Rethinking the Holidays

Last year, we shared guidance on how to create a stressless holiday, one that is fun and relaxing for everyone. After all, holidays are like a Dickens novel: they can be the best of times and the worst of times.

And though it may feel like the holidays are still far into the future, many of us are already feeling anxious. Consistent with how life has been in 2020, there are so many questions with few answers, especially as we start thinking about what the holiday will look like. After all, we’re still in the middle of a pandemic. How safe can it really be to see and celebrate with family? Can we do it? Should we do it? How do you tell Aunt Sally that you’re not hosting this year and she won’t be invited in if she shows up? How do you tell Uncle Bob that he didn’t make the cut for the small gathering you are having? How do you tell your parents to put their masks on when around the kids or they will be asked to leave?

Here are our three tips to both rethink the holidays and keep them as stressless as possible.

  1. Set ground rules. These are your guardrails, your rules, the lines you will not cross. You create these based on what you’re most comfortable with, regardless of input from those who are not part of your immediate family (i.e. the people who live with you). So, for example, if you decide you will not host a party this year, or attend one, you do not let peer pressure change your mind. If you decide to host a party but all attendees must wear masks unless they’re eating and they will be socially distanced at that point, those are the rules that must be followed. (Side note: Consider sharing the rules or expectations of your guests before they arrive so that everyone is aware and, if they cannot or will not comply, this gives them the opportunity to politely decline the invitation).
  2. Get people on the same page. Once you’ve identified your rules and expectations, get your family and friends on the same page as you. There is nothing more important in this new approach to the holidays than being completely transparent in your communication. That means if you choose not to attend a family function, you clearly explain why. If you choose to attend but with restrictions, you explain why (and what that looks like for the attendees from your household). Your rules and expectations may be different than others, and for that reason, you need to inform your family and friends where your comfort level is with holiday events. It is your responsibility to keep yourself and those you love safe. Be clear about what behaviors you expect of friends and family members.
  3. Create new traditions. Everyone has been talking about the “new normal” we live in after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and this will obviously have a significant impact on holiday activities. Very few family traditions will likely still be able to be experienced in the same way this year, but that doesn’t mean they still can’t be celebrated and enjoyed. And see the opportunity here, as well, that there is the chance to create new traditions. After all, traditions have to start somewhere. Get creative with how to celebrate remotely or locally. Consider a holiday house light competition that allows others to drive by and visit from a distance. Or, have a holiday mask party in lieu of an ugly sweater party and have all masks be homemade holiday designs. You have seen others do remarkable and creative things around other celebrations like birthdays, weddings and graduations. Holidays are just another opportunity to get creative with your celebration and focus on what you have instead of what you don’t.

The holidays this year will look and feel different, but it doesn’t need to either be an invitation for anxiety and worry or a time to feel disappointed or shortchanged because it is different from what you normally do. Any time change arrives, commit to using it to build something better. Consider how this holiday season can be the best one yet because you do the things that matter in a way that keeps the people you care about safe.

Take Action
Your ultimate goal for the holidays should always be to enjoy the season, to make the holiday happy, safe and less stressful. So define your rules and expectations to ensure that will happen for you. Be clear and confident in the decisions you make. And be present to each moment, however it shows up to you.

If you’re struggling to define your rules and expectations and what you want the holidays to be like this year, consider using our Solve Anything Process

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading The Holidays are Coming and You Still Have to Work at Home

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The Holidays are Coming and You Still Have to Work at Home

The holidays have always been associated with some type of stress. Whether it’s worrying about meeting end-of-year deadlines, financial burdens or navigating the personalities of family members, there’s always something in the back of our minds that can upset this period’s intention of celebration and joy.

And this year, with the presence of COVID-19, work and school can now be done at home, so a new stressor emerges: how will you accommodate the holidays and the changes to your house and schedule, and still get your work and schoolwork done?

Your office may be in the guest room that will now be taken over by a visiting relative. Your corner of the family or living room that was your office set up now may need to move to accommodate the holiday decorations. Your routine of getting to emails early before everyone is up may be now shared with a visiting relative who likes to rise with the sun.

Just when you thought you created a routine that actually works, the holidays are now the latest thing challenging them.

Consider the following ways to remain calm, adapt, get your work done and still manage to enjoy the holidays.

  1. Get present by taking a few breaths to relax your mind, disconnect from your emotions and give yourself the ability to look at your situation. You can’t solve anything if your mind is anxious, angry, frustrated or irritated. In those states, you use your energy to be upset instead of finding a solution. So, get yourself calm. Developing a breathing or meditation practice are ways to separate yourself from your situation so you can come back to it calmer and more present to deal with it.
  2. The holidays are a period of great celebration and joy. Remember what it feels like to get the house ready for the holidays? The foods, the decorations, the lights, the traditions. Regardless of how crazy the world is, holidays bring us back to some of our fondest memories. They remind us that life and its events are to be celebrated.
  3. Remind yourself that any inconvenience is only temporary. Though the holidays may interrupt your schedule, they come and go. Remember how much fun it is decorating but how good it feels to have the space back when it is over. Review your work expectations over the next 2 months to develop a plan. If you see interruptions in your ability to deliver on your expectations, address it early with your team and manager. You are not alone in making your home office shift back into some shared space brought on by the holidays.
  4. Communication is essential. As you learned how to make working and schooling from home happen, work as a family to discuss how you can make holidays happen in your space. Consider using family meetings to address the changes that will affect the house based on the holiday. Expand the communication to be sure everyone feels heard and included.

2020 has indeed been a year of changes, but with every change, notice that you’ve been able to adapt. Adaptability is truly a skill to be developed. The more you build a practice of responding instead of reacting to the things that happen around you, the greater the options you will create to make a success out of what happens.

