinking problem and you anticipate that being a problem, you get to decide whether you will serve alcohol or not. You can't make it perfect for everyone so tell yourself that you are going to have the nicest gathering that you can and then let go of the outcome because when people have a certain outcome in mind they often times feel disillusioned when it doesn't work out exactly as they would like. This can leave them feeling disappointed and as if their event was a failure.
Remember to stay in the moment. Whether you are visiting someone or preparing for an event, you will have a better time if you stay in the moment and enjoy what is occurring before you. Again, when you focus on your experience you have better coping skills that will carry you through the holidays. Mothers and grandmothers often want perfection for their holidays and that just isn't a realistic expectation.
Now cut out this column and put it somewhere that you can view frequently. I always encourage my clients to memorize the Serenity Prayer because it comes in handy whenever you need to decipher what you can control and what you can't. And when all else fails, practice detachment which is the art of staying in the moment but keeping expectations realistic. I promise your holidays will go smoother if you enjoy the moment and detach from the outcome!
Carol Juergensen Sheets LCSW PCC is a psychotherapist and personal life coach. She does motivational speaking and empowerment trainings locally and nationally. To find out more about her services–contact her at www.carolthecoach.com or call her at 317 218-3479. You can watch Carol the Coach segments on WTHR’s Channel 13 Wednesdays @ 12:50PM.