Whether you are preparing to celebrate Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, or Festivus the holidays can bring stress and there are a few things we can do to not only manage the stress, but to really bring meaning back to the holidays.
Build in Stress Stoppers
Author and blog writer of the column Beyond Blue, Therese Borchard, cites Vitality magazines “7 Ways to Let Stress Out”:
1. Get regular exercise.
2. Be mindful of the present.
3. Take a deep breath.
5. Live a healthy lifestyle.
6. Practice hatha yoga.
7. Go to your happy place.
Pay Attention to Your Intention
One of the key ways to bring mindfulness back to the holidays is to pay attention to our intention. One question I repeatedly ask the people I work with is “Picture preparing for the holidays, how would you like to be during this process?” In other words, if you know it’s going to busy and hectic, how do you want to relate to this? Or, if you know there are not many people around and there are feelings of loneliness looming, how do you want to relate to the loneliness and what action might you take to support you during this time? Make sure not to fall into the trap of changing this to “how would you like other people to be?” We cannot change other people, but we can choose to be intentional with our own actions.
We might also have many automatic negative thoughts (ANTS) during the holidays (e.g., this is going to be a disaster, it’s hopeless, I’m a loser), and maybe one intention might be to not entertain those thoughts this holiday.
Then there’s the piece about the holiday being here. So we can ask ourselves, “How would you like to be during the holiday?” Do the holidays have religious or spiritual significance to you? If so, how might you remind yourself of that so you can really experience it throughout the holiday? If you know there are going to be difficult family dynamics that will bring up stress or difficult emotions, you might want to think about what are some ways you can take care of yourself. Maybe building in some mindfulness practices o help come down from the anxious mind and come back to your intention.
Be in Community
One thing we know is that having a sense of community can really help stave off feelings of loneliness and bring feelings of well-being. If you don’t have a community to be with during the holidays, in what way can you build in community-related activities? Are there groups of people who get together that you can join? There’s no pressure here to have to interact, but just being around people is the idea.
Taking time to be intentional about preparing for and experiencing the holidays is a great way to support you in having a much better experience.
Note: Even though you may have an intention and write it down, doesn’t mean you’ll remember it, especially during difficult moments. So, build in some ways to become present and remind yourself of your intention. You may want to put a post-it in your car or a reminder in your phone, or tell other people you trust of your intention so they can help be reminders for you.
Most importantly, be gentle and kind to yourself during this process.
What helps you during the holidays? Please share your thoughts, stories, and questions below. Your interaction provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.