Take Action
Start the conversation now about what the holiday plans are and how they will affect work and school. Consider using a family meeting to hear thoughts and perspectives from everyone. Keep the focus on the holiday’s celebration purpose to encourage excitement and to develop the stamina to accommodate yet one more change, albeit temporary. Focus on the holiday’s celebration, excitement and joy.

The holidays come and go, but they have the power to dull the challenges of the real world, even for a moment. Let yourself fee the excitement and joy of the season. Be present to it all.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading 4 Tips to Not Be Bad at Working from Home

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The Quarantine Diaries: Day 28

Ok, I’m going to get real. The last week has been… bizarre. We’re in this weird little routine that feels normal most days and then something happens that throws everyone off kilter. For example:

  • On Tuesday, the oldest refused to sit still during rest time and, as a result, was a basket case by 4pm, resulting in an epic tantrum about what color popsicle he had. This encouraged the middle one to consistently and loudly point out that he was listening and was behaving. That went over really well, as you can imagine.
  • On Wednesday, we all just got back into the house after a walk and, as I was getting the dog situated, the middle one bolted out the front door and into the middle of our street as I tried to delicately run to catch him with the baby still in the carrier attached to my chest. This was all done to the soundtrack of the dog barking at another dog walking by and the cackling of my oldest who thought this was the height of comedy.
  • And on Thursday, the baby spit up every time I looked away (I think he did it on purpose) and was working through teething pains and a growth spurt. This made for a very tricky day for the older two because my usual attempt at equally dividing attention was not possible and, as a result, I found the middle one proudly showing off his new artwork after he was left alone for a short time: crayon on the wall behind his bed.

I have no idea where the crayon came from since crayons are not allowed in the bedrooms FOR. THIS. VERY. REASON.

These are just some of the big things that happened this week. And as I cleaned up after the boys went to bed and got the house ready for the next day, I found myself feeling really down. I know my triggers. I’m self-aware enough to know when I need a minute to regroup. But it has been an unrelenting requirement for me to be 100% on every day for the last 28 days. And it caught up to me this week. And it caught up to the boys, too.

And like I said, I was really down on myself for being so grumpy with the boys, confused about their behavior and why they felt the need to test me on everything all day, every day.

And then I stumbled on this article about regression in kids. And man was it eye-opening.

“Stress and anxiety can show up in all kinds of ways in children: irritability, defiance, clinginess. But one of the most common responses is regression. Sleep regression and toddler potty training regressions are common, but psychologists say all children (and adults) may regress in times of stress.”


Stressed. The kids were stressed. And anxious. How could they not be? Our routine changed literally overnight. We haven’t seen anyone different in weeks. Only Daddy can run out to go to Target or the grocery store. There are masks and gloves involved when he leaves. We wash our hands ALL. THE. TIME.

I’ve been having strange dreams and not sleeping well. Why would it be any different for my children who, though young, are still oddly aware of what’s going on around them?

So, though I normally share a few lessons as part of my Quarantine Diaries posts, today, I’m just going to share one: tune out to tune in.

We’ve talked about this on our blog quite a bit and we share this bit of wisdom with our clients. Here’s the gist: you cannot be clear about who you are, like what gets you excited and what triggers you, unless you take the time to tune out the noise of the world and tune in to you.

So, this is really a two-pronged lesson.

#1) Tune out the world to tune in to yourself. If you’re feeling irritable, take some time to figure out why. When things are going particularly well, allow yourself time to reflect. Do more of what’s working, what feels good. Figure out where or how to improve on the things that aren’t going so well. Check in with yourself throughout the day. Stay ahead of the triggers and stressors that change your mood and temperament.

#2) Tune out the world and the voice in your head telling you what you’re doing wrong (or not good enough) and tune in to what your kids are telling you. It could be quite literally what they’re telling you. It could be body language or specific behaviors. It may be a message hidden in the words they’re actually using (intentionally or not). Pay attention to what they’re saying and doing. Quite often, you’ll find a seemingly simple mannerism is actually speaking volumes.

Some Activities

  • Science Experiments – Check out some easy DIY science experiments and tie it into the weather. Plant seeds and watch them grow. Use shaving cream in a glass of water with food dye to resemble rain from the clouds. Vinegar and baking soda for the sizzle effect (add food coloring to create a rainbow). Get creative and help your kids make connections and draw correlations to what’s going on.
  • Get Moving –Teach the kids the Electric Slide or the Macarena. I tried to teach my boys Cotton Eyed Joe and they stood still, staring at me with this half smirk, half terrified expression (yup, achievement unlocked. I am well on my way to being an embarrassing mom). Have them join you for a short workout (like one of my favorites, 8-minute abs) or turn on a Kids Yoga channel on YouTube. Just start moving. It not only helps get extra energy out, but it also helps to clear the mind of any negative energy and thoughts.
  • Talk – I mentioned this in my last Quarantine Diaries entry: make time to talk. I sat down with my oldest every night this week to try to talk about the day with him. Thursday night was the first time I was able to get him to articulate what’s going on: he misses school and his friends, but he likes being home. He wants some space but wants to play with his brothers. He wants some “mommy time” but also wants to be with his brothers and his dad. He’s confused and he doesn’t know how else to explore or fully experience that emotion. He doesn’t know how to navigate this emotion on his own, but after talking to him, I now know how I can help guide him to better understanding a more productive way to respond to this emotion and the corresponding frustration that comes with it.

Check out our COVID-19 Resource Center to help you create a more mindful response to our evolving definition of “normal.”

If you feel like relationships are getting strained due to the quarantine, join me for my FREE 30-minute webinar on Wednesday, April 15 at 8:30pmET to learn how to have your relationship(s) survive quarantine.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading The Quarantine Diaries: Day 17

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