Friday, November 24, 2017


Are the holiday traditions in your life creating stress?

Do you feel like a sloth at this time of year? 

Are you burned out, fried, feeling empty and wondering why you don’t enjoy the holidays anymore? 

You are not alone as millions of people sit silently feeling this way, but no one really talks about it.

I am the Band-Aid ripper…(don’t worry, I’ll be gentle) so that’s why I am going to do this – let’s talk.

First, let’s look at the commercialized idea of what the holidays are….A date on the calendar which dictates you are obligated to conform to getting things done by that imposed deadline.

REALITY CHECK:  The holidays come and go and no matter what you “think” is a disaster because you did not cross everything off your list of ‘being perfect’ – taking the self-imposed pressure off of yourself is the best gift you can give yourself as well as your loved ones.  No one has fun with stressed-out, frantic, manic, uptight loved ones, and you probably don’t feel celebratory either when you feel like that. So take a deep breath and learn to accept what you did do as ‘enough.’  

WHY?  Because YOU ARE ENOUGH.. Just as you are.  These ‘ideas’ of ‘perfection’ do not serve anyone well during the holidays and it causes a lot of dis-ease, and it is the main reason why people’s immune system gets out of whack during the high-stress period and people get sick.

Release your ‘anxiety’ about what you didn’t accomplish. No one will judge you as a total failure, so let’s begin with your own self-judgment.  Let it go.  Accept.  Breathe.  Enjoy your holidays a new way. Remove your self-criticism about what isn’t perfect.  Look at misfired attempts to create your holiday as a humorous thing you can laugh at years from now, and appreciate your owning your flubs.  Sometimes that has a long-term enjoyment beyond what you consider the most perfectly executed efforts. 

Do you want to do yourself another huge favor? 

OPTION: Change the date --- IT CHANGES EXPECTATION – especially that which you put upon yourself and it takes expectation out of it for everyone else, too. 

What?  YES, you heard me…Did you know this is an option?  

If you have never done this before, you may thank me for this later. Just because the calendar says the holiday is on a certain date, doesn’t mean you are ordered to celebrate it on that exact date, right?  So if you don’t celebrate the holiday on the actual holiday, the world won’t end – in fact, you may have more fun. 


  • ·        If you throw the holiday off a day, two or three, or even at another non-stressful time, you’ll avoid the mass-exodus traffic jam/airport drama.  This of course can be more affordable as gas prices aren’t spiked for auto and air travel.

  • ·         Everyone is less stressed/more relaxed.

  • ·         You extend the celebration. 

OPTION: Opt for the no-holiday-HOLIDAY. Treat the holiday as just another day. Plan for an anti-holiday avoiding ‘typical’ THEMES.  


We’re already so very blessed in life that we need to appreciate what we so have, make the most of it and enjoy the fun. So why not have a different kind of holiday?  

Try new themes. If you live in an area where you have chilly temperatures, go tropical with your theme or if you have family traditions based on your ethnicity, try another culture as your theme for everything from cuisine to movie-watching to games and activities.

Mix it up: Do you only celebrate Christmas?  Try celebrating Kwanzaa or Hanukkah or simply Winter Solstice with other groups of friends. One year, I celebrated the HanuKlaus festival where my neighbors whose mixed family of Hanukkah and Christmas celebrators came together by decorating their lawn with a Santa wearing a yamaka.  They had a potato cook off in a latke vs. hash brown throw down and created rap songs doing Karaoke changing lyrics of the 12 days of Christmas with the 8 days of Hanukkah.  It was a blast. There were even dreidel and Christmas ornament piñatas with red, green and blue margaritas. Hehe  

You get the picture. We’re all going to hell, but we’ll all be there together, soo…..   
One year with my friends, we did Easter egg dying in December, inspired by the Ukrainian egg tradition.  We made ornately decorated eggs just to switch things up on the tree ornament decorating and then had deviled eggs afterward.  It kept things interesting.   

With the date change -- Look for an event happening later on in the year where you can get time off and make it a destination to attend as a group – you can make it a weekend, or a full-day event. 

Give. Why not volunteer as a group for a charity or a shelter to make your holiday experience more meaningful as a group?  Or why not create a holiday experience for some of the kids at a local children’s hospital? 

Holiday celebrations boarding travel: Do you have loved ones scattered all over the place? Why not do bus/train celebrations and pick up new members as you go to a destination? 

In sports … Create teams of holiday boycotters and lone celebrators. Whether its playing softball or creating bowling teams or your own relay/obstacle courses – create a competition tradition and have fun with it. 

Flash-mob – do some impromptu choreography and create your own annual tradition while making an unexpected appearance where others are camping out creating lines waiting for stores to open. You will entertain them, create happiness, and have fun knowing you are not participating in their madness. 

