For many of us, the holidays are a paradoxical time that can be the most joyful and enjoyable while being simultaneously the most stressful and disappointing. In this two-part article, we try to gain a broader perspective on the holiday season by breaking down the challenges associated with the holiday season and offering specific strategies for managing some of the usual holiday stressors.
In Part 1 of this article, we found that some of the challenges associated with the holiday season include the disruption of routines, the weight of interpersonal expectations, and the physical limitations of winter. We also agreed that one of the most important things you can do, before anything else, is admitting that the holiday season poses a challenge.
Upon concluding that it’s important to commit to the taking on the challenge of having a happy holiday season, in Part 2 let’s now take a look at some of the specific strategies you can employ in order to surmount the challenges of the holiday season and keep in mind what’s most important.
Practical Challenges: Remember Hofstadter’s Law
The first major category of challenges posed by the holidays are practical challenges. This category includes things like losing time because of winter weather, increased commutes, or general over-commitment, but it also includes the physical challenges associated with decreased Vitamin D, difficulty exercising, and change of diet.
One of the simplest and most effective strategies when dealing with these practical challenges is to follow a rule coined by scientist and author Doug Hofstadter, who wrote: “It always takes longer than you think it will take, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.”
By simply allowing yourself more time than you would otherwise feel necessary, you can prevent yourself from feeling trapped or disappointed by the inability to maintain the same type of timeliness that may be feasible at other times of the year.
By extension, not only should you expect to take more time than expected for practical, day-to-day affairs, but you should also try your best to accept and celebrate the differences that the holiday season brings. It is said that there is a season for everything, and by becoming aware of the unique challenges that the holiday season poses, many of the physical limitations can become transformed into wonderful opportunities.
In the spring and summer months, both the natural world as well as our own bodies extend outward, growing and becoming strong and vibrant. But without the winter, there is no opportunity to have spring. In this sense, consider the practical challenges associated with winter and the holiday season as the inward coiling of the spring that is entirely necessary for it to explode outward in the spring and summer.
Personal Challenges: Try to Manage Expectations
The theme of managing expectations reverberates not only through our individual thinking about the practical challenges that the holiday season poses for everyone, but also becomes even more important in the interpersonal world.
Because when we place expectations on our own time, it is only our own schedule that can become frustrated. But when we place expectations on other people – whether it be to act in a certain way, to uphold certain traditions, to make certain choices, or even just to be a particular way – then we have the potential to reciprocally frustrate both ourselves and another person, creating a negative spiral.
For example, the holidays often bring together friends or family members that do not spend very much time together throughout the year. If one individual expects another to treat them a certain way or to have made certain life choices throughout the year, and the other person picks up on these constraints and disapproving attitudes, the result can be mutual dissatisfaction and mounting resentment.
The solution is to do your best to forget about what you want – whether it’s something as simple as how you want an event to play out, or as complex as how you want another person to live their life. Save up your feelings and transform them into New Year’s resolutions, to be activated throughout the year. But in the moment of the holidays, try your best to simply be thankful for all of the people you have in your life, and to love them as unconditionally as you are able.
Private Challenges: Give Yourself Grace
Not only should you try to love other people as unconditionally as possible, however, but you should also try to offer yourself this level of grace.
In addition to the relatively surface-level and inert annoyances on the practical and personal levels described above, in some cases the holiday season can bring about serious private challenges that we may not want to share or show anyone. The revival of painful family bonds or the difficulties of facing a person who has wronged us or who we have wronged in the past can reopen old wounds that have just had the opportunity over the course of the year to heal with time.
In the case of these difficult personal challenges, remember how infrequently the calendar aligns to bring these situations upon you. Remember that you are not well-practiced at handling some of the deep private difficulties that the holiday season can prompt. There is no reason you should expect yourself to be able to handle these difficulties on your own.
By maintaining an awareness of what sorts of private difficulties can be activated during the holiday season, we become able to face the difficulties more directly. We may not need to address the issue explicitly, and it’s never required to engage in vulnerable conversations with other people, but at the very least we will not feel the need to run from the difficulties and hide.
In summary, when we can accept ourselves, accept others, and accept all of the practical, personal, and private challenges associated with the holiday season, we become more able to set them aside and focus on all of the things that we have to be grateful for, and all of the individuals in our lives who better and sharpen us.
By remembering some simple tips like Hofstadter’s Law, the power of expectations, and the importance of grace and vulnerability, you can help keep your holiday season as joyous and stress-free as possible.
Many people look forward to the holiday season throughout the entire year. Children count down the days, and adults often plan events months and months in advance.
However, all of this anticipation is a double-edged sword, and it's an unfortunate truth that the time of year expected and advertised to be the most joyous and celebrated can often times end up being the most stressful and disappointing.
