Changing perspective on the holiday season is so crucial for us in finding happiness and peace. The stress and busyness of the holiday season have me reflecting on the topic of keeping perspective on the holidays. If I change how I think about, or view, the holidays, then how I view and cope with the stress of the holidays will change.
(This article is based on a transcript from my podcast episode posted December 21, 2019)
When I talk about the holiday season, I’m not talking in any particular religious meaning. Regardless of your belief or how you celebrate this time of the year, the fact remains this a very hectic time. In changing my perspective on the holiday season, namely, my expectations will change how I view the season, and so reduce my stress.
Many of us have expectations of what this time of the year should be. Families and our traditions place these expectations upon us. So when we’re looking at these expectations it puts a high level of achievement, a high level of making sure that what we do equals previous years’ celebrations.
Expectations on celebrating and honoring one’s traditions is a worthy goal to have as long as it is a realistic goal. When I talk about perspective maybe we need to shift our thoughts and views about some of our traditions in our approach to this season to give it a whole different perspective. I know this time of the year there’s talk about getting away from the commercialization of the season. I agree that as a society, we’ve allowed the holidays to become consumerism focused.
When you think about it, the consumerism of the holidays tends to give us stress! So it begs the question, what is the real meaning of the holiday season? Since there are many different cultures and religious traditions that celebrate this time of the year, let’s examine the purpose of the season in a very large and general picture.
The holiday season was meant to be, from its inception, a time to spend with family, with loved ones, and a time to take stock of what life really means. Given the longer nights of the Winter season, this is a perfect time for us to take stock of our lives.
Yet, as the Winter progresses, the days get a little bit longer as we experience a little bit more daylight each day. This little bit of sunlight each day gives us hope. This sense of hope impacts our perspective and any changes we wish to make about it.
If my perspective on the holiday season is based solely on appearances, decorations, parties, gifts, etc. as the only meaning of this season, then my view, shaped by society and tradition, places such a demand (expectation) on me that my stress will be high. So how do I lower my stress? Change my perspective on the holiday season. To quote the Grinch, “maybe Christmas means a little bit more.”
So what is important to you in life? Is it appearances and material goods? Or maybe it’s family and close friends. If I can focus on the importance of love of family and friends, then the rest of the” things” of the season aren’t as important. I’m not saying that we get rid of all consumerism, but what is your priority this time of the year? What in life genuinely makes you happy, peace-filled, and feel loved?
Surrounding oneself with loved ones while celebrating your togetherness is relatively stressing and expectation free. It’s only you being yourself, knowing you’re respected and honored simply for you being you. It can’t get much better than that.
Now imagine a holiday focused on the expectation of pleasing and impressing those same people. The more you believe, the more your stress increases as you think of all that has to now be accomplished and done with perfection. Which scenario do you choose?
Consumerism grows as material goods build upon material goods. You purchase one item, but now you need some of the accessories, and some of those need special connectors and cords. Now you’re buying more and more, and needing to carry with you more and more things. See, all of these things build upon each other so that one material good equates to many more material goods, If we’re looking for a way to find some peace in our lives begin to change your perspective and declutter. I’m not advocating that we get rid of all of our material goods, but to re-examine the products we already possess.
As an example, I turn to one of the persons in history who inspires me; Saint Francis of Assisi. He was a Catholic preacher and monk back in the 1100s and 1200s who gave up everything he owned to live a life of complete poverty and ministry to others.
As Francis’ reputation for caring and compassion spreads throughout the area, other men decide to follow Francis, and they too give up everything they own. Francis and his followers are proud of their accomplishments in ministry due to their freedom in not owning possessions.
On one occasion, it’s documented that some of the Brothers asked Francis if they could purchase an educational book for all of the brothers to use. Francis himself was not against learning, but he uses the opportunity to explain to them the importance of not gathering material goods. Francis replies by asking if we get a book where we going to store that book? We need a place to store the books so that the book stays safe. So we’re going to have to build a building. Yet if we build a structure to put the book in we’re going to have to make sure that when we’re not around, that book remains safe, so we may have to put some locks on that building.
And then once we put the locks on the building, people will get suspicious of what’s in a locked building that we may have to hire some people to keep an eye on that building. Francis’s point being is this one book; this one material object is causing them to build a structure that will need to be secured.
Francis’ other lesson in his response to the Brothers pertains to one’s focus and priorities. If the book were in the guarded building, how focused would the Brothers be on the ministry to others versus on the status and care of the book? The takeaway from the story is not that Francis is anti-education, but that Francis wanted his Brothers to be wholly and entirely focused on serving God without any other care or stress. In other words, a perspective shift on the meaning of material goods.
Place Francis’s story into your modern life. Think of the material goods we have. Is it not true that once we obtain an object that it might mean we accumulate other objects to go along with that object and/or the debt of the object(s) indicating the longer, we may have to work, taking us away from our family. Yet honestly, what’s more, important to us; those goods we’re working for or our family?
My challenge for all of us is to refocus our lives on those things which are meaningful to us. Then examine what our priorities are now. If my priorities are causing me stress and defocusing me from my priorities, then what changes in my life do I need to make to realign my priorities and my life?
So that’s my challenge for us during this holiday season, to change your perspective so that your priorities in life match your actions such that you find hope and enjoy peace this holiday season.