Ready or Not… Here Come the Holidays!

By Chris Hammond, MS, IMH

Do the holidays catch you by surprise every year as if they came in the middle of the night sneaking up on you while you slept? Do you feel tired and overwhelmed at just the thought of the next “fun” family gathering? Do the Christmas colors of red and green remind you more of anger and money instead of holly and wreaths? Too often expectations of anticipated holiday traditions tend to get in the way of truly enjoying the events as you desperately try to be or to do things inconsistent with your normal life. Here is a look at three expectations that may need to be examined before this holiday season hits.

“Deck the halls with boughs of holly”. For many, the holidays are all about the decorations and not just a few candles or one tree but numerous trees (one main pretty tree, one with the kid’s school made ornaments, small ones for each of kid’s rooms, and sometimes a couple small ones for outside accompanying the full manger scene), wreaths on the windows and doors, garland on doorposts and furniture, red slipcovers and pillows for the sofas and chairs, boxes and boxes of decorations for every room of the house and of course lights, lots of lights both inside and out. Tired yet? The expectation for the holidays is to decorate all of your living and working areas, but is this expectation one tradition you really want to pass on? Instead, how about letting someone else do the decorating and take a much needed vacation during the holidays, maybe it will become your best new tradition yet.

“Tis the season to be jolly”. Do not forget the parties. Beginning in September your calendar begins to fill up with various events, school performances, church performances, and parties with friends, family and co-workers to be attended during the holiday season all with an abundance of food. Each of the celebrations brings an expectation that you are happy and joyful for the holidays and are eagerly waiting celebrating the event. Yet if you truly examine yourself, the extra added activities and sadly calories to your daily routine may actually work against efforts to thoroughly enjoying it. Instead of saying “Yes” to every invitation, limit the number of invitations or events that your family will attend now and then agree as a family that you will decide together which ones to attend and which ones to decline.

“Sing we joyous, all together”. In the end, the holidays are supposed to bring you closer together with your families and friends, at least that is the expectation, but do they really? In the over indulgence of decorations, food, family and friends, you are sadly bonding together in excessiveness but not in the things that really matter. Broken families and friendships coming together for what should be a joyous celebration pretending that nothing is wrong or that the past did not happen can be painful, unproductive, and worse may cause more tension than joy. If your Santa wish list includes not facing someone, how about taking a break for one year from having to see them? Or better yet, use the time together to resolve differences instead of pretending that they do not exist.

Take a moment to examine your traditions and see if they match with your expectations for the holidays. While there is no guarantee that changing your expectations and in some cases your traditions will increase your joyfulness during the holidays, it will at the very least improve your attitude and perspective so the holidays don’t catch you by surprise.

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"Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group weekly eNews, (Copyright, 2004-2011), To subscribe to this valuable counseling and coaching resource visit or call 407-647-7005"

About the author- Chris Hammond is a Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern at LifeWorks Group w/ over 15 years of experience as a counselor, mentor & teacher for children, teenagers & adults.

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