Inspiration

6 Expert Tips for Letting Go of Pressure and Embracing the Holiday Spirit

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It’s not too late to get your head (and heart!) in the holiday spirit! Our experts share their tips and tricks for having your best holiday season ever — even in this very unusual year!

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Let go of pressure.

Open up to new ideas: It’s okay not to have a road map for this holiday, says psychotherapist Linda Graham, author of Bouncing Back: Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well-Being (Buy on Amazon, $14.37). “Just tell yourself, Thanksgiving will be different, but how can I still make it joyful?” she encourages. “Experiment and let yourself be curious about which new rituals you can start—for me, that may mean taking a hike on Thanksgiving morning with a friend. Opening your heart to new possibilities opens the door to creativity, which is a life-giving force. And that’s ultimately what we celebrate on Thanksgiving: life.

Keep it simple: Let yourself take it easy this year, urges psychologist Barbara H. Fiese. “We’re all experiencing pandemic fatigue, and you can opt out of elaborate holiday preparations”, she assures. “Consider letting loved ones know, I can’t do this as fully as last year, but I can stop by for X amount of time. Giving yourself a simple, concrete plan helps you lower your expectations and let go of guilt.”

Embrace connection: Your gathering may be smaller this year, but it can be just as meaningful, promises Fiese. “I won’t be able to bring my famous stuffing over to my son’s house, but we have the same cookbook of family recipes, so we’ll each make something special and get together over Zoom”, she says. “This year, we’ll celebrate our connections in a different, possibly even more memorable way.”

Take comfort in spirituality.

Look to nature: The holiday spirit is meant to help us take comfort in something greater than ourselves, observes Graham. “Unlike other positive emotions that we feel only in a social context, awe is something we can experience on our own,” she says. “Nature is very often where we find it — but rather than focus on, say, the entire garden or whole horizon, pick out a single mum or lone star. This clear focus brings you back to a state of physiological equilibrium and builds resilience.”

Share un-blessings: The holidays let you look back on how God has given you the strength to overcome challenges, reveals pastor Max Lucado, author of Unshakable Hope (Buy on Amazon, $24.99), who says he plans to acknowledge un-blessings. “Telling stories of when you overcame setbacks will inspire everyone in your family, young and old.”

Create your cornerstone: “My father passed away years ago, but before he died, he planted an oak tree as a living memorial for our family,” reveals Lucado. “I always thought that was so cool, like saying ‘I want to provide shade for your life.’ The small heart my father carved in the bark is now big enough to fit all the initials of his grandchildren.” Consider marking how you made it through, be it planting a tree or carving your initials on a piece of wood. “It’s a way of saying, ‘We are sticking together.’”

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This article originally appeared in our print magazine.

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