OH, WAIT. THAT’S NOT HOW WE DO IT.
Instead, we rush to mail our holiday greetings, attend all the gay happy meetings, find the toys in every store, and get some holly on our own front door!
We know that Christmas means a whole lot more…. and while we hope that message isn’t lost on our girls and our boys, we turn a season of quiet into a lot of noise, noise, noise, NOISE!
If your holiday season seems more frightful than delightful, more humbug than hallelujah, you’re not alone. A 2015 survey found almost two-thirds of people report increased stress during the holidays (interestingly, more women reported high holiday stress than men).
If you’re feeling holiday stress, check out these mindful tips for managing your yuletide woes:
1. Feel your feels during the holidays
Stress is an overwhelm of emotion — so it would make sense that a time of year full of heightened emotion would be stressful. But here’s what’s perhaps surprising: a 2006 APA study of holiday stress found that the most commonly felt emotions during the holidays were positive: “happiness,” “love,” “high spirits,” and “connectedness.” Negative feelings were less common, but included “fatigue,” “stress,” “anger,” and “loneliness.”
It’s reassuring to know that we generally feel good during the holidays… but all those unexamined and unexplored feelings can leave us pretty overwhelmed.
Whatever you are feeling is normal and okay… because you’re feeling it! Allow your feelings to be as they are — see if you can observe them, and not get so wrapped up in them (because you’ve got enough wrapping to do…)
2. Savor the joy
The APA study mentioned above found that most people look forward to the holidays, and enjoy that it is a time of year that revolves around family and friends. It would make sense, though, that even as we feel a lot of positive emotion during the holidays, we focus on our stress, because we are primed (thanks, evolution!) to pay greater attention to our negative experiences.
Whether it’s gathering with your family for a day of cookie baking, or simply enjoying some yummy egg nog near a sparkly tree, take time to savor the joyful moments of the holiday. Be present for those moments: take a deep breath, and notice what it feels like to feel happy, peaceful, loved, connected, or whatever positive emotion you are experiencing.
The two the biggest sources of holiday stress are time and money. It can be hard to resist the temptation of the bajillion emails promising you THE BEST DEAL OF THE SEASON every single morning, and we may feel bad if we cannot give our children something they really want or if we can’t do ALL THE HOLIDAY THINGS.
So let’s find some ways we can simplify.
Last year, my family agreed that we would only buy gifts for the kids — the adults could get their own stuff if they needed it! It made shopping a lot less stressful, and it made Christmas Day a lot more enjoyable. (And, we took some of the money we would have spent on gifts and donated it to various nonprofits).
How about we remove the shame of “re-gifting” — if you have something you do not use, but you know someone else would enjoy it, by all means, pass it on!
Can you simplify all the cooking and baking? There’s no shame in getting some pre-made food from the local grocery.
My family has simplified the holidays by completely ditching the fancy Christmas Eve dinner — now we gather at my sister’s house and make gingerbread houses and drink cocoa and watch movies… and order pizza. It’s wonderful.
4. Reframe the busy and the stress
It’s hard to simplify everything. Let go of the things you can let go of, and then, if your holidays are still busy, can you at least enjoy the busy? When I think about it, the things that make my holidays stressful are actually quite enjoyable: watching my children’s dance recitals, baking cookies, wrapping presents and making them look pretty, decorating my house, attending dinners and parties with friends, performing with my holiday dance team…. It’s a lot, but these are all things I have chosen to do, and that I love doing.
When I am tempted to say that I am “stressed” or “too busy!” during the holidays, I try to reframe it: my holidays are intentionally full. I have chosen to make them so. They are full of love and family and fun … and yes, sometimes it feels too full, but I guess it brings to mind the old adage about old age: it sure beats the alternative.
Your “busy” holidays can be a celebration of friendship and abundance and opportunity… and a wonderful life. Or they can just be busy. YOU get to choose.
Even in the fullness, we need space for ourselves. Can you set aside five minutes during your day that are just for YOU, and simply breathe? During this season of giving, make sure that YOU are on your gift list. The stillness and peace and calm that you cultivate in meditation be called upon whenever you need it, whether you’re dashing through the mall, or refereeing the political argument that broke out just as you tried to carve the roast beast.Need more help? You may want to check out the following articles:
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