In this two-part article, we’ll first try to gain some perspective on the holiday season, and break down the reasons why the holidays are challenging, what factors are at play in staying balanced during the holidays, and what research has to say about what really matters.
In part two, we’ll move on to specific strategies that you can follow in order to make this holiday season all about joy, and not about stress.
We'll begin by breaking down some of the challenges that arise during the holidays.
Challenges Associated with the Holiday Season
Human beings are creatures of habit. During a large part of the year, most of us settle into very comfortable and staid routines.
Of course spontaneity is important, and there is a degree of truth in the old adage that variety is the spice of life, but maintaining positive, healthy habits is also very valuable. Routine keeps us oriented, it helps us manage stress, and it ensures that through constant, steady effort, we will eventually reach our goals.
One of the primary difficulties of the holiday season, therefore, is how much these routines can be altered. For parents with children, having the kids home from school for a period of multiple weeks is a major blessing, on the one hand, and a huge disruption of routine on the other hand.
When routines get disrupted, little tasks fall through the cracks. When little tasks fall through the cracks, a feeling of disorientation can arise, as though you are constantly forgetting something. When these feelings surface, they can lead to stress. And with a high level of stress, things like self-care, exercise, and other routine-oriented tasks get lost, completing the vicious cycle.
But this difficulty is only on the personal level. On the interpersonal level, the holiday season can bring about a large number of different expectations on your time and energy.
Children at different ages require more or less attention in order to have an enjoyable experience. Parents, siblings, and extended family members can push too hard for the fulfillment of one tradition or another. Groups including churches, service organizations, and even workplaces often schedule time commitments that they wouldn't otherwise.
And to compound all of these various challenges, the holidays are also the time of year when there is the least amount of sunlight, the most dangerous weather (depending on your location), the most delays because of traffic or weather, and often times the most sickness.
With all of these practical challenges, it can be hard to remember what's truly important. Let's take a look at what research has to say on the topic.
The Holidays Are About Meaning and Community, Not Consumerism
While it may seem strange to think about the holiday season from an academic perspective, one of the things that research helpfully does is organize information in such a way to make things that we already knew seem fresh and interesting.
In this way, considering what researchers have to say about the holiday season helps to orient us towards what's really important.
One study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies surveyed a variety of different people in a town in the Midwestern United States. The study specifically focused on Christmas, and asked participants to fill out several different questions about their Christmas experiences while also measuring things like life satisfaction, well-being, and stress.
The researchers demonstrated that the more materialistic aspects of the Christmas tradition were essentially unrelated to happiness or well-being. In fact, the researchers went so far as to explicitly state: “Despite the fact that people spend relatively large portions of their income on gifts, as well as time shopping for and wrapping them, such behavior apparently contributes little to holiday joy.”
On the other hand, the researchers found that individuals who spent time with family and engaged in religious activities reported greater overall well-being during the holidays. The researchers conjectured that this is because both of these activities often lead to a greater sense of interpersonal relatedness, as well as a greater sense of meaningfulness in life, both of which are well-established predictors of overall happiness.
So, once again: this particular study doesn't exactly tell you anything that you didn't already know. However, it is always helpful to be reminded that what really matters during the holiday season is investing time in family and community.
The Holidays Are a Challenge, and Should Be Treated as Such
With this understanding of what truly matters during the holiday season in mind, it becomes apparent how many things are tangent to these goals but can nonetheless come to dominate.
With challenges like sickness, scheduling, weather, traffic, and of course the entire web of interpersonal difficulties arising from having lots of different people with lots of different expectations, there's no doubt that it's difficult to keep what's truly important in mind.
The first step in any difficult task is always admitting to the challenge; without taking on the difficulty it is impossible to successfully rise above it.
But just because something is challenging doesn't mean it isn't enjoyable or rewarding. Thinking about the holidays as a challenge to be overcome doesn't cheapen the experience at all. As anyone who has planned a wedding knows, some of the most enjoyable and memorable days of our entire lives are also among the most challenging to prepare and to pull off.
So in conclusion, now that we've committed to taking on the challenge of having a happy holiday season this year, in Part 2 of this article we will discuss specific strategies you can use to accomplish this goal.
Kasser, T., & Sheldon, K. M. (2002). What makes for a merry Christmas? Journal of Happiness Studies, 3(4), 313-329.
Now that snow is finally here, are you wondering what to do with all the wonderful white stuff? How about making use of our children’s enthusiasm for some fun and educational snow-filled speech and language learning? Read on for free speech-language activities for home, daycare, or school use!
Speech Developement (Young Child)
In this section, here are some simple but effective resources to help your preschooler model the correct production of “s” blends.
