Let’s face it, no matter how hard we try and REALLY concentrate on making sure the holiday season is joyful, and are being mindful of what it is truly about…this time of year can bring about feelings of overwhelm, stress, and those nostalgic feelings of childhood memories and family gatherings of the past that can easily trigger heart wrenching grief and emotional upset for many.
So, this year, I wanted to take this opportunity to share with all of you what I have learned over the years to be most helpful in allowing us to not only survive, but thrive, during what is meant to be the most magical and wonderful time of the year.
Tip #1: Identify Your Shields. When you are spending a holiday with loved ones, sometimes there are those certain people who stress you out and drain your energy..(insert silly face as we all know we pictured someone when we read this one..) identify and use your shields. Yes shields. So what exactly are they?
Shields are people or things that can be counted on to give us a break when we get overwhelmed or uncomfortable. For example, have a code word or signal with a family member you trust that you can use to “tap them in” to a conversation or situation when you need a break. You get to help each other out and it is relieving to know that there is an ally and/or protective shield in the room with you.
Tip #2: Delegate and ask for help. Sounds easy right?! It may sound simple, but giving up control, even on small tasks can be a big challenge. We like to feel in complete control of our surroundings. The holiday season tends to make that goal even more unrealistic than it already is! Here’s why...
If you struggle with stress or anxiety, or are dealing with a chronic illness, feeling in control of external things often feels momentarily satisfying because of how out of control we may feel internally. But having control over external things is just a bandaid and an illusion. This year, challenge yourself to delegate or ask for help with one task. Pause, take a deep breath, check-in with yourself, with what you can realistically handle (and maybe even have some energy left over), and let one thing go. Allow yourself to feel free from being invested in the outcome of that one thing. Just enjoy the process. You got this!
Tip #3: Schedule “Me Time” and keep the appointment. This one can be difficult, especially if you aren’t used to scheduling time for yourself when it’s not the holiday season. But it is so important. When we don’t have time to recharge, our tolerance level for things and people that exhaust our energy becomes dangerously low. Then we start to resent people, get completely burnt out, and are not able to enjoy what we most love about the holiday season.
So whatever scheduling tool you use - phone, planner, sticky notes - write down your appointment with yourself. I mean it...WRITE IT DOWN!! And mark it URGENT/non-negotiable. You will have much more energy to navigate this season. Which leads me to…
Tip #4: Take 5. Yep it’s exactly as it sounds. Allow yourself a break.
What I have found to be the most effective in calming me down and centering me, is when I consciously pay attention to my breathing. It sounds simple because it is. It’s THAT easy. I have a membership with Gaia where I have access to tons and tons of yoga practices and meditations (with some really good soul/brain food documentaries and programs to check out as well) that suit me for a particular day. I have found that the short and simple meditations and mantras suit me best and help me most.
Here are a couple of short ones that I have found on YouTube that may ignite a little flame in you to continue on your own meditation journey too:
Quick 3 min breathing exercise:
And for a tad bit more quiet time…this is beautiful:
On gratitude and forgiveness, a nice 6 minutes:
Check in with yourself. This is true not just for events and gatherings, but for every single moment of life. Take just a minute to breathe, one good inhale/exhale, and ask yourself how you’re doing. Give yourself what you need in that moment, whatever it may be.
Tip #5: Get moving. This is exactly as it sounds. Just move your body for ay least 5 minutes every hour.
You don’t have to commit to long and drawn out gym times or exercise routines if that just isn’t your thang. The body likes movement, and it’s so healthy to get up and take a break from the grind and just move. Walk. Stretch. Go up and down the stairs a few times. Just, get moving! It will reduce stress and calm down your busy mind. Set a timer on your phone to remind yourself to get to steppin.
Tip #6: Don’t stress over your holiday meals. Really…please don’t.
Enjoy. Savor. Take in the aromas, the flavors, the comforts and the feels of the season. You don’t have to feel guilt over veering from your perfect healthy eating habits in order to enjoy special occasions. Guilt and stress do us no good and obsessing over perfect eating is unhealthy, period. Of course overindulgence isn’t good on any level, and our bodies will remind us of that….we don’t need anyone else to tell us.
There are ways to easily crowd out the things that make us feel yucky with the things that make us feel good and give us some healthy energy. Load up on the veggies, power smoothies, and good feeling foods and limit but ENJOY the rest.
Last but not least…
Tip #7: Find gratitude and allow yourself to be present. Such a simple concept but yet so complex for us to accomplish at times. Especially emotionally charged times when of course, this is the most important time to be cognizant of what matters most.
We have so many things to be grateful for. When the overwhelm begins to kick in…stop and bring to mind what makes you feel most alive and thankful. And hang on to those thoughts. Carry them with you through this holiday season. And always.
On the topic of grieving this holiday season…
The holidays are going to hurt for many whether you are missing someone who should be part of the festivities, or you are grieving the loss of your own health and the way things were in years that have passed.
Say no a lot. Really. Other people will tell you that you should say yes to things, get out more and be social. If “being social” isn’t what feels best for you, why on earth would you do that? Remember that “no” is a complete sentence.
Choose your gatherings. If you do choose to attend something holiday-ish, choose what feels right to you. And…(drumroll please…) LEAVE WHENEVER YOU WANT. Please remember that this is your life. You do not have to do anything that feels bad or wrong or horrifying. Even if you agreed to participate in something, you can change your mind at ANY given time. Stop whatever you’re doing whenever you want. Period.
Find companionship; or find ways to be alone-together with others.
Volunteering is a beautiful way that you can serve others in your own quiet way.
Care for yourself. Reach out where it feels good to reach, curl in when that is what you need. Make this season as much of a comfort to you as you can.
I want to thank each and every one of you for walking beside me on this journey. May your holiday season be filled with magical moments that turn into precious memories. I wish you health, peace, happiness, and most of all…love. Remember that the best gift you can give others is your genuine presence.
From my heart to yours with love and light…
Picture credit: Blue Stone Hill @bluestonehill