Adopting a “Vacational Attitude”

 –  Making Your Holidays Last Well into the New Year

JUThis can be your first year to lengthen the holiday season to the point that it never really needs to end. Just imagine this for a moment: spending quality time with loved ones, consuming all sorts of treats that you crave, feeling warm and rosy nearly every day, and focusing on giving, not to mention plenty of receiving, every single day, even though there is no “real excuse” for living so well. It sounds fairly blissful to me, though you may be thinking, “But … but … how exhausting!” or “How decadent, how much weight would I gain?” or “I could never do that with my kind of schedule.” Well, it can work despite all of those things, if you just give it a chance.

Where I come from in New England, we usually rely on the weather to give us cues to move on to the next season, from balmy sandal-wearing nights, to crisp sweater-sporting walks along crunchy-leaf strewn roads, to the indoor festivities that involve candles and plenty of baking and gift wrapping. But like many of you, where I live now, in pleasantly, perennially sunny Los Angeles, we don’t have the luxury of such seasonal nudges. We must rely on calendars and the decorations in our local Target or Walmart to remind us what is just around the corner, despite our weekend hikes and farmer’s markets. We in temperate climates must make a significant effort to fully celebrate certain holidays and seasons and to not forget they’re the norm for everyone else we Skype with.

So I realized, there might be a marvelous blending of the two. Many of my clients come to me because they find themselves burning the candle at both ends, suffering from exhaustion and, more often, a significant lack of perspective. They don’t see the holidays approaching until they’re just upon them, and then what happens? Pressure! “How did it come so fast? Now I have to buy gifts and plan travel, not to mention a party for …” I expect you may share some deep empathy for their best intentions. So with these clients, we often discuss adopting a “Vacational Attitude.” Yes, this is my own trademarked term for keeping and incorporating the best qualities of our holiday experiences into our daily lives.

 [Note: I am using the linguistic variation of the term “holiday” here to mean “vacation.”  Most of our non-North American friends use it this way, and for them the word doesn’t carry the emotional baggage that it so often does for North Americans during the traditional Thanksgiving through  New Year “holiday season.” We will not discuss any type of “holiday depression” here, as that is best suited for a therapy-centric atmosphere.]

In as simple terms as possible, let’s examine what comprises a vacation-oriented attitude to life. How do you feel when you’re on vacation? What qualities about the vacation life and yourself spark to life when you are out of your ordinary, overly-grounded “regular” life? For a majority of people, there is a greater sense of powerful, positive emotions and states of freedom such as joy, lightness, giddiness, warmth, goodwill, contentment, even just plain old fun.

What do you seek most when planning a vacation? Your answer will vitally tell you what you either need most in that period, or what you crave most for your personality. Being in desperate need of a beach holiday where you do nothing but loll in the water, read romance novels and sip margaritas may indicate a desperate respite from your overly-organized and laden schedule. This is in sharp contrast to the urban culture holiday that feeds one’s cultural and intellectual goals, or even the daredevil adventure holiday of the bungee-jumper or Kilimanjaro-climber that satisfies one’s need for challenges, surprise and accomplishment. I guarantee you that, ultimately, all vacations, no matter the type, lead to those same characteristics: freedom, joy and fun.

So let’s extend this to our imminent “holiday season.” What do you treasure or relish most about the best of this season? Is it the freedom from your regular heavy routine and schedule? Is it the warmth and contentment of catching up with old or rarely seen friends? Is it the opportunity to cut loose, have a few more drinks, let your hair down or loosen that tie and really have … some giddy fun? Are you starting to see a pattern here?

And yet so many of us burn out after this holiday season is complete. We overdo it. We overindulge. We cram events and drinks and dinners into such a tight timeframe that all our daily needs and requirements fall to the wayside, only to seek revenge after the New Year. The reason, most people tell me, is because they do not give themselves these fulfilling pleasures or, more sadly, “luxuries” of joy and satisfaction in their lives throughout the rest of the year.

This is how we end the cycle of binging and purging on fun, happy-making activities: Actively incorporate soul-satisfying activities into your life with extreme regularity. Schedule them, even when there is something more “pressing” to distract you. I guarantee that whatever requires your attention will still be there if it’s vital, except that you will actually be able to tackle, handle or manage it when you’re happier and less stressed, for a change. It really can be this easy.

Is the question even deeper than this?  Perhaps it comes down to that regular, niggling problem that is solely in our imaginations: worthiness. Many of my clients just don’t give themselves permission to enjoy themselves because they’ve set up an unwinnable game of reward-earning for their achievements for which they perpetually feel unworthy to win. We’ll discuss this in our 2014 columns.

But for now, accept this: You are worthy of having fun, and regularly. You have permission to enjoy your life, your friends, your family, and regularly. Finally, you have the right to carry the joys of the holidays into your daily, regular life, even when the holidays end.

Here’s my challenge to you: Adopt a “Vacational Attitude” at least until Valentine’s Day or Easter, and let me know in the comments how it goes. Heck, it might just last the whole year.

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