How to "Holiday"
“It’s the mooooost wonderful timmmmme of the yearrrrrr”. It’s also one of the most exhausting, triggering, and challenging times of the year. Our all too familiar anxiety arises when our minds hook themselves onto the thoughts of dreaded dysfunctional family patterns, extreme planning, over-spending, and increased memories that have taken the place of people over the years. Whether it’s Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), toxic family members, or loneliness, many of my therapy sessions have taken a sharp turn towards preparation to avoid the potential of winding up in a corner crying, “Dis tew muuuuuuch!” In short, the holidays can be a lot! And yet, oddly enough, it arrives, on time, at the same time each year, and we survive, again….and again. My number one tip towards surviving the holiday season is to “mentally prepare”…
1.) PROTECT YOUR ENERGY
a. Our energy is our power, so it must be protected at all costs! Self-preservation should be at the top of the list, which is nothing more than “protection of oneself from harm.” Whether a self-identified introvert or extrovert, the holiday season often calls for a major exertion of energy that can feel like the life is literally being sucked out of us. Deadlines are approaching, increased travel may be happening, and familial requests might be being made of you. Find yourself a self-care routine that pays close attention to reestablishing your energy and replenishing your mind, body, and soul. This could include opening the blinds before bed at night, so your day starts out with a rush of light, or allowing yourself to step out into the sun for a breath of fresh air. Consider identifying any necessary boundaries you may need to establish between yourself and energy draining entities in your life, while giving yourself permission to say “no”. Whatever it may be, now is the time to think about the set of behaviors that will ensure your ultimate survival.
2.) OBSERVE RATHER THAN THINK
a. Often, our minds are in a constant place of thinking. Every day, relentless thoughts that may or may not be true, are free to roam around the house of our brain, and open doors that we didn’t even know were there. This creates new, unnecessary rooms that we are now forced to make sense of, and then decide how to respond to. Thinking can be a total energy sucker and buzzkill if you will. The holidays are a wonderful time to consider moving our minds from a place of thinking, into a place of observing. When our minds are observing, rather than thinking, we are simply watching and allowing whatever is happening inside and outside of ourselves. It’s the difference between reacting to a thought or an emotion verses being able to take a step back and consider the appropriate behavioral response. The observing mind is not concerned with judging, analyzing, or interpreting, but basks in simply being present, open, and aware. How does one begin observing? Consider engaging in deep breathing techniques, that allow you to recognize and notice your thoughts and feelings. Google ‘breathing techniques’ to find an abundance of resources. Also, engage in language tips such as “I am experiencing the feeling of frustration” rather than, “I am frustrated”. This creates distance between yourself and your thoughts. Lastly, “rest your eyes” as the old folks say. Literally, close your eyes for a moment, so that you can focus more on becoming aware of what is happening inside your mind and body.
3.) OFFER GRATITUDE
a. Gratitude is a mindfulness practice that helps increase our focus towards the positive parts of our life experiences. As chaotic and downright ridiculous as the holiday season can be, it is hailed as “the most wonderful time of the year” for a reason. I instantly think of the family I only get to see during the holidays and get excited about the anticipated “cutting up” with my cousins. Thoughts of my father’s mac and cheese, and the undying smell of my mother’s stuffing make me smile. The joy I feel in hearing Nat King Cole sing about “chestnuts roasting on an open fire”, and the guilt free personal time from work are things to be honored and appreciated. The fact is that the holiday season is both distressing AND delightful. Family is funny, crazy, AND cool. And for all our burdens there are ALSO a herd of blessings that somehow become overshadowed by the madness. This year think about sending a random “grati-text” to a friend or family member just saying you appreciate them. Each time something goes “wrong” find even the littlest thing that went “right” and let out a chuckle about it. Consider how you can intentionally offer appreciation and thankfulness for all that you do have this year.
The holidays are here folks, and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. I challenge you to relinquish the control you never actually had and enjoy the ride. Protect your energy at all cost by being extra intentional about your self-care. Give yourself permission to stop thinking and let yourself observe the holiday reel like it’s a box-office movie. And of course, offer grave gratitude for this time and the gift of being able to utilize our greatest freedoms….to enjoy others and to choose our attitude.