DaVita Stories

Getting Ready for the Holidays

This post was originally published on the Family Talk Blog Nov. 23, 2016. It was republished with permission, on DaVita Stories.

How did November arrive so quickly? As I get older, time passes quickly. I blink—and it’s a month later!

The holiday season can be a mixed bag for many families. On the one hand, many of us enjoy our holiday rituals and getting together with family and friends. These rituals can bring back warm childhood memories that we can share today with our own families. But then, it can be stressful too. What if this holiday doesn’t live up to our expectations? What if we can’t afford to buy the gifts we would like to give? What if we’re alone? It can be a sweet or sad time, or both, depending on many factors.

This time of year I think about my Mom who died shortly after our Christmas family gathering three years ago. The start of the holiday season reminds me of the sadness I felt as she came to the end of her life. I miss her even more as time goes on.

Mary is struggling because one of her adult children is having serious marital problems. She is sick with worry. Bill’s kids are having school problems. Tim’s job is going away next year. Despite the holidays, life still happens. It doesn’t stop just because Christmas is coming.

So how can we have a peaceful and pleasant holiday?

  • Nurture realistic expectations. In my 65 years, holidays have been great, awful, and everything in between. I leave my lofty expectations at the door. I greet each holiday season as new—and focus on being in the present. I try not to compare it with last year or the year before.
  • Don’t overdo gift giving. Remember the saying—“It’s the thought that counts”. I don’t think my kids remember any gifts they’ve received over the years. They are put in the pile of the forgotten past.  Better to be reasonable about buying gifts, than having a big credit card bill to pay off in January.
  • Accept your feelings. If you are feeling sad, be sad. If you are happy, be happy. Your emotions are like the weather in Washington—they can change from moment to moment. Don’t push the sad ones away. Let them be until they become something else.
  • Avoid political discussions. We have just lived through a year of one of the most contentious presidential campaigns that I can remember. Let’s give our hopes and fears about the political state of our nation a rest during family gatherings. Who wants to fight with Uncle Bill?  Be graceful and considerate.
  • Don’t overdo holiday celebrations. It’s amazing how much money a family can spend on a holiday gathering! Does that really improve the experience? Moderation is a wonderful principle—Embrace it!
  • Take time for yourself. In the midst of frenzied shopping and holiday preparations, take some time to enjoy a nice quiet cup of tea, a walk, a massage, a hot bath, or a good book. You won’t regret it.
  • Take the time to let loved ones know how you feel about them. Don’t keep your loving feelings to yourself. Family get-togethers are a great time to share your deepest loving feelings to family and friends. Take a moment, look into their eyes, and let them know how much you appreciate and care for them. These moments are the most special.
  • How about putting away our smartphones during family gatherings? I know, I am getting to be a curmudgeon when it comes to these devices. But, being in the present moment is hard enough. Let’s not make it harder.
Dr. Paul Schoenfeld

Dr. Paul Schoenfeld

Dr. Paul Schoenfeld is a clinical psychologist with The Everett Clinic, a DaVita Medical Group, and the Director of The Everett Clinic’s Center for Behavioral Health. He specializes in working with children, families and adults. In his spare time, he’s a second degree black belt in Aikido (a peaceful martial art) and teaches aikido to children in Seattle. In addition (like many Pacific Northwesterners) he likes to hike, bike, and play in the sun (and rain).