SciFi NativitywIt can seem like New Year’s is not so much a celebration of the new year, but a victory lap.  “Yay!!! We made it through another grueling Holiday season!” We talk about the new year and making resolutions, but in reality we are simply in shock and trying to recover from what we work so hard to convince ourselves was a series of enjoyable experiences. Even though it’s all a blur and things weren’t all that fun and those that were we were barely able to focus on for the stress of already planning the next day.

There are plenty of people out there who will opine that the solution to this is just to go slower, get out of the race, step back and center…they will flow with platitudes and more spiritual than thou statements, none of which change anything, guide us in any way to improve our situation and make us feel worse to boot. So what to do?  One thing that can truly help during the Holiday Season is to make two columns labeled Happy and Coping. Then start listing all the activities that seem to be required for the next few weeks.

The Happy column is only for things which genuinely make you happy. If it’s something which “should” make you happy or to which you respond “Of course it makes me happy” stop and set it aside to consider later.  If it’s something which makes someone else happy, it needs to be put aside too. The Happy column is for your happiness, not your being in service to others. The Coping column is for all the things you do which help you cope. Do you enjoy making the family Christmas card or is it something you do in order to cope with others’ expectations and to keep the peace? Is going to the company Christmas party something you actually look forward to or something you do to cope with the pressure of your spouse and the needs of their career or just peer pressure?  Do you decorate the outside of the house because you are happy when you look at it or because you need to cope with family and neighborhood expectations?  And so on and so on.

This process doesn’t change things automatically, but it does foster clarity. It brings to light the reality that you are making choices. This holiday season isn’t set in stone, you are choosing what to do, how much and when. And you can change those choices so there are more things in the Happy column and less on the side of coping. And that’s a start.