Dr. Wall Says

Speak up, listen up, bridge the gap

Lets make the season merry and bright: or how to stop complaining about the holiday season.

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Someone is happy!

Have you ever noticed how many articles pop-up over the holiday season about how to “make it through” this time of year? It is as if the holidays were in fact an awful event that the average person is left to endure rather than enjoy. I don’t remember feeling this way as a child, and I bet that neither did you. I looked upon the holiday season, any holiday season, as an opportunity to be free, to have fun, to revel in family traditions, to play and basque in the glory of a stress free couple of weeks. Somehow things shift in adulthood, and although I hear lots of people say they look forward to this time of year, I hear far more grumbling about it. I will even admit, that in a not so distant past I might have been one of those people.

Children are more ego-centric than adults, their world is focused on their own needs and wants. In  many ways this is a good thing, because they are actively working or making you work at meeting their needs. Somehow as we grow up  and despite the increased autonomy and ability to take charge, we often end-up relinquishing control and this is exactly what happens to most people during the holiday season. We talk about what has to be done (send wish cards, buy gifts, put decorations and lights up, host a party) as though there’s no element of choice in the matter. As human beings the notion of helplessness doesn’t sit well with us.  If I am right, the solution is simple – reclaim the holidays! Make your mind up about what you want and follow that path. You don’t have to send 100 greeting cards, you don’t even have to send one if you don’t want to. The worst that will happen is that over time you may receive less cards from others.  You don’t have to exchange gifts, there are plenty of other ways of celebrating the season, and you certainly don’t have to hit the stores at peak hours to get the latest gadget or toy. You don’t have to host a party, or attend one, nor do you have to make your great-grand-aunt Ruth’s Christmas cookies just because it is tradition. At then end of the day, when it comes to celebrating a holiday you don’t have to do anything you don’t choose to do.

My advice for the holidays, therefore, is no different than at any other time of year: take a minute to figure out what you want and then focus on that. Make your own choices about which traditions you want to keep or create for your family. Identify your personal priorities and define what you want this time of year to represent. Personally, I love Christmas. When my children ask me what we are celebrating I talk about the history of our traditions and about celebrating the only time of the year which is focused on making others happy. I enjoy sending out Christmas cards and I make a point of writing a personal note on nearly every single one. I get excited at the idea of sharing my traditions with my kids, but understand that they just don’t care that much about decorating the tree, and that is fine with me because I love to do it. I get excited about the look on people’s faces when they open up a gift I got and I hit the spot, but I don’t feel obligated to get gifts for anyone. No matter how stressful the holiday season can be, if the stress is something you choose and it involves building on something meaningful to you then it becomes good stress (and if you want to know more about the impact of good stress watch this TED talk by Dr. Kelly McGonigal).

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Hi! I'm Dr. Alessandra Wall

I help smart driven women and forward-thinking companies bridge the gap & build real conversations.

Here on the ‘Dr. Wall Says’, I share tools, tips, and insights about speaking up, getting heard and how women can take up space and thrive in the 21st century.

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