One-on-one celebrations:  Do you think you know the people in your circle?  Think again.  Try one-on-one celebrations with certain family members or friends rather than group gatherings.  Most ‘group’ gatherings limit conversation.  Sometimes people keep ‘quiet’ and stick to shallower/safer topics because other members get agitated.  So improve the quality of deeper and more meaningful and ‘out there’ conversation with one-on-one celebrations like walk-n-talks/hikes or working on projects, etc.  You’ll be surprised to be with an older relative who will find the ‘kid within’ doing something silly like finger painting or changing up someone’s world who has no previous experience talking about or doing something opposite of how they live day-to-day. 

Christmas in July – Uh, yeah, it is a real thing.  There are parts of the U.S. who celebrate in the summer, carolers, and all. 

If you are reading this, and if you have never done any of the above, you may be skeptical. 
Right?  I know.  I see you traditionalists shaking your head or carefully chosen finger at me with your rebellious choice of communication. 


If you or if you have a relative who is in some sort of service profession, they will nod their head in agreement with me, that not everyone gets to have the traditional on-the-day holiday celebrations like most people do.

For workers in airports, police/law enforcement, firefighters, restaurant and hotel industry, public transportation workers, hospitals/health care, convenience markets, gas stations, and the list goes on... you have not always had the traditional-on-the-day celebration.

For so many years, I worked on most major holidays to create holiday memories for other people doing the work I do.  To be honest, other than recalling my early childhood and pre-teen years, where I did actually have traditional holidays on the actual day, I do not remember holidays being the way most people normally celebrate them. 

Most of my “adult life”” - I have always worked in a service-oriented profession, so I really don’t know anything else.  Even today as a life coach, I always have a client who may have a sticky-wicket situation to get out of, needing help, so I plan my holidays a tad differently than most going off the grid at non-traditional times. 

From my early teen years with Meals on Wheels, to later teen years at Disney (which never closes), to adult life cooking/baking for catering companies, producing holiday music concerts, plays, major events and productions, to huge charity toy drives for kids or canned food drive and fundraising non-profit groups/food banks with my PR clients and more – I did not have holiday celebrations ON THE ACTUAL HOLIDAY.  I ended up celebrating early or ‘belated’ holiday or birthday celebrations and those were just as good if not better.

I would not change that for the world and I have yet to have a ‘traditional-exact-day-on-the-calendar’ holidays that are status-quo and stressful.  I do not know what that looks like except for what I see on TV or in movies.  Yes, I am like the real-life version Sandra Bullock’s character Lucy from “While You Were Sleeping” in that scene where she watches others in their Norman Rockwell holiday scenes as if she is watching something foreign.  Most of what most people do is foreign to me, in many regards. 

Even though many friends like to try to drag me through their self-imposed ‘chaos’ of complaints, I smile and just say, “Why not try something else and be Zen through it – enjoy what you have!”   

When they realize my place of not having my parents around for more than half of my life, they usually begin to appreciate where they are and when I tell them about some of the bizarre wacky things I’ve done, I can see them wishing they could convince their family to do this as well.

Only, most of them are afraid to ask, suggest, or mention breaking tradition. I have many coaching clients in this position as well. 

Moreover, I get it… there is backlash for the most resistant of traditionalists.  Nevertheless, try it – just once and see how you feel and do not forget to remember that you are doing something brave to get out of your comfort zone. 

You’re welcome.

Don’t get me wrong, I DO know the ‘crazy hell’ of the ‘worst case scenario’ – which is why I can smile. 

When I was a teen, I had a friend who did all her shopping on December 24th.  What started out as a ‘let’s meet for breakfast/coffee’ at 8 a.m. did not end until 4 a.m. December 25th.  
Yeah, I got hell from my folks Christmas morning for the state of my zombie being (I had to work that night back at Disney til 1 a.m. on the 26th).  But how could I not be a zombie after I went with her to four major malls and two grocery stores, then helped her cook and bake her family potluck dishes?  I helped her wrap her gifts (of course we had to go to a drug store to buy the paper goods to wrap it all first) and deliver them to several recipients.  Since all the mall Santas were gone by then, we went to Disneyland so she could take photos on the only Santa’s lap available.  Thank goodness, we were employed there and could sign ourselves in free.  Of course, while we were there we had to squeeze in a traditional Christmas Eve dinner at the Plaza Inn.  Then of course see the holiday parade viewing with the dancing gingerbread men we had seen a gazillion times as employees but never as guests, cuz YOLO/Carpe Diem – we were insane that way.  Then we had to find an all-night copy center to mass produce the photos to make homemade holiday cards, cut them and decorate them, calligraphy them, and then learn the hard way that if you have a headache after all that, you should NEVER take an aspirin with a Coca-Cola in lieu of water.  Hey, I was pure and naïve, what can I say?  I vowed this would never happen again and it never did. 

Anyway…all the while I was grateful to have experienced the bizarre hell I fondly look back upon for saying I have experienced it.  However, to have this as a way of life year after year… uh, no thank you.  Life is short and there are too many other experiences to have. When you get older and begin to lose your family, you can look back fondly upon the hell, BUT… that does not have to hold you prisoner to continue to live it that way. You can honor your lost loved ones in a new way by living new terms they did not get to experience, too.

