Here we are in the middle of December. Some of the 2016 holiday season is already in the memory books, but there are still many more joys – and stresses! – awaiting us before New Year’s Day.
How can you hold on to the beautiful moments and prepare yourself to survive with the challenges? Take it one event and one breath at a time.
How do you find beauty in the midst of the stress?
I bet you’ve already lived through your own version of this scene – especially if you’re a mom of small children:
It’s 9 PM and we’re just getting home from the last Christmas pageant of the season. The kids are exhausted and, of course, they have school in the morning, so we will really be feeling this tomorrow evening after they come home from a long day at school.
On top of all the holiday fun, we’re all coming off of colds and stomach bugs. To say I’m weary from long days of working and mothering is an understatement, but let me tell you…
Tonight, I saw my littlest one. I mean really saw her. There was my two year-old dancing in front of a huge crowd of people to “Ring the Bells.” She is growing up – they all are – and I am so very thankful to have this particular memory to hold on to.
Is the goal simply to “survive” the holidays?
Maybe you’re just trying to make it through ’til December 26 when you can collapse on the couch… After the month-long marathon you’ve probably been running, you deserve it. Because, let’s be honest here, the holidays aren’t always easy or fun – no matter what the commercials tell us. For many, this time is a reminder of who they’ve lost or what they haven’t found yet. And, of course, December often brings on financial stress and brings family tensions to the foreground.
But, then, there are those little moments, like the one with my daughter, that remind me of what this time of year is about. Contrary to what all the hype and noise of the season might be telling us, this really is a season of gratitude, compassion, and kindness.
These little moments remind me to slow down and really feel all the grace that’s hiding in plain sight. All of the joy and connection we’re looking for is there. If we pay attention, we really will see it.
How can you move beyond mere holiday survival?
If you grit your teeth through the month and look forward to life returning to “normal,” you can get through the holidays, but is that all you want from this time of year?
Find your footing and try to do more than just “survive” the holidays by consciously looking for the moments where joy lives.
And if you are one of many struggling with the overwhelming stress and mess that can come with the seasons or with expectations that aren’t being met, I invite you to slow down and breathe. Nothing – and I mean nothing – will fall apart if you take a minute (or five) for yourself.
You do so much to prepare for the holidays, the to-do list can seem endless at times. I am not trying to add more by shouting “have fun” and “see the wonder!” Instead, I suggest you shift your mindset just a little. Rooting into mindfulness before you enter the holiday chaos can help you not only survive but help you slow down, notice and thrive.
And yet, honor your own process… If you’ve been struggling with depression, “find the holiday joy” may just be another impossible task. While I ask you to be compassionate with yourself and don’t try to minimize your pain, I also invite you to keep your eyes open for those little moments that remind you of the light.
So, what can you do to slow down? What does “slow down” really mean??
Slowing down means that before you get out of the car to run a Christmas-related errand, you take one minute to do some deep breathing.
Slowing down means that before you head out to a Christmas party with co-workers, you take five minutes to pay attention to your five senses. What are you seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, tasting? Doing this helps quiet a racing mind and restores your sense of balance so you feel more grounded and ready to take on the crowd.
Slowing down means that you listen, to the music, the laughter, of friends, family and co-workers.
Most importantly, slowing down does doesn’t have to take a long time and it doesn’t have to be complicated.
And when you have lost it – lost your zen, lost your cool, lost your flipping holiday joy – gently remind yourself that this is expected and you are human and life is hard sometimes. When that happens, head to the bathroom and take a deep breath, or go for a walk, or connect with a friend.
Can you seek opportunities, not just endure more duties?
What are you going to do for the remainder of December to not just survive, but to thrive? Think about this for a minute. I know we are almost through, and a lot has already been checked off your list, but there is still much to come. Can you think about the days to come as opportunities to discover joy rather than a stretch to be dealt with?
Do you have a favorite holiday enjoyment strategy (rather than a holiday coping strategy)? Please share it in the comments below.
And, if you feel like you can’t think and breathe your way to peace, remember that I’m here to help.