I’ve experienced this quite a lot as I’ve gotten older. My childhood Christmases were wonderful, but each passing year lost some of the wonder until I almost dreaded the season. I realized that I was expecting too much and acting on what I wanted too little, so shifting my perspective has really helped me love Christmas in a whole new way. In order to expand my understanding further, I reached out to our P2C Human Resources team to hear their insights on how to avoid disappointment during the holidays and set yourself up for emotional wellbeing this season.
Set achievable goals.
If you approach the holidays set on hosting five parties and having each one be a raging success, you are likely going to end up disappointed. Think smaller. Consider what it is about Christmas and the holidays that make them special to you. It could be the traditions you follow or the meals you enjoy or the specific people you gather with. If you can, try to ensure that at least one of those things happen. Don’t bite off more than you can chew by trying to plan it all. Set reachable goals, and anything beyond that will be a pleasant bonus.
Find a way to help, serve, or connect with someone.
I find that I’m most disappointed and discouraged when I’m inwardly focused, but finding a way to interact, focus, or give to someone else helps keep things in perspective for me. This can take many forms, from serving hot chocolate on the streets to visiting with someone who doesn’t have any family. Personally, I love carolling. Christmas music is my favourite, and I love going around in a small choir and bringing joy to people. That might not be your thing, but there are lots of other options that could be a good fit for you.
Don’t hold other people accountable for your happiness.
That’s way too much pressure to put on anybody else, and nobody is perfect. Communication is really key here. You can’t expect your friends and family to read your mind and do exactly what you hoped for if you don’t clearly explain your expectations and desires. I’ve encountered both sides of this problem — sometimes I’m the one feeling disappointed or neglected when my unvoiced desires were never fulfilled, and sometimes I feel frustrated at falling short of expectations that I wasn’t aware of until it’s too late. Spend some time in self-reflection, understanding what it is you want. Once you understand your own expectations, you can more safely communicate them to others without risking disappointment. If you have a certain vision in mind of what Christmas has to be in order to be ‘right,’ then just remember that everyone else has their own version of a perfect Christmas. You, and only you, are responsible for your happiness.
Remember to be thankful and to forgive.
Christmas is a time when you will probably see lots of family members and it can easily turn into a time to remember every old wrong, drama, or disappointment. Some of my extended family members do exactly this, and it doesn’t bring anyone joy. Instead, intentionally focus on the things you are thankful for within your family, not the things you wish were different. And if there are old hurts, try to take steps towards forgiveness. Mistakes may be made, perhaps this Christmas, or in the past. I held a quiet grudge towards one of my family members for several years based on one mistake at a family gathering, and it wasn’t until I discovered that they didn’t remember the event at all that I realized I’d been letting them live rent-free in my head. Holding onto that grudge hurt me more than the other person, and letting go was a relief.
Enjoy the present.
I had some amazing Christmases as a child, and as I got older, I often found myself disappointed when I didn’t have the same feelings or experiences. I would get lost in remembering the past and wishing I could have those times back again. To combat this, my husband and I have started a tradition of making a small Christmas themed craft each December. It’s something fun and new to look forward to each year, and also enables us to remember previous Christmases when we look back on each craft. Life is constantly changing, and things can never happen exactly the same way again, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Be intentional about enjoying the present without getting lost in the past.
Most importantly, keep your focus on Christ.
Christ is really the only constant that can bring joy this time of year. Despite the best-laid plans, celebrations and people have the ability to disappoint. When I encounter these frustrating moments, I try to remember to pause, take a breath, and pray. I intentionally remind myself that every person is loved by Jesus, and I try to see them through His eyes. With His perspective, it’s easier to filter my emotions and realize what’s truly important. This is a continual process, but when I keep my focus on Jesus, the disappointments around me don’t seem to matter as much.
From my own experience, I know it’s possible to go from dreading the Christmas season to having it become one of my favourite times of the year. It won’t happen instantly, but there is a lot that can change when you have helpful tools and a willingness to reorient your outlook. Whatever this season looks like for you, I hope you find joy this Christmas and conquer disappointment.