As a child, there were many Christmas mornings when I would wake up filled with excitement and anticipation. I would run out to my family’s living room bursting at the seams to see what presents were awaiting me. There were many years I was in luck and got what I had asked for but there were several years where that wasn’t the case. And during those years when I found a present that I wasn’t anticipating, my excitement was replaced with disappointed.
Flash-forward to my twenties, and that same anticipation and excitement was still swirling around within me, but now because of different reasons. I would have high expectations on how wonderful I would feel during holiday season. I imagined being filled with love, joy, happiness and contentment. I imagined and planned on getting along perfectly with my family and significant other. But unlike presents where I was only disappointed every so often, I was always disappointed because things would never go as expected.
So a few years ago, I decided to end this disappointment pattern and tried to have zero expectations regarding the holidays. I would just assume things were going to be ho hum and not get excited about anything. But this left me feeling empty and crappy. So what the heck is one to do??
I’m no expert in holiday happiness, but I have learned some things over the years about staying sane and disappointment-free during this crazy time of year and here they are:
3 Steps to Avoid Disappointment during the holidays
Here are a few examples of attachment: “If I don’t get make everyone at the office Christmas cookies like I always do I will let everyone down and it will be the worst Christmas ever”. OR “If I don’t have everyone over for Christmas brunch, it won’t even feel like Christmas and I will be heart broken”. When we associate a holiday with specific actions or events we create traditions. There is nothing wrong with traditions by themselves. But when they become so powerful that the disruption of them causes emotional distress and disappointment, there is a big problem. Emotionally attaching yourself so firmly to something that will eventually change (because everything always does) is a sure fire way to experience disappointment.
I know. It’s a totally overused phrase, but it’s so true. And even though I am sure you have heard this at one point or another you might be asking yourself, what the heck does that mean? Well, have you ever woken up the day after Christmas or Chanukah or may be even a week later and felt like you missed it? Like you didn’t even celebrate at all? This is a pretty good indication that you weren’t present during the actual celebration (or had one too many glasses of eggnog). Either way, you were physically present but mentally checked out. May be during Christmas dinner you were too busy thinking about which sales you were going to hit next day to spend quality time with your great grandmother, or you were too busy checking your Facebook to see if anyone has liked your Christmas photo yet and didn’t realize how adorable the kids looked when they sang Jingle Bells. If you wake up the day after a celebration feeling disappointed that it wasn’t what you had hoped it would be, you might want to consider leaving your smart phone in the car next year.
Yep. Good old mindfulness. So how does one apply this to a holiday celebration? Chances are you are going to be around other people during the holidays (just a guess). And chances are the people you’re going to be around are going to say something not so pleasant. And this not so pleasant thing that is said might be so rude and so inexcusable that it might just ruin your holiday, which leaves you feeling disappointed that your celebration was not all sunshine and rainbows. Acting mindfully in a situation like this can save you from disappointment. When your great Aunt Tilly tells you how much older you look, that you have an opportunity to practice mindfulness by not judging what she said. Simply observe or acknowledge the statement without a judgment and then let it go. I know. Way easier said than done. But, it can be done and if you want save yourself from disappointment it must be done.
So as the celebrations and parties begin, keep these tips in mind and stop the disappointment! Oh, and a little wine helps too.