That time of the year is upon us. Regardless of your spiritual/religious persuasion – or lack thereof, if you live in the US of A, chances are you’re going to encounter a certain amount of holiday stress. Whether in the form of office parties, gatherings with your (possibly crazy) relatives, or just trying to navigate the seasonal throngs of shoppers and traffic, there is a lot of extra activity clamoring for your time, attention and sometimes a piece of your carefully prepared budget pie! If the noise and turmoil on the outside starts to seem overwhelming, take a step back and fall into these suggestions for some inner space:
1. Make time for yourself
During the busyness of this time of the year, the round of parties, social obligations, visits with families, shopping, special events, etc. we can easily be thrown out of our natural rhythms. Things like healthy eating, getting enough sleep, exercise and quiet time can go by the wayside in a hurry. Try not to let yourself become overloaded. Make some time each week for exercise, even if you just take a twenty minute walk three times a week. Give yourself some downtime away from the television or computer to relax – journal over a cup of hot tea; light a candle during time set aside for prayers or meditation; take a nice hot, soaking bath with a little lavender oil thrown in to enhance the experience.
2. Focus on what’s really important – the people and the relationships you value
Too often during this time of the year, people get focused on the wrong things – thoughts about things or how things are supposed to be, to be more specific. Wouldn’t it be lovely if
- instead of obsessing over the spilled grape juice on the table cloth, mom could focus on the love of her toddler?
- instead of becoming disgruntled about the political beliefs of his daughter’s boyfriend or that new tattoo on his son’s arm, dad could just be happy they came home to spend time with him?
- instead of being grumpy that my sister-in-law didn’t give me something I like, I could appreciate the gift of her needlepoint and her presence in my life?
Rather than clinging to an angrily buzzing hive of “supposed to bees”, try to be open-hearted to the new people, ideas, and experiences that come your way. Even if they’re not exactly what you thought you wanted. After all it is just a thought and thoughts can change.
3. Give of yourself in ways that bring you and others joy
True giving begins in the heart. Do you have certain things you love to do and that you know others appreciate? This is a great time to do those things! My grandmother always baked biscuits for the family reunion her family held every year on December 26th. She would bake eight or nine dozen and her brother-in-law would fill them with fried country ham. It was something they loved to do – even if it was a lot of work – as a gift to their family. My mother puts together shoe boxes of school supplies for a children’s charity. These activities are ways of adding meaning to your experience of the holidays. Is there a women’s and children’s shelter nearby in need of gifts or supplies for the children? Is there a homeless shelter that could use a hand? Is there a community food or toy drive you could spend a few hours volunteering with? Particularly at this time of the year, these types of help are very needed and much appreciated by both the organizations and recipients they help. Don’t do it because you think you should. Do it because you are moved from within your heart to do it!
4. Don’t allow yourself to be burdened by the expectations of others
Whether its special diets, unreasonable demands for gifts or a spouse who hates the holidays, if it doesn’t feel reasonable for you to accommodate the expectation, politely let them know that you won’t be doing so. Let other people adjust – at least some of the time. You are not obligated to do more/spend more/give more/be more (or less) than you genuinely want to.
5. Plan ahead to give yourself time and space to breathe
Whether hosting others or traveling out of town, whether out shopping for gifts or groceries, give yourself extra time for both the ordinary and the extra activities during this time. Everyone is busy. Many are in a hurry and some are very stressed. Try to as much as you are able to keep yourself out of the fray. If traveling or shopping with young children, planning ahead especially pays off with fewer tears or tantrums. Have snacks, water, and activities for the car on hand. Touch base with restrooms periodically, and make sure young ones get the rest they need to function. With some foresight and planning, everyone will have a better chance to be more relaxed and happier during this season.