Holiday Heaven or Holiday Hell?

Seven Things You Can Do to Survive AND Thrive
Through the Holiday Gathering Season! 

Choosing Holiday Heaven over Holiday Hell

Try These Simple and Effective Tips to Survive and Thrive!


Here in the States, we're just about a week away from our Thanksgiving Day holiday.  After Thanksgiving we quickly find ourselves in Turkey with leaves and oranges for christmas and thanksgivingDecember with more Holiday gatherings and celebrations of various sorts.  These are all times when groups of family and friends, large and small, traditionally gather to feast and celebrate together. They are times that are meant to be shared in joy and gratitude.  Gatherings are meant to be festive, enjoyable times filled with food, warmth, conversation and togetherness.  They are intended as opportunities to appreciate and share time with the people who are meaningful in our lives.  And generally they are...  But sometimes your Holiday Heaven can turn into a Holiday Hell!  The good news is that you have a choice!

Sometimes a Holiday gathering will turn into something that's not enjoyable.  Rather than being a time of appreciation, it can become an event that reminds you of all the things you detest about some or all of the people gathered. The expectations, pressures and busyness of the Holidays often cause stress, and old judgments or resentments can get triggered. Sometimes feelings get hurt, tempers flare and ugly things get said.  Sometimes the remarks are made loudly, angrily and directly; other times it's done in sneaky, gossipy, whispered behind one's back, or other passive-aggressive ways.

In either case, things can quickly go sideways... you're in a Holiday Hell and it's no fun.  You may end up wishing that you had decided to just dine alone instead of getting together with the people who know your buttons all too well.

How You Think Determines How You Feel 

If you find yourself feeling bad and experiencing a Holiday Hell, it’s in large part a result of your own thinking.  Whether it’s feeling overwhelmed, resentful or upset, guilty, shameful or regretful, your moods are almost entirely determined by you.  They’re a result of your own thoughts about a situation or circumstance, along with the words you use and the actions you take in response.

Negative judgments are a key culprit in causing you to feel bad, so choose to do your best to give up the habit of judging.  For more on giving up judgments read:

So in preparation for the Thanksgiving and the Winter Holidays, I've got some things you can do to experience a Holiday Heaven with more joyful, peaceful and appreciative family and friend interactions.  These little techniques will help you manage your own perspectives, feelings and responses so that your interactions are positive and contribute to a better day for all.


Before the Event


1. Take Care of Yourself
One of the big hazards of the Holiday Season, is getting caught up in a frenzy of activity, getting over-busy, tired and stressed out. Putting yourself into a family gathering with lots of other potentially tired and stressed out people is a recipe for irritation, annoyance and conflict. Therefore taking care of yourself is a must for surviving and thriving!

So make a point to get adequate sleep the night before.  Give yourself plenty of time the day of the event to feel relaxed and non-pressured as you prepare, travel and arrive.  Commit to do only as much as you can realistically without feeling worry or anxiety.  If necessary, say ‘no’ to burdensome requests and/or ask for help from others.  Remember, stress is NOT your friend!

2. Set an Intention 

As part of your preparation, take a few moments to think about the kind of experience you want to have and how you'd like to feel about it at the end of the day.  Spend at least a couple of minutes imagining the activities and interactions going really well and feeling really good.  Imagine looking back on the gathering at the end of the day having had a delightful time and feeling really great about it all.  Allow yourself to feel the positive feelings in advance.  In doing so you’ll set yourself on course for an enjoyable day!

3. Make a list

Post card and ink-penMake a list of at least 5 things that you genuinely admire, appreciate or love about each of the guests. These can be qualities, characteristics, accomplishments, physical attributes or other things.  Even if you're not fond of each person who will be there, you can still find things to admire and appreciate about them.

Focus on these things about each person ahead of time to remind yourself of the best of who they are.  Then throughout the day, you can keep the negative judgments at bay by dwelling on these positive qualities instead of anything that you don't like about them.



During the Event

4. Acknowledge others

During the early part of the gathering, go individually to each of the people attending and share a sincere compliment and/or words of appreciation.  You already made the list, now use it!  Doing so will help you feel more connected with everyone and set a positive tone for you and for the others.

Make sure that you deliver your compliments from your heart and don't expect that you should receive anything in return.  If you do get a compliment or expression of appreciation back, accept it gracefully and simply say “thank you” rather than deflecting or minimizing the comment.

5. Be Fully Responsible for Yourself – and Yourself Only!

selfresponsibility wordRemember that you’re responsible for your own thoughts, words, actions and feelings.  And unless you have young children, you’re really NOT responsible for anyone else.  You can allow others the regard and respect of being fully responsible for their own thoughts, words, actions and feelings!  That means also allowing them to be responsible for the consequences of anything they do or say and not feeling like you have to manage, manipulate or fix things for others.

For more detail on what it means to be fully responsible for yourself read:

6. Don't take anything personally.

Personal green 3d realistic square isolated buttonWhatever anyone says or does, you can recognize that it's not personal to you - it's really about their own fears, insecurities, foibles or issues.  You can choose not to take offense or be upset by any unseemly comments or actions.  Rather than judging, you can choose to see them with compassion and acceptance instead of anger, criticism or scorn.  Remember you’re responsible for how you feel, so others can only bring you down if you let them!

For more on how to not take things personally, read:

7. Pretend to be an alien.

That's right - an alien.  If things do start to get weird, then get a little weird yourself.  Pretend that you're an alien explorer, sent specifically to earth to learn about humans by observing them in their own environment.  Choose to be really curious about and fascinated by their behaviors and interactions, without having any judgments or opinions about what they're doing.  You're simply observing, not evaluating them.  See how well you can do at being polite, non-threatening, inquisitive, and passing yourself off as a real human without being detected!

When you’re curious and interested in what’s going on rather than critical, cynical, resigned or bored you’ll find that you can enjoy yourself and that time seems to pass more quickly.  Read:

So there you are, you have some ideas and tricks of perspective that can help you avoid the Holiday Hell so that not only survive your family gatherings, but thrive through them as well!

If you have thoughts or stories to share about past or present gatherings - whether you experienced them as a Holiday Heaven or Holiday Hell - please feel free to leave a comment below.


Supporting You to Prepare!

If you're reading this prior to 5:00PM Pacific on Monday, November 23, 2015, I've got another opportunity for you too.   I'm offering a free call to go through these useful tips in more detail and to lead a guided meditation that will help you not only survive, but to thrive through the Holidays!

Choosing Holiday Heaven over Holiday Hell!

This hour-long call is open to anyone and everyone at no charge. So please join me and help prepare yourself for holiday gatherings with new ideas, perspectives and techniques for enjoying yourself and others more fully.

I will record the call, so if you're unable to attend live, a replay will be available.

Listen to the replay now:  


Happy Woman2So here's wishing you a joyful, loving and connected gathering with family and friends on Thanksgiving day and beyond - your Holiday Heaven rather than Holiday Hell.  You really don't have to be at the mercy of the moods and actions of others, you can choose to determine for yourself how you'll feel!

With love and enthusiasm,


One Comment

  1. Hey,

    This was a wonderful read. It was fun reading an email and having it take me directly to your site. Loved the smooth transition. You offered great advise. I especially loved the alien (with boobs) part . I’m gonna try that. Cliff, I appreciate your wonderful positive attitude. It comes through your words so very nicely.

    I have a therapy session Monday, but will try my best to make the call. I hope to make at least half of it.

    As Always, Susie

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