3 Ways to Prevent Disappointment During the Holiday Season

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Holidays are stressful

Have you ever been disappointed during the holidays? 

It’s a time when festive songs are singing, bubbles are popping, drinks are flowing, fire logs are crackling, dogs are running, happy voices and giddy laughters ringing, shiny wrapping papers, ribbons, tinsels and sparklers are wowing, cozy sweaters and festive dresses are dazzling, unending trips and parties, smells of homemade roasts wafting, decadent cakes, presents, hugs and kisses are abundant and oozing. 

And then it doesn’t happen. 

For whatever reason. 

And you’re left feeling disappointed and sometimes resentful.

There is so much expectation during the holiday season created by retailers and our environment that it tends to be a highly stressful time for many people – regardless if we’re holding a sparkler with a loved one, or our pillow on new years eve. 

To spare yourself of the pressure this year, try these 3 strategies to help you cut through the noise to enjoy beautiful moments during this holiday season. 

You can implement them right away leading up to any holiday that you celebrate!

Strategy #1: Set Realistic Expectations

The equation for disappointment = (expectation ≠ reality), or when our expectation is not aligned with reality. 

Such as, if I’m expecting a new years eve proposal, but we’ve only been dating for 3 weeks or if I’m expecting a festive celebration but haven’t planned anything or invited anyone over, or if I’m expecting a visit from Santa and Tinkerbell, and we all know how that ends. 

It’s entirely possible that my expectations will be met given a miracle, but the chances are slim. 

These silly examples illustrate a huge gap between my expectations and reality. The greater the gap, the deeper the disappointment. 

And the more narrow the gap, the more content we’ll feel. We naturally feel more at ease when our expectation meets reality (if you’ve ever gone “off script” with a 5 year old, you’ll know how important it is to underscore that point). 

Given our strange reality in 2020, most of us will want to re-evaluate and adjust our holiday expectations.

Ask yourself:

What are my expectations for this holiday season? Are these expectations realistic given my circumstances, and what I have communicated to others? Are these expectations in line with those with whom I will be spending time? 

Perhaps you won’t be able to celebrate in the way you were hoping to. Perhaps you won’t be able to travel or see people who normally travel to you. Perhaps instead of hugs and kisses for all, you’ll need to express or receive affection in other ways. 

Whatever was your traditional holiday fanfare, be prepared to adjust your expectations to what’s actually viable and realistic during the pandemic (or any other year). 

Strategy #2: Prioritize what you care about

One of the most stressful things about the holiday season is not having enough time to do all the things.

For whatever reason, we tend to “run out of time” when December rolls around. 

One of the kindest and most generous things we can do for ourselves when we experience a lack of time is to sort out our priorities. 

The reality is that we can’t do everything. So let’s move the stuff we really care about to the top of the pile so that we’re not left disappointed after having done everything but the stuff we really want to do. 

Ask yourself: What’s the most important thing to me right now? What will bring me the most joy/peace? What do I care about the most? 

Realize that the answer to these questions can be different every year. 

Some examples of priority can be 

  • To keep everyone safe and healthy
  • To celebrate an individual
  • To give myself a break
  • To help others
  • To create a sense of community

Once you know your priority for this holiday season

Ask yourself: what are the things I can do to make the greatest impact, and what are things I don’t need to do this year that don’t serve my priority?

Depending on your priority, you will focus your time and attention differently. 

Strategy #3: Create boundaries

We all know people who take on more than they wish and they have no idea how they’ve agreed to it all (sometimes that person happens to be ourselves). 

Other times, we may find ourselves drained and in a foul mood after talking to someone on the phone. 

Or we might feel “icky” after having dinner with some people.

The reason why we don’t feel awesome in these situations is likely because our boundaries have been crossed.

We have physical, emotional, and spiritual boundaries that we need to honor for our wellbeing. 

Ask yourself: what are the things that I’m not willing to tolerate, do, or accept?

For example, maybe it’s agreeing to run last-minute errands for people, entertaining guests on short notice, excessive lateness, lending money, or spending time with people who feed off on negativity.

Once you’ve identified your boundary, you need to protect your boundary and know your action. Will you decline that invite? Change the topic? Say “no?” Excuse yourself? Suggest a different tactic?

Know your action when your boundary is cross beforehand so that you have a “go-to” response and not get caught off guard.


Holidays can be stressful, but you can choose to create ease by setting realistic expectations, prioritizing what’s important to you, and creating boundaries to protect your peace.

When we cut through this noise, we’re able to hone into what’s really important during the holiday season. And that’s different for everyone.

But whatever is true for you this year, you’re going to have more time, space, and energy to enjoy those moments. 

The beautiful thing is that when we implement these 3 strategies, we allow the magic of the holidays to unfold. We create room to be surprised and delighted (But I wouldn’t dwell too much on this point <wink> since that creates a new expectation- see strategy #1).

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