It's Thanksgiving this week (in the United States) and families everywhere are traveling, shopping, cleaning, cooking eating, and preparing themselves for the holiday season, which will run at least five weeks, and sometimes longer. This is a perfect time of the year to prepare yourself for the frenzy by identifying which of the rituals associated with the holidays you celebrate actually mean something to the people in your family, and then choosing to really focus on those parts that nurture you and bring joy, rather than irritate and exhaust you.
First, remember that the holiday season starts with a celebration of community and gratitude - a celebration of abundance. The holidays may be a good time to start a meditation practice, or just a grateful practice, as I call it, which is simply making my first thought in the morning and my last thought at night "I am so grateful for ....." No matter how bad a day is, finding something that I am grateful for and breathing and smiling brings me peace. It must be some law of the universe that peace follows every grateful thought.
To help get you in the grateful zone, here are some of my favorite quotes about gratitude:
Buddha: Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we did not learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so let us all be thankful. Cicero: Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all of the others. Ralph Waldo Emerson: I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and the new.
With gratitude and abundance in mind, I want to encourage families to slow down, enjoy the extra time off from work and school that holidays provide and enjoy each other's company. If your days off are full of errands, you feel irritable and angry, or are just stretched too far, or if whenever you are all at home your family is separated throughout the house, chances are good that you are not enjoying this holiday season, and the rituals that matter are not the focus.
Try this: Ask everyone in your family to identify the most important thing about Thanksgiving and Christmas/Hanakah, or Kwanza. Next, ask them what food they need to "make the holiday special," and keep a list of what everyone says. Then, over a meal, talk about your desire to make the holidays as simple, rewarding and fun as possible and ask everyone to help identify what is important, and "must" happen, and which things are usually more bother than they are worth. You might be surprised at what comes out of their mouths.
Please try not to pout when no one really cares about the fancy wrapping, or special brining for the turkey that takes three days - no wincing, begging, or bribing either. Just listen and if you must, you can ask questions - are the house lights important, is seeing the nutcracker an important part of our holiday, would people rather be home or at grandma's on Christmas morning, is there a community service project we could do that would be fun and we could do as a family? After everyone has voted an opinion - and I mean everyone - even he most withdrawn, angsty teen, try and describe the holiday that includes only what everyone really wants, and see if the family "buys" it.
Next step is the plan, who will do what, which may knock a few other things off the "gotta do" list, and viola, you have a holiday that means something - a conscious process that celebrates what is important to everyone in your family.
Now sit down with a cup of tea, enjoy the peace and feel the love! Happy holidays from Teen Health 411.