When I was six years old, my mother had me on massive cooking and baking duty for holidays.  We would make batches of homemade fudge and one year (the ultimate record) 21 different kinds of cookies.  She would insanely shop and fill her closet full of gifts for ‘unexpected gift-givers’ or ‘random dropping by people’ so no one ever left without something. She never wanted to be the one to only receive.  While this sounds really sweet, it was a behavioral dysfunction, which she grumbled having to do year after year. She would freak out trying to figure out who would drop by unexpectedly and try to anticipate how many gifts to buy in advance. It was stressful for her to think about and yes, took all the joy out of what it was intended to be.

It took all of my twenties for me to overcome her 'be prepared' overkill habits, that depleted her vigorous sense of overdoing. I had to later learn how to receive without anxiety and guilt from inability to always be prepared for immediate reciprocation. 

What I realized was FREEDOM when I was able to do that.  I bet you probably have adopted some behavior from your family traditions which cause stress, anxiety or worry.  Trust me when I say that when you face them head on and get rid of them, creating your new terms, you'll feel pretty liberated. 

Yeah.  Hey, I have done a lot of personal homework/footwork to ‘undo’ some bizarre holiday hoarding/storage habits.  My mother used to buy ugly candles to light and save the pretty candles for centerpiece decoration, so we never got to enjoy pretty candles.  

When she died, there were all these pretty candles after several decades that had turned dusty, old, discolored, and were never enjoyed.  It was sad.  So I lit them all and said “Sorry Mom, but life is meant to be lived” after she passed and had my own ceremony of sorts the first Christmas I had without her vowing to not ‘become this.’  I buy pretty soy-based lead-free candles and light and enjoy them whenever I want as a result creating holidays on random days at will, “just because.”  Every day can be a holiday at my own choosing.  That’s LIVING to me and in a new way, this honors her, getting rid of old behaviors that do not serve to be purposeful today in my life.

Some 'traditions' were made only to be broken. It does not dishonor, it only breaks old cycles.  In essence, it gives you new life and new opportunity to expand your world beyond what you've considered 'the only way' to do things.

My father used to drag out the electric knife to carve whatever feast we were having. Since I am living plant based and do not eat meat and miss that revving sound reminiscent of the holidays, I've replaced it with an electric shredder. Now I have shredding parties - which multitask, get rid of old energy, turn into recycled packing material for those who still ship gifts galore in traditional fashion, and accomplish creating a new tradition to ring in the New Year, getting rid of old documents.  It's freeing.

Two years before my father died (which we did not know he would do), and five years before my mother would end up in an Alzheimer’s facility, I suggested that instead of gifts for Christmas and birthdays and holidays – we opt to have ‘experiences’ instead.

There were things we had not done before as a family like trying a different ethnic cuisine no one else had tried – thus it was a ‘mystery’ for all involved, putting us all on the same page for a unique bonding experience. 

We also had not gone as an entire group to the movies (as everyone has different tastes of genre).  So we picked a random film that no one had heard reviews about at the only time slot available for showing.  It was a horrible film, but we all ended up laughing about it…again, putting us all together in a different setting where we got to learn more about each other.  We got to see how others watched the movie and discuss what was more important – writing, cinematography or plot … a more in-depth anti-holiday discussion we would not have had, had we not done this. 

We even attended a seasonal festival and went to the local beach in the winter – (why did previous visits only have to be when everyone else went during summer months?).  Silly, eh? This was particularly silly growing up on the West Coast where there are holiday decorated boat parades, holiday lights in palm trees and people build snowmen out of sand. But like anywhere, you always assume there is ‘tomorrow’ to experience things most tourists flock to experience. I am sure there are many New Yorkers who have never been to the Empire State Building and Seattle residents who have never visited the Space Needle and people in Arizona who have never been to the Grand Canyon. 

It was so nice to go when there were no crowds and took in something we wouldn’t have, if we had stuck with doing things the way we always had done them before or ‘like everyone else did things.’

You get the picture.  If you spend your entire group gatherings only around a meal table, while there is nothing wrong with this at all–think of what else you can do.  You may miss opportunities to experience other things unless you actually take on the challenge of doing something opposite of what you normally do. 

I don’t regret boycotting commercialism in holidays or the 'same ‘ol' traditions because I was able to experience life on a whole different level and create moments that may not have been deliberately chosen to do, and live to tell and share. 

One day I do look forward to revisiting tradition, though I no longer eat refined sugar and I do not believe in cutting down trees for sport or holiday, and gave away all my ornaments... thus perhaps a new hybrid holiday awaits. 

You can do this, too.  You just may save yourself some stress and meanwhile you may create something completely unexpected to cherish for years to come. 

Create a new link for your holiday traditions and you just may rediscover the real meaning of what those precious moments can become.