Let's look at a preschooler who literally says “no” for “snow”. This is the child exclaiming “no, no” at the first snowfall, when you know they really mean “Look at the snow!” You may not have the training and experience to directly help this child correct their speech, but there is much to be said for modeling – over and over and over! What better time to model “sn” blend words than at the beginning of winter! In fact, since omission of the “n” in the “sn” blend is likely part of the larger speech process of omitting “s” from “s” blends in words (e.g., “no” for “snow”, “ poon” for “spoon”, “ wim” for “swim”, “ top” for “stop”, “ mile” for “smile”), you can have fun bombarding your child with lots of “s” blend words (speech-language pathologists call this “auditory bombardment.”).
Reading books is a great place to start – simply say the “s” blend part of words a little louder and a little longer. For example, “Sadie and the Snowman” (Allen Morgan) is a wonderful little book for this, and it also discusses the concept of “melting.” Of course, go outside and enjoy the real snow while slightly exaggerating the “s” blend in “snow”, “snowball”, “snowman”, “stack” (the snowballs up), “smile”, etc.
One of the challenges in language development is learning how to describe an order of events or how to describe a sequence. Teaching a child to learn how to describe an order of events can be fun for everyone.
Building a snowman is a great activity to develop this sequencing skill. Use words such as “first”, “then”, and “next.” Even dressing to go outside is a sequence, and sometimes quite a time-consuming one at that! First the child puts on their ski pants, then their jacket, mitts, boots, scarf, hood/hat, etc.
You can also use the memory of an event to help a child learn to describe a sequence. When you’re building the snowman, take picture of the events as the progress. Use “feeling” words to describe the fun you have, and later review the pictures, helping the child commit the experience and associated feelings to memory.
For example, “We went sledding. We climbed up the hill. It was a loooong way up. But then we got to slide down. It was so much fun! We were going so fast, it was almost scary! I even fell off once, but I was not hurt. Nobody wanted to stop. We slid down the hill many times! By the time we were done, we were tired and cold, but we had had a great time! Then we went inside and had hot chocolate. That warmed us up quickly!”
Resources For Helping Your Child Learn Language
Sometimes it can be difficult to get ideas on how to engage a child in how to pronouce words properly or even build their vocabulary. Here are some resources to help you along the way.
by Aileen Fisher
I used to think that snow was white.
And then, I saw it blue one night.
And then, I saw it gold one day, with purple shadows and with gray.
And then, one morning it was pink.
So now I don’t know what to think.
All About Me: Verses I Can Read selected by Leland B. Jacobs (Illinois: Garrard Publishing Company, 1971. 32)
Playing in the Snow
I want to play in the snow,
So I put on my boots and hat
[PUT ON BOOTS AND HAT.]
My soft, warm, cuddly coat
[PUT ON COAT.]
Zips up the front like that!
from Marie Hibma Frost’s Preschool Teachers’ How-to Book: Action Rhymes (Chicago: Moody Press, 1973. 14)
Chubby Little Snowman
A chubby little snowman
[arms around your belly]
Had a carrot nose
[point to nose]
Along came a bunny
[fingers pointed like bunny ears…hop, hop]
And what do you supposed?
[fingers still like ears, stop hopping]
That hungry little bunny
[peer to the left]
Looking for his lunch
[peer to the right]
Ate that snowman’s nose with a
[grab carrot nose and hold to mouth]
[munch carrot… jump up with hands high on ‘CRUNCH’!]
(pg. 10 of Winnipeg Public Library’s Rhymes for Babies and Toddlers, CW1058: 2006 10)
See coloring page at http://www.dltk-holidays.com/xmas/chubbysnowmanpoem.htm.
By Kimberly Wiebe, M.Sc., RSLP, CCC-SLP
Archer, Cheryl. Snow Watch: Experiments, Activities and Things to Do with Snow. Toronto: Kids Can Press Ltd., 1994.
Cole, Joanna. The Magic School Bus to the Rescue: Blizzard. New York: Scholastic Inc., 2002.
Fisher, Aileen. “Snow Color.” All About Me: Verses I Can Read. Ed. Leland B. Jacobs. Illinois: Garrard Publishing Company, 1971. 32.
Frost, Marie Hibma. “Playing in the Snow.” Preschool Teachers’ How-to Book: Action Rhymes. Chicago: Moody Press, 1973. 14.
Morgan, Allen. Sadie and the Snowman. Toronto: Kids Can Press Ltd., 1985.
Motuz, Stephannie. “Personal Episodic Knowledge: Memory Management” Getting to Guiding (for Professionals), 24 November 2014, Rehabilitation Centre for Children, Winnipeg, MB. Workshop/Course Presentation.
Prest, Ashley. “Broken Snowfall Record Stands: Environment Canada.” Winnipeg Free Press. N.p., 23 Nov. 2016. Web 24 Nov. 2016.
Winnipeg Public Library. Community Services Department. “A Chubby Little Snowman.” Rhymes for Babies and Toddlers. CW1058: 2006 10. 10.