Just saying the phrase, “The Holiday Season” can make shoulders scrunch up.
While some of us have been able to retain a child-like sense of joy and wonder for this special time of year, as adults, many of us just feel stressed.
The season stretches from Thanksgiving to New Years often with tons of parties, obligations, dinners and events packed in between. Some of it is fun, and some of it feels just plain tiring or emotionally draining. And for those of us who may be separated from or have lost our loved ones, this time of year can be very lonely.
Maybe you lost a parent or a child and this time of year is especially hard for you.
Maybe YOU are the only always cooking dinner and hosting everyone. Not very relaxing!
Maybe you have some conflicts in your family.
Maybe you have to drive all across New England in crazy traffic!
Maybe you and your spouse both have divorced parents and you struggle to divide the time equally with each person.
Maybe you hate spending so much money on gifts that only get used for one year but you don’t know how to make a change without disappointing people.
All of this can be stressful.
No matter what your situation may be, we always have the power to choose. We have the power to choose love over fear. Calm over stress. Pause over rush. Compassion over judgment. Forgiveness over bitterness. Surrender over control. Generosity over need.
It is as simple as choosing. But you have to want to do it. And you need to carve out the space for a practice that allows you to be able to make the mental shift.
- If you don’t have a meditation practice yet, now is the time to get started. You only need to spend a few minutes a day meditating to see results. Spend 5 minutes each day quietly sitting and observing your breath and the sensations in your body. You may also use this as a time for prayer if it fits your beliefs.
I like using a mantra to help me shift away from persistent negative thoughts or feelings. Currently my mantra is: “I choose love, again and again.” Whatever you choose as a mantra make sure that it resonates with you personally.
- Drop the story. Whenever something is happening in our lives the ego likes to make up a story. These stories can be helpful or they can just perpetuate stress and negative thoughts. For each situation there are usually many “true” stories that could be applied. Instead of the story in your mind that “the traffic is going to be terrible and it will be so stressful” what if you could see it a different way? Scrutinize your story and see things from another point of view. Maybe there will be traffic but you can go at an easy pace and take plenty of breaks while listening to your favorite podcast. Maybe it won’t be so bad. Both points of view could have their own validity. If you believe it will be stressful, it will be. Simple as that.
Sometimes there are situations that are just plain bad. There may be a very real story that is very painful. In these sorts of cases, if you don’t have a shoulder to lean on, ASK SOMEONE FOR HELP. This exercise is more for seeing mundane stressful situations in a different light.
- Have fun, on purpose. Fun, joy and laughter won’t always happen naturally. You have to initiate it. Spend a few minutes each day dancing to your favorite song or sending a note of appreciation to a dear friend. All of these little moments of gratitude and enjoyment will add up and make you see the world through a different lens.
If you are really struggling, perhaps you are grieving, try giving to someone in need. A spirit of service and generosity will immediately give you purpose and bring love back into your heart. Do this as much as you need.
- Try Gabby Bernstein’s “Choose Again Method” from her recent book, Super Attractor. Each time you have a negative thought do this:
- Notice the thought.
- Forgive the thought.
- Reach for a better thought.
For example, let’s say you are stressed about having to cook for everyone again. First name the thought: “I feel stressed about cooking, no one helps me”. Next forgive yourself for having the thought in the first place. “I forgive myself for having this thought, it’s a lot of work, it’s normal to feel this way.” Next choose a better thought that feels true to you, “I am grateful to be able to invite my loved ones over for dinner, I’ll ask my brother to bring some side dishes.”
I hope all of this advice helps you to have a more peaceful and joyful Holiday Season. You deserve more joy and it’s right at your fingertips, you just have to create it for yourself!