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The Realistic Holiday Survival Guide

Ahhhh…. The holidays are upon us. I’d love to blog about a fun family holiday tradition or maybe share a favorite family recipe along with witty quips of my darling children helping me in the kitchen. Even better! A blog about a holiday craft that I did with my adorable sons.

Well, no. None of that over here.

I look around our little house and see an explosion of toys, clothes, kid’s artwork, pictures that are not in frames, pictures that are in frames but not on the walls, stuff from work, stuff for my home business, everywhere there’s STUFF… (insert facepalm emoji). There’s a part of me that feels down about our lack of space. I don’t like that we are still in my husband’s former bachelor pad. I don’t like that we have a litter box in our living room because our old, sweet cat started using the corner as her new potty. I don’t like that our furniture has rips and our kitchen table looks like it belongs in a grade school art room (as my 6 year old pointed out). I don’t like that despite being married for 11 years, my husband and I have never hosted a family holiday gathering due to the size of our house and lack of room for eating/sitting/cooking/breathing.

First World problems. Having too much stuff in a small house. When I see my mental struggles in writing, it seems so insignificant.

There’s a couple of ways to look at my inner turmoil…

1. Be thankful for what I have because someone else has it worse.

OR

2. Acknowledge the problem as well as the emotional component.

As a child, I was often scolded with the following statement (make sure to read this with a Southern accent):

“Julie Amber! There are little boys and girls who live in shacks with dirt floors and don’t even have toys. Be grateful for what you have.”

My adult brain understands what my parents were doing. They were trying to teach me to be thankful for what I do have. I get it. Unfortunately, adolescent minds can interpret this message as “your problems are insignificant, so get over yourself.”

Yes, my particular problem may be insignificant in the grand scheme of things. I can appreciate that. But the focus is not on the severity. The root cause is a sense of inadequacy. That feeling should not be minimized.

Acknowledging that the problem sucks, allows the underlying emotion to be heard. It is not a form of weakness.

In other words, identify the emotion and then acknowledge it.

What can I control?

When I think about things that get me down, I have to look for the things that I can control. Some things are just too big and overwhelming. Those problems have to be set aside. Unless I can personally change the situation, I cannot let myself stress, worry, or feel down. The problem has to be compartmentalized.

So this is what I need to do:

  • Take a closer look at what I DO have control over. What are the little changes that can I make RIGHT NOW?
  • Become a “master of the mundane.” Do these little things over and over on a daily basis, with a good attitude. I don’t always have to like it, but if I keep doing these little things, eventually, they will pay off.

Here’s an example of how I put this into practice this past week when my parents were in town for Thanksgiving…

After my parents had been here for five days, I realized that my mom and my 3 year old display many behavioral similarities. My mom’s dementia has increased dramatically and my dad is not looking so good. I feel like I need to something but have no clue what to do. This has been weighing on me like a ton of bricks.

On top of those major life stressors, it’s cold and gloomy here in Northern Indiana. The kind of weather that makes me want to stay under a warm blanket and do nothing. I’m riding the Struggle Bus and make it stop!

How to Stop the Struggle Bus

  1. Is there something that I can do to make an immediate impact on this situation? — No. I can’t change the fact that my parents live five hours away. I can’t make my mom’s dementia go away either.
  2. How does this situation make me feel? — Sad. Powerless.
  3. Is there something that I can do today that will make the situation better in the future (or just allow me to feel a little better)? — Yes. I need some self care. I’m eating crappy, not exercising, and staying up too late. These unhealthy habits for sure have a negative impact on my life stressors.

Look, I have found something that I do have control over. And you know what? It’s ok to put the other things to the side because I know what I can do right now! Making the choice to do little, positive things, consistently and persistently over a period of time, will lead to a greater outcome.

So how does this tie into the Holidays?

The holidays can be overwhelming. Especially when everyday things like work, family, and life events don’t stop. If you find yourself spiraling out of control, take a minute to identify what is truly going on. Acknowledge the emotion(s) at the root of the problem and look for the pieces that you can control. Become a master of the mundane with a good attitude.

Your Holidays may look different next year. Step out of the whirlwind and admire the beauty of the moment.

Acknowledgement: “Master the mundane” is a phrase from the book The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. If you’re looking for more ways to positively impact your life, this is definitely a must read.

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