Make your own decisions about participating
At times it's easier to go through the motions to keep the traditions -- and the peace. If you find this is wearing thin on your sanity, though, you could opt out of certain activities or lessen your involvement.
Just because "It's always been done this way" doesn't mean it has to continue. And this goes for decorating, baking, sending out holiday cards and just about any other activity where it's just assumed you'll be there and come through for everyone. Ben Franklin had it right: "Everything in moderation." Or, as my friend Pam says, "Lower your standards."
It may not be as hard as you think. Here are a few of my favorite phrases to try out:
Realize others may have stress
Don't take rudeness or irritability too personally. Most of us are juggling more than usual this time of year -- responsibilities and emotions.
Stuff the turkey, not your feelings
It's perfectly natural to feel a roller coaster of emotions at this heightened time of reflection. If you have strong feelings of nostalgia or sadness, reach out to someone you trust to talk about your feelings.
Practice random acts of kindness
Giving is receiving. There's nothing like helping someone else out, especially during this season, that can help you take your mind off your own problems. Do a little favor for an elderly neighbor. Take time to call a friend you haven't spoken with in a while. At the tollbooth, pay for the car behind you. Or pay ahead at the fast-food drive-through window. Ask them to apply a dollar to the order of the car behind you. Pop some change into an expired parking meter.
You might be saying, "But they'll never know who helped them out." That's precisely the point. It's not about getting credit. It's about the pure intention of giving.
Several years ago I was contemplating the purchase of a fuzzy white teddy bear in a store. I decided to get it. On the way out, I overhead a clerk talking about how she wanted to get that same bear for her daughter, but didn't feel like she could spend the money at that time. Something deep inside me urged me to turn around and go back into the store. I ended up purchasing another teddy bear and asked the cashier in that department to take it over to the other employee and tell her it was from Santa. I hid behind some store dividers to see her expression -- and left the store with such a warm feeling.
She never knew the gift was from me. And it didn't matter. I just knew I was doing a little something to put a smile on her face and to brighten her daughter's holidays. To this day, I never pick up that fuzzy white teddy bear in our spare bedroom -- whatever the time of year -- without recalling that incident.
And that's priceless!
Linda Arnold, M.A., MBA, is a certified wellness instructor, counselor and chairwoman/CEO of The Arnold Agency, a marketing communications firm with offices in West Virginia, Montana and Washington, D.C. Reader comments are welcome and may be directed to Linda Arnold, The Arnold Agency, 117 Summers St., Charleston, WV 2530l or emailed to livelifefu...@arnoldagency.com.