Recently, the Freed Bodyworks team was asked to offer self-love tips for the holidays. As is the case for many, this season has become challenging for me over the years. Without much hesitation, I wrote:
The hardest part of the holidays for me is the expectations of magical perfection, often held unwittingly deep within the hearts of my family and my in-laws. I can't do magical perfection no matter how desperately I long to give them that. Not even for one day.
Several years ago I decided to quit trying. I found myself becoming increasingly anxious the closer the holidays got. It dawned on me that I was 52 (52, for God's sake!) and it was time I defined my own "holiday traditions". Mine is to leave town for the week of Christmas. Sometimes my husband and I go somewhere on our own, more often we go with a group of friends. We don't go far -- Berkeley Springs WV, Virginia Beach, Durham NC -- but we go. Food, books, food, friends, and food. Did I mention the food?
I survive the holidays by being honest with myself about what I actually want out of them -- no matter how much that defies expectations -- and living accordingly. Our families have not reacted well to this but it is my Truth and I can only live well when I live within it.
I sent it off, but something felt off about it. I realized I was presenting a “hard” confrontational / reactive approach to Holiday Dread. Which made my head feel heavy and sad. Was there a soft way to approach Holiday Dread? A way to not be blindly upbeat (!) but maybe not so damned reactive?
So I spent some time thinking about a soft (yet self-protective) response. What I now have to say is this:
What is true for me is this: when it comes to the holidays, there are things for each of us that are "hard." Maybe it's something as simple as sending holiday cards or as complicated as family relationships or religious expectations. But they take too much out of us and walk us straight into Holiday Dread Land.
Instead, identify things that are "soft" for you. People. Activities. Foods. Places. Things that cushion and support you.
As much as is feasible, move away from the hard and toward the soft. For me, that means actually leaving town for Christmas and spending time with just my husband or with our friends. It annoys our families but family holiday expectations are one of my "hard" things. Quiet time with friends is a "soft" thing. That's simply my truth and life never improves by denying my truths.
Find your soft stuff, no matter how irrational they may seem. Claim them. Surround yourself with them. When the hard stuff comes around (and it’s not easy to avoid hard stuff completely) fall back into the squishy cotton ball arms of your soft stuff. Let your world support, comfort, and carry you through whatever the holidays do to you.
Peace be with you all.
***Learn more about Kelly Bowers***