Preserving joy during the holidays

The holiday season is a treasured and purposed time of celebrating the values or convictions that we seek to honor throughout the year. Amidst the joy and sacredness of the holidays, the weeks surrounding can also be a time where it becomes challenging to experience the spirit that we aspire to know during the holiday season.

For some, the holidays bring endless and uninterrupted bliss and celebration. For others, the holidays are a time of struggle to find desired pleasure. In the array of experiences that may arrive during the holidays, the following suggestions are intended to lessen potential stress, bring encouragement to places of challenge, and increase the delight that we might all know during this holiday season.

• Remember the values you hold. What do you and/or your family believe to be important and to value during the holiday season? What is the central theme that you desire to create and honor during this time? In deepening a commitment to the purpose that we connect to the holidays, a renewal of spirit becomes more possible. Such a shift in focus enhances our ability to enjoy the holidays from a perspective that extends beyond individual or personal circumstances toward a greater sense of purpose and passion.

• Honor the relationships you cherish. Spend time with loved ones. Perhaps you desire to spend time with family this year — perhaps there are family members that are difficult to desire connecting with and you would prefer to honor the holidays with others. Who have you been thinking of during the last few weeks? Who would you desire to spend time with in the coming weeks? Throughout the holidays, choose to celebrate with family members, friends and individuals in the community that you experience to be life-giving and that foster a sense of significance in your life and enhance the values that you cherish during this season.

• Build traditions and rituals. Whether you are single, married or have a family, traditions and rituals provide our lives with the practice and continuity of conviction. In particular, families that are intentional about building and maintaining traditions and rituals in their home foster a greater experience of connection and cohesiveness to both the relationships within the family and to the values or principles attached to such practices. When you remember your childhood, what are the traditions that you recall? What are the traditions that you desire for your life now? How are you creating the rituals that your loved ones or children will remember and live from in years to come?

• Be intentional about holiday planning and avoid obligations. Often the greatest stresses of the holidays arise when we fulfill the expectations of others at the risk of honoring the needs for ourselves. Take time to be honest with yourself about how you envision the holidays for yourself or your family. Are there obligations or expectations of others that challenge the ideals that you desire to create? I encourage you to minimize these elements as much as possible to prevent the experience of stress and struggle from being the essence of how you or your family remembers this season.

As you seek to create a holiday season that is meaningful to you and to your family, I wish you well and hope that these offerings will bring an increase of joy to you and your loved ones. May you know a time where you indulge in the pleasures of the holidays and delight in the values that you hold dear during this season.

Shannon Renae West is a licensed family therapist serving Eastside families. She can be reached at (425) 415-6556 or via e-mail at

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