Surviving the Holidays (a.k.a. stress management, staying present, and saving your sanity)
The beauty of the Christmas season quickly wears off as the to-do list grows, expectations of gift giving never ends, and you find yourself losing time to shopping, wrapping, and stressing about paying bills amidst the craziness of the holiday season. If you are feeling more run down than inspired as Christmas day grows near, you are not alone. In fact, I'd argue that the peak joy of the holiday season happens around December 1st for me - my childhood memories of the holidays and Christmas movies flood in, and I haven't yet had the adult reality of the season set in.
Despite the chaos, this truly is a time of year to be grateful. To help us all survive the overindulgence of gifts, food, and family, below are 12 tips and reminders to help you stay present.
First: Get a calendar and plan your time
Planning ahead and mapping out what is in store will help you not only ensure you don't forget anything, but it will let you see where you have time for yourself. Seeing what you have ahead of you will let you see what works and save yourself from the holiday scramble and feelings of overwhelm.
Second: Every day between now and New Years - Carve out 10 minutes for you
The best gift you can give yourself to stay present this holiday season is to commit to sitting quietly 10 minutes a day. If you have a meditation practice, keep up with it! If you don't, just commit to finding a quiet and undisturbed space to sit in silence for 10 minutes. No electronics, no to-do lists, no distractions. Focus on the inhale and exhale of your breath to quiet your running mind. During the holidays we have a tendency to skip meditation sessions to accommodate social functions. This small amount of time for yourself will make the holidays more meaningful, functions more enjoyable, and everything less stressful.
Third: Say 'No'
It's time to get real. You are an adult and you have the right to say no. Whether its a social function that you just don't want to be at, a gift exchange that your budget doesn't need, or an interrogation by your great aunt, exercise your right to politely decline. I'm not saying to go all Christmas-zilla on people, but planting your feet firmly in knowing what is best for you, you can kindly tell people that this isn't right for you. Your wallet, soul, and heart will thank you.
Fourth: Learn the art of cooling off in another room
So there is that social function that you can't escape, or it's Christmas morning and the kids are screaming and fighting with each other. No matter how much our Hollywood-inspired dreams make us believe that the holidays will go smoothly, truth is that it is an overwhelming time for everyone. When you are feeling your blood pressure rise and your anger creep in, sneak off to a quiet room (washroom, bedroom, or even a closet). Shut the door and focus on breathe to ground yourself in the present moment. Breathe out the anxiety and anger, and breathe in the power to remain present and grateful. Remind yourself that this is one day, and your life will resume to normal shortly.
Fifth: Practice gratitude for loved ones
This is my favourite tip to remind yourself about why we all love this time of year! When you are wrapping the gifts you've bought, think about what you love about them and why you are grateful for them in your life. Send these positive thoughts to the gift as you wrap them. Continue this practice on Christmas as you hand the gifts to the receivers. As they are opening, think of what you are grateful for about them. To make the holidays more meaningful for everyone, encourage everyone on Christmas morning to share what they are grateful for about the people they bought gifts for.
Sixth: Stop and take pictures
I would normally agree with the belief that taking photos stops you from enjoying the beauty of the moment. But at Christmas, it can be hard to slow down and notice the incredible lights, decor, and moments happening before your eyes. Whether it's a beautiful Christmas tree, a neat conversation happening in front of you, or the face of someone opening a gift, think about taking a picture (either with a real camera or mentally) to force yourself to stop and check out the view. If you're taking photos of people, aim for candid shots, rather than staged smiles to really capture the moment. Lastly, when the craziness as worn down for the day, review your photos.
Not only is this a great time of year to help those less fortunate than you, but it is also a great reminder of all that you can be grateful for. Spread the cheer this holiday season by volunteering with a local organization. Whether it's at a food bank, wrapping presents, or even shoveling for seniors in your neighbourhood, give your time to help others and connect to people.
Eigth: Don't invite guilt to the party
The biggest culprit of a stressful Christmas is your friend, guilt. Make a deal with your guilt gremlin to park themselves for the holidays. The holidays are about doing what you can and want to do - not what you SHOULD do. Close your eyes and have a conversation with your guilt gremlin - picture what it looks like and make an agreement that (s)he sits on the sideline this year. You can reconvene in the New Year if you want, but this Christmas, stay healthy, sane, and financially afloat by flying solo.
Ninth: It's the thought that counts, really
This may be too late for your gift giving, but if not - take note. The old adage 'it's the thought that counts' is true - especially when it comes to gifting for people over the age of 18. Most of us would be quite content with a holiday filled with love and good company and without drama. And if gifts are involved, something that is given from the heart means more than money can buy. When you're gifting for loves ones, more gifts does not = more love. Pick gifts out especially for someone because of its meaning. Your bank account will thank you, and the recipient will love the gift that much more.
Tenth: Share love and practice kindness
It is important to remember that the holidays aren't easy or enjoyable for everyone. Everyone around you has their own stories that you don't know anything about. Dig into your compassion this holiday season and be kind to others (even people you can't tolerate the rest of the year). Your good karma will come back to you.
Eleventh: Tackle the tough things head on
Whether its family traditions that feel different with the loss of a loved one, or paying a dreaded credit card bill at the end of the month, don't ignore the inevitable. Take a deep breath and deal with the tough stuff right away. While it won't be easy and may even cause anxiety, the sooner you deal with it, the more time you free up for other things. Like it or not, you can't ignore the difficulties of life. Addressing them head on and making a plan will free up your mind to actually take in the holiday festivities happily.
Life is what we make it out to be. If you walk into the holidays feeling overwhelmed and expecting it to be something - I can almost guarantee that you will wind up disappointed, angry, and frustrated. Breathe deeply and stay present and open to whatever comes. Be grateful for your freedom, your ability to give in whatever ways you can to others, and the ability of your body as it is in this moment. Just as the holidays come, they will go. And just as you made it into this moment, you will make it out of this moment.
Merry Christmas to all of you. May your holidays be bright and your hearts warm.
With love <3