Connecting During the Holiday Season – Energizing or Draining?

Authored by Victoria Roos-Olsson, FranklinCovey Senior Leadership Consultant and author of The Wall Street Journal Bestseller, Everyone Deserves a Great Manager: The 6 Critical Practices For Leading A Team (

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It’s the time of year when many of us are meeting up with family and friends from near and far for holiday celebrations. To truly connect with others is one of the 5 Energy Drivers, and yet we wonder why we often feel the opposite at the end of holiday season, drained of energy rather than refueled (see Everyone Deserves A Great Manager: The 6 Critical Practices for Leading a Team, Chapter 6).

My sister and I did research ahead of our Roos&Shine podcast episode “How to Lead a Long and Happy Life (and Career)”. We came across the books “Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life,” authored by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles, and “The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest,” authored by Dan Buettner, American longevity expert. Many facts in both books correspond well with the 5 Energy Drivers in Everyone Deserves a Great Manager. While I was not surprised by the fact that what you eat and how you move makes a huge difference in one’s longevity, I must admit I had not expected that the way we connect with others has such an impact on our life. Knowing that, I do believe we should be a little more deliberate about our relationships. And not just our closest ones.

A few years back my husband and I sat down and talked about our relationships with our friends and how some people gave us so much energy, while spending time with others made us leave a dinner or weekend event feeling so drained. We made the conscious decision to not spend time with those who depleted our energy. We discovered that we were in a pattern where we would meet up with people out of habit. We stopped doing that and it was such a relief. Having said that, I do think we should appreciate that life has its ups and downs and your friends will, just like you, not always be positive. So, of course, you need to take that into consideration. True friendship is also about being there for each other when you are not at your best. But, it’s wise to also look at it from a more long-term perspective. Invest in your social network. Your social relationships help you grow and develop.

When it comes to our family, however, we don’t get to choose. They are who they are. I’m fortunate to come from a very close-knit and loving family. Even though I’ve spent most of my life and career living far away from my home country and my extended family, I am a family girl at heart and am so excited to spend the holidays with the people I love the most. Still, I must admit that there are still some intense days when it fells like everything should be “perfect” and we should be making up for the time we have missed spending together.  At times, however, I still feel slightly overwhelmed and (certainly if you ask my husband) even drained of energy.

So, what can we do to refuel our energy this holiday season when we are spending time with our friends and families?  Here are a few things that have helped me:

Be intentional with your relationships. Ask yourself why you are spending the holidays, or the day or the evening with this individual or group of people. What do you love about them? What do you love about spending time with them? Focus on that and simply ignore the rest. Your aunt might be annoying in certain ways, but you already know that. What are the things that are great about her? Put your focus on that.

Be curious. Sometimes we take the people we know the best for granted. We don’t ask questions, because we “already know the answer”. But what if we tried to ask different questions? Deeper questions. And, we took the time to really listen. There might be many things that we do not know anything about.

Be courageous. Think about what really matters to you. And, consider if there are things that actually don’t matter that much. So, when the “family negotiations” begin over things such as when to eat, how to do the gifts this year, where to meet, etc., you don’t need to spend energy on things that are not important to you. Save it for the things that really matter. And, be courageous and share that, rather than being quietly frustrated.

Be present. Is this the perfect time to close the Facebook app and  leave the phone in the hallway Studies show that if you keep your phone with you during dinner, even if you don’t use it or even look at it, you will find the dinner conversation less interesting, as your brain will struggle to your attention  from the addictive high that you get from  checking your phone for new notifications).

Be generous. What can you do to make a difference for others who are in need this season? Reach out to someone. You might want to volunteer and make a difference to one or to many. Find small moments to make a difference in the lives of the people you meet, like the overworked lady at the cashier or the young mother struggling with the groceries at the parking lot. Also, think about your friends and family. Sometimes people who are close to you can need a little extra love or attention, as well.

Our wish for you is that at the end of this holiday season, after you have connected with friends and family, that you feel refueled, energized and ready for a great New Year. Happy Holidays to you and yours!

For additional inspiration on how to keep calm and enjoy the holidays, listen in to our Roos&Shine podcast

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