Ten days to go. For many, the holiday season can be a complicated time. There can be a combination of feelings from joy, or sadness. Issues of family stress, financial stress, and the overall expectations for how the holidays are supposed to be can be mentally and physically exhausting.
However, with the right preparation, you can enjoy this season with more presence and the much-needed rest that so many of us need.
Here are 6 tips on creating a more mindful and joyful season.
Physically and mentally. So often we are racing around and not really seeing how fast pace the body and mind are swirling around – not present for much of it. Maybe your body needs to move fast but set an intention to be slower in how you see what’s happening around you. Notice people, faces, smells, lights, notice that you’re walking. Before and after you drive somewhere, take 3 intentional breaths – just 3. Notice where you came from and where you’ve arrived. If walking around the house, at work, shopping, and getting things done, see if you can slow your pace just a bit.
Notice how you feel after this.
Examine your expectations
Holiday seasons are a time of exceedingly high expectations. Movies and culture have romanticized what the holidays are supposed to look and feel like. When it doesn’t happen just as we imagine, we find ourselves disappointed or even resentful – we didn’t do it right. Take some time to examine your expectations and write them down. Then see what you might be able to let go of. Maybe even allow for all of the events to be just as they are.
See what might surprise you.
See the magic around you
As much as we might feel overwhelmed with to-do’s, managing family, and the calendar, take a look around and see the true magic around you. Putting some of the expectations aside and being present with what’s happening around you right now can greatly increase your sense of happiness. Notice some of the small things, like the smell of fresh-baked cookies, children staring at the lights around your neighborhood, be aware of the generosity of people giving to those without, and food drives to feed those who have food insecurity. Look at what is happening in your immediate surroundings, be present to notice.
How can this shift your experience?
Focus on the present
This moment is the only moment we know and can experience. Presence brings us to the here and now. Focusing too much on what needs to get done by what day and worrying about things gone wrong yesterday, only keeps us in a state of exhaustion and stress. When you notice you are getting overwhelmed, ask yourself, what’s true in this moment. Perhaps while standing in line somewhere, you notice yourself beginning to feel impatient and frustrated. You can say to yourself “I’m just standing in line, feeling frustrated. Instead, I will be in my body, notice my surroundings, and look at others around me through the lens of my own experience. If you can be present and you could spread that, what might be different in this experience. Each moment in our lives is the only one we can count on…. Make it count.
Examine your to-do list
One of the biggest stressors of the season is extensive to-do lists. Write everything down and then go through each thing and notice how you feel as you review each item. If you feel an “ugh” on something, in particular, see what it feels like to cross it off, even for just this year. Perhaps baking cookies for neighbors is a long-time tradition but the thought of it just makes you feel overwhelmed. Consider what you can do instead. Maybe don’t do it at all, maybe instead purchase something small and attach a kind sentiment. If holiday cards feel like too much, maybe instead send an email, post to social media, or just allow yourself to not do it this year. When you make a list and notice which things feel like too much, it means that line item is not something that will bring you joy this year. Give yourself permission to cross things off. It’s better for your own well-being and pleasing others and depleting yourself.
Invest in your own well-being
Your mental and emotional health is more important than anything else. When you take care of yourself, you have the capacity to be more present and available to others in a way that feels like an authentic connection. If you need time, ask a friend or neighbor if they can help with getting the kids somewhere. If grocery shopping feels daunting, order for delivery so you can do other things while that’s being cared for. Instead of making a fancy holiday dinner, Costco has so many helpful options! It’s not cheating, it’s caring for what’s really important! Take a hot bath or shower at the end of your day. If you have an extra 10 minutes between activities, rest. Yes, rest. Take a few intentional breaths and do whatever you WANT to do instead of what you NEED to do. You deserve to rest. You need to rest. Schedule it in.