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  • Writer's pictureArwen Rasmussen

Get the Best Out of the Holidays: Stay Focused, Don’t Get Distracted

By Carl A. Trapani, MA, MS, LPC, Chippewa Manor Campus Chaplain

The busiest time of the year is rapidly approaching. Most of us refer to it as “The Holidays.”

From November through January the tempo of life picks up. It’s often difficult to stay focused and keep up with our normal activities. The increased distractions and demands on our time can exceed our ability to stay focused. It’s a lot like working a puzzle with new pieces constantly being added. The holiday social events calendar can overtake our daily obligations, leaving many feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. These added distractions and the stress they can cause, lead some folks to dread what is supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year.”

Fortunately - this doesn’t have to happen. Applying a few of common-sense concepts can help you stay less-distracted, more focused, and better able to enjoy the holidays.

One of the most important things to remember during the holiday season is to manage your expectations (of yourself and others). We are only human, so don’t expect perfection. Avoid setting your expectations too high for any part of the season. It can be a fun and festive time, but the holidays won’t miraculously turn your family into the Brady Bunch. Author Anne Lamott said, “expectations are resentments waiting to happen.”

Do not overcommit and learn to say “no.” You do not need to go to every holiday party you get invited to. If you don’t feel like the activity or event will bring you joy, but rather feels like an obligation, then say no. No is a complete sentence. No other explanation needed. Try saying it out loud a few times. “If you’re too busy, you’re too busy.” Sometimes it’s just that simple.

Have fun. Enjoy the season and the changes it brings. We have a sign in our kitchen that says, “Do something fun every day.” What better advice could you have? Life is short, so enjoy each and every day. Live life to the fullest. This means enjoying holidays as special times of pleasure and joy.

If you are religious, focus on the spiritual aspects of the season. In a secular world, many elements of the holidays can distract you from the sacred. Holiday decorations, family traditions, foods and festivities are a good thing. Just don’t let them distract you from the real reason for the season.

Each year my family decorates our home with a tree with lots of lights and either a star or angel at the top. The lights give a warm and beautiful glow to our home as we remember the Bible tells us Jesus is the “light of the world.” The angel or star reminds me that God used a star and angels to announce the birth of Jesus. In our distracted society, it’s good to focus on things that have spiritual significance.

Whatever your religious persuasion, find some time to consider what the holidays mean to you. How do they impact your life? What do you enjoy about them? Why are they significant? Remember to experience blessings and goodness in the simple things of life. Revel in things like fellowship, fun, and making memories. And keep them all in proper perspective.

The perfect holiday season is found in simplicity, keeping your main thing the main thing, and not allowing anything less important to take its place. Don’t let the less important things crowd out the most important. Each of us will define our holiday “most important” differently. Many will seek spiritual renewal. Some will celebrate family. Some will refocus on giving. Some will seek rest. Some will set aside this time to remember a loved one. Others will consider the opportunity to evaluate the passing year and focus on the next. Many will choose a combination of the above. But whatever it is, don’t let the less important push out the most important. Stay focused, simplify and get the best out of the holidays this year.

Carl Trapani, MA, MS, LPC serves as campus Chaplain at Chippewa Manor. He has more than 50 years of pastoral service and professional counseling experience. For more information please call (715) 723-4437 or email him at

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