The holidays can be an especially hard time of year for folks due to the stress of trying to make the experience magical for family and friends. Managing our expectations and coping with the expectations of others is also a key component to burdensome stress.
Here are five techniques you can use to create stress-free holidays and alleviate over-commitment and added expectations of the season.
First, reflect on the holiday’s true meaning. What traditions truly resonate for you? Meaning that if this one thing did not occur, Thanksgiving or Hannakauh or Christmas would not be the same. What are those things that you absolutely love about <insert holiday>? Like what makes you giddy. What new traditions can you and your family start?
For me, the Thanksgiving meal can occur with any group of people — but it never really feels like Thanksgiving if I do not make my mother’s corn bread stuffing. There are lots of other foods particular to my family including sauerkraut and dashi, a Lithuanian sausage, that I can live without. It may be your family gathering together, voicing those things that you are grateful for in a religious or secular way, or playing football.
In terms of Christmas/Solstice, it’s all about bringing a tree into our home and decorating it with ornaments passed down in my family. We tried it one year without a tree. And where it was a good learning experience and decision at the time, no tree = no heart of the season of light. We do not have children or family nearby so it is also about solitude. I love the winter solstice as a time of reflection when the Northern Hemisphere is blanketed in darkness.
Take a few minutes now to tune-in to that core thing that makes your holiday truly yours.
And to explore this more in-depth, Hundred Dollar Holiday by Bill McKibben, is a great conversation starter with your family. His view may be a bit extreme though is helpful to hone in on what the holiday means to you and your family, the root meaning, and inform your traditions moving forward.
The second is to hold your loved ones in LOVE. I like to think of it as the bubble in which Glinda the Good Witch arrives in the Wizard of Oz. Think of each person and feel the warmth of love. Envision all your guests or the guests of the gathering that you are attending and hold that vision in the frequency of LOVE.
The Energetic Roots Grounding Meditation is a quick way to shift your energy or re-ground yourself during the holiday season and throughout the year. I recommend this 4 1/2 minute guided meditation to all my clients as it packs a calming wallop. Perfect to listen to just before exiting the car for a family gathering or before and after you entertain a group of folks. You will feel calm, centered, and full of renewed energy.
Create lists of what you are grateful for or that which you love. By writing down or reciting in your head those people, thing, places, interactions, and experiences which you love or feel gratitude for, you shift your energetic frequency and feel better. Instead of listening to the news which is always about things that have gone wrong, why not try writing a list of things that have gone right throughout your day.
On my walk to work each day, I’ve taken up reciting a list in my head of all the things that I love along the way. It can include someone’s coat or the color of their hair or the glint of light or the color of the leaves or a passerby’s smile.
Take a change of plans in stride as it may just be a blessing in disguise. The holidays can add an extra layer of pressure given all the parties and obligations when what we need is a break. This happened to me and my husband this Thanksgiving as we were to spend the day with family that ended up not being able to make it due to weather. We were originally just going to bring a dish and ended up shopping and cooking a full meal ourselves. And it was exactly what I needed to do — cook.
Above all, have kindness and compassion for your self. If you need to cry, cry. If you need a time out, take it or a bath or a walk around the block. Maybe hug a tree. And if you have to tell someone you love them, do that too.