Wellness Wednesday: Home for the holidays (tips for a bright and meaningful celebration)

December 9, 2020  //  FOUND IN: Updates & Resources

“Home for the holidays” has a much different connotation this year than in years past. Instead of returning home to visit parents, grandparents or grown children, or meeting up with long-time friends to share holiday cheer, experts are advising people to avoid travel and spend time only with members of their immediate household.

Home for the holidays is, quite literally, where most of us will be this year — and that’s okay.

Home is a special place, and less hustle and bustle leaves more time to think about, and really focus on, things that are important to us. In doing so, we can make this holiday season bright and meaningful despite the changes 2020 has brought.

Focus on what is

“Holiday plans and traditions have been complicated by the pandemic, the economic downturn, lost jobs and lost loved ones” said Jake Li, LMSW, faculty and staff counselor with the Office of Counseling and Workplace Resilience. “It’s important that we move our minds away from all the ways this isn’t going to be like past holiday seasons and instead focus on how we can make the holidays meaningful.”

Traits of a tiger

In a recent Short Takes “Reflect and Recharge” video, Li suggested that we learn and draw from the traits of a tiger — discernment, precision and gentleness — to help plan and navigate the holiday season.

“A tiger is very discerning,” said Li. “She walks gracefully through the jungle, observes her surroundings and then acts based on that knowledge.”

In much the same way, Li suggests slowing down and taking a moment to see the whole picture when thinking about this year’s holiday plans. He offers five tips to apply discernment to holiday decisions.

  • Categorize priorities: There are undoubtedly things you love about the holidays and things you typically do but may not necessarily enjoy. Create a list of priorities by making two columns on a sheet of paper. List the holiday activities and traditions you love in one column. In the other, list the activities and traditions that are typically part of your holidays but that you could do without. Fold the paper in half with the “love” side showing and focus on those things only.
  • Sketch out your perfect celebration: Take pen to paper and just start writing! Jot down ideas that you’d like to see happen. Putting your thoughts into words can help turn those ideas into reality.
  • Stand firm on “no”: Li said overcommitting yourself during the holidays can make it an unpleasant time of year. Don’t be afraid to say “no” to things you don’t have time for, and even things you just don’t want to do. Learn to be okay with enjoying some down time, even if it goes against others’ expectations.
  • Reach out by phone or Zoom: Li suggested sitting down with a favorite beverage and reaching out to those you love by phone or Zoom, rather than just sending an email or text. Reliving some of your favorite holiday memories with loved ones is a nice way to get into the holiday spirit.
  • Decorate for you: When it comes to decorating, Li said you should keep it simple and do what makes you happy. Decisions you make should not be based on outside influences but rather on what you can afford and what you want to do. This same tip can be valuable for other holiday activities as well. Do what is right and feels good for you and your family. That’s what matters.

The second tiger trait is precision, which involves focus and intention.

“If you begin to experience anxiety around managing everyone’s expectations, take a moment to breathe, center yourself and let go of your worries,” said Li. “Precision is about doing each thing with care, deliberately, and being aware of the whole experience.”

Finally, a tiger has great capacity for its third trait, gentleness. Li talks about the image we often have of tigers with gnashing teeth and large claws. Then he asks us to think about the gentle and loving nature of a tiger with her cubs.

“The majesty of the tiger comes from the fact that while she is capable of slashing with her claws, she most often chooses not to.”

Be gentle with yourself and others

This has been an exhausting year, with the pandemic and other stressors weighing heavily on all of us. Add the pressure of the holidays and it can be easy to lose your way.

“Keep your expectations in check and make the best of what you have within your family,” said Li. “In other words, give yourself a break.

“Gentleness with yourself and others means remembering that you are doing the best you can, and that is good enough,” Li said.