By in Holidays

Prepare Yourself Emotionally for the Holidays Now

In an ideal world, each of us could expect to celebrate the upcoming family holidays in the finest traditions of our cultures, with abundant food, family gathered together and everyone feeling joy in their hearts.

We don't live in an ideal world. We live in a world of hustle and bustle, family and friends spread far and wide, and in a challenging, ever-changing time. On top of that, each of us has our individual ideas about what the "perfect" holiday would be like.

Right now, before the holiday season gets into full swing, is the time, first to be aware of your own expectations, then to adjust them as needed to be more reasonable, more realistic. Our past experiences and hopes, the media hype and the expectations others may have of us can set us up for disappointment. Unrealistic expectations, no matter the source, can lead us missing the joy of the reality of the day.

Cognitive dissonance is the mental health term for the stress we feel when we expect one thing and experience something else. It doesn't occur only at the holidays, but at any time we have one image in our mind and the reality of the situation doesn't live up to that image.

For example, I would enjoy having all my adult children, their significant others and all the grandchildren together at my home for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I could spend a lot of physical and emotional energy trying to make that happen, but I won't because it's an unrealistic expectation on my part. I'll still have twinges of wishful thinking that maybe one day it may happen, but I won't have the acute disappointment on those particular holidays because I won't allow myself to work toward that goal.

Learning to pare your expectations back, for the holidays or for any other situation, won't happen overnight. It won't happen at all if you don't make a conscious effort to do so. Thinking patterns are hard to change, like any habit is, but after a time it will become second nature to you. I think you'll find yourself feeling less stressful as a result and better able to enjoy each moment as it comes.

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Image Credit » by geralt

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JohnRoberts wrote on November 16, 2015, 10:14 AM

I am not a holiday person and the holidays are an annoyance to be endured.

markgraham wrote on November 16, 2015, 11:01 AM

We all have our wishes over the holidays and we just have to what we have to do and there are always dreams and hope.

Rufuszen wrote on November 16, 2015, 11:14 AM

Like JohnRoberts I, too, am not a holiday person. Luckily there is only me and the moggies so I can enjoy it my way!

Last Edited: November 17, 2015, 11:45 AM

wolfgirl569 wrote on November 16, 2015, 1:49 PM

We gave that up several years ago. Just too much drama with a couple of them to make it worth dealing with it.

JeanC wrote on November 16, 2015, 2:31 PM

I gave up being stressed about the holidays a long time ago. I do go all out for Thanksgiving when it comes to cooking, but it usually a friend or two and my mom and aunt who attend. I usually have everything prepped and ready beforehand and the day of the dinner is kick back and relaxed. Yule is a time to visit friends for parties and enjoyment and making my house as sparklie as possible and again, kick back and relax.

ViperGirl85 wrote on November 16, 2015, 10:39 PM

I am not expecting anything huge in terms of visitors, but hoping we all have a good Christmas, and that I'm not spending it coughing up a lung again.

BarbRad wrote on November 17, 2015, 1:54 AM

I haven't had many holiday expectations in years. I haven't had them since my son died. Since then we've lost more family and friends we used to celebrate with, and I'm almost to the point of just staying home for Christmas because my brother lives so far away. I love my brother and getting together with his family, but the trip is expensive and by the time we get there we are almost too tired to enjoy it.

Feisty56 wrote on November 17, 2015, 11:20 AM

It sounds, then, that you don't have any unrealistic expectations you need to pare down. : )

Feisty56 wrote on November 17, 2015, 11:25 AM

So often when people get together as on the holidays, there is always someone, maybe more than one, that spoils what might have been an otherwise pleasant gathering. There's a reason why we don't interact with those individuals the rest of the year, but then hold out hope that this _____ will be different. It almost never is.

Feisty56 wrote on November 17, 2015, 11:30 AM

Yes, I would not advocate giving up dreams and hopes, just to set more realistic expectations. For instance, as a family, I taught my now-adult children that the value of holidays is in the being together, rather than expensive or elaborate gifts. I've always hoped that that mindset would serve them well should there be lean years when they couldn't afford to put a lot of gifts under the tree for their own kids.

Feisty56 wrote on November 17, 2015, 11:32 AM

I think people such as yourself and JohnRoberts who don't buy into all the holiday hoopla face a lot less disappointment than those who do.

Feisty56 wrote on November 17, 2015, 11:34 AM

Our family got lucky -- the one person who was such a drama-king simply began staying away of his own accord.

Feisty56 wrote on November 17, 2015, 11:37 AM

It certainly sounds as if you've got a plan that works for you for the holidays!

Feisty56 wrote on November 17, 2015, 11:38 AM

Oh, I hope your health is good over the holidays and each and every day!

Feisty56 wrote on November 17, 2015, 11:43 AM

Life changes and losses through the years definitely take a toll on the way we look at everything, not just the holidays. I have just one brother and haven't spent a holiday with him in years although he lives close enough. He's cut himself off from most of the family other than phone calls. It's something I've grown to accept, even if I'm not happy about it.

Brenda wrote on November 19, 2015, 5:05 PM

I enjoy spending time with family anytime but is very special to do so at Thanksgiving and Christmas and Easter. I have learned over these 66 years that I need to slow down and smell the roses so to speak and just enjoy!

grandma20121 wrote on November 20, 2015, 4:16 PM

this is a good thing to remember, my way of thinking is I do not expect things to go my way so if they do thats great then im happy but if they do not im not disappointed in the end.

cheri wrote on November 21, 2015, 5:08 AM

This is what I really want to hear this coming holiday season. I am preparing for that but not sure if when the time really comes and reality sets in, I am truly ready.

RuthCox wrote on November 27, 2015, 9:49 AM

I agree that great expectations can make for great disappointments. I practice paring down my expectations but always seem to have a yearning or two that leaves me a bit unfulfilled. I'll keep working on it!

CoralLevang wrote on November 30, 2015, 5:45 AM

Those unrealistic expectations are what get me into trouble every time. *sigh* I wrote a post on my regular blog about similar things.
I do hope that you had a pleasant day for your holiday this past weekend.

maramadalina wrote on November 30, 2015, 4:48 PM

I believe that Christmas has something magic and I always enjoy this period of the year. I just love it.