It’s early October and the trees are decked out in fall colors. Night air is cool. Where I live, some mornings begin with frost. Autumn is one of my favorite times of the year. As it passes, though, a tiny voice in the back of my awareness says, “The Holidays are coming”. That, of course, triggers different emotions for different people. Some are excited, but increasing numbers of Americans arent.
More and more, we hear people say things like, “I cant wait for the holidays to be over”. Some people seem to thrive on the scurry and hurry, but many feel overwhelmed. In fact, a Forbes article from November 2017 reported that a third of Americans would rather skip the holidays altogether. An article from the New York Post, December 21, 2017, tells us that 41% work too hard to achieve perfection, while 54% struggle to slow down and enjoy it. The time of year that’s supposed to be about peace, goodwill, family and friends, can often seem like a giant ball (think Indiana Jones) of holiday stress.
So, what’s going on? Where’s all this stress coming from and what can we do about it?
While there have been lots of studies on the subject, the simple answer seems to be that we expect too much. Think about that 41% who are trying to build the perfect holiday experience. In 2018, if you want to replicate that Waltons feel, you’re probably going to be disappointed. What about struggling to slow down? We rush to get kids to school and ourselves to work, then back to school for holiday programs. Between, office potlucks, cocktail parties, gift exchanges, church functions, and family gatherings, it’s easy to get to the “When is it going to end?” place.
In the midst of it all, there are some things we can do to take the edge off and get back in flow. As a long time mindfulness practitioner, here are some things that I’ve found very helpful.
You are the boss of you
You can say no.
Control your own schedule
During the holidays, our calendars fill up quickly. It can be difficult to make time for all of the activities. So, dont. Choose a few activities that you really want to participate in, and politely decline the rest. Leave yourself lots of breathing room.
Only buy gifts for the important people in your life
Parents and kids, of course, fall into this category. Pretty much everyone else is peripheral. You dont have to participate in every gift exchange that comes along. There are alternatives. If your leads group or book club wants to exchange gifts, you can suggest a group donation to charity. This will save you money, and shopping time.
If you find yourself in a moment of panic, freeze for ten seconds. Close your eyes and breathe slowly. Focus on the breath as it moves in and out. Allow your shoulders and face to relax. Feel that calm relaxation move through your body Take one last breath, hold it for two seconds, aaaaaannnnd….you’re good.
In every day, leave at least half an hour for stillness. A time of quiet mindfulness can be a marvelous therapy for stress. Ideally, a time of mindful meditation each week is excellent. Apart from that, you may want to vary your experience. If you like music, listen to something soothing. Shine your shoes. Take a bubble bath. One woman I know likes to iron. The soft sounds, fragrances, and easy rhythm of it are soothing to her.
As the holidays approach, you can use these simple strategies to keep stress to a minimum. Also, if you’re in the Denver area for the holidays, Selah Mindfulness is offering a limited time series of sessions called Holiday Hideaways. They’re designed specifically to address the stress that comes at this time of year. Click the link to find out more.