The holiday season can be a very difficult time for many. Lots of emotions pop up around the holiday season as the year is coming to an end and we all become a little more reminiscent. For some, it is a time of stress, expectations, overwhelm, and complications. For others, it is a time of sadness, grief, loneliness, and anxiety.
Here are a few tips to help with the emotional overload of the holiday season. My wish for you is a lot of presence…
P- Present. As in be present or all in one place at one time. We are frequently in one place physically, but our minds are miles away. We get caught up in regrets or reminiscence about the past even though we cannot change it now or worry about the future and what may or may not happen. When this happens, we miss out on the opportunity for joy in the present moment. Try being mindfully in the moment by checking in with your breath and with what your body is telling you right now. Remind yourself that nothing lasts forever, so if the present is not pleasant, it too will pass.
R- Rest when needed. The patients that I work with are frequently surprised at how physically exhausted they are after a day of mental health therapy. Emotionally draining experiences are physically draining as well. So find some quiet time this holiday season to rest and unplug. Unplug from whatever it is that you need a break from- too many people, your phone/email/social media, your to-do list, etc. Give yourself the gift of some calm and peace (even if it is just 20 minutes) doing something you enjoy or doing nothing at all, rather than doing only the things you feel you need to do.
E- Expectations bring disappointment. Try to let go of the expectations you may place on yourself and your ability to handle the season, the stress, or the family. Stop ‘should-ing’ on yourself. In other words, try to let go of all of the thoughts of “I should be able to handle this”, “They should treat me better”, “This should be going more smoothly”. These expectations lead us to feeling disappointment when things don’t go exactly as we think they should go.
S- Sing, chant, hum, laugh. All of these are so healthy for your body, mind, and spirit. Let loose and raise your vibration by singing seasonal songs, chanting a mantra, or humming a note or a tune. Not only is the vibration healthy, but it will aid the body in fighting off congestion. And laughing is one of the healthiest things you can do. Laughter relaxes the nervous system, helps to drop blood pressure levels, releases healthy hormones, helps the mind to process in a more creative way, works muscles, relieves tension, and it’s fun! Laughing is my favorite. When you feel the tension building, try to laugh at the situation.
E- Exhale slowly. And then take a deep belly breath in. Repeat several times. When things get stressful, our breathing typically becomes more shallow. Stop and notice your breath. See if you can inhale so deeply that the belly expands and then slowly and completely exhale. Once you are focused on your breathing, try inhaling for 4 counts and exhaling for 6 counts. The longer exhalation helps to amplify the Parasympathetic response of the nervous system, literally calming the body. As frequently as you can think of it, take a few deep, expanding breaths and exhale slowly and mindfully.
N- Notice your automatic reactions. Many times, we think we have “things” under control until we spend time with our family and all of a sudden, we find ourselves reacting the way we always have. Take a deep breath and try to notice your feelings and how you impulsively want to react. Then, see if you can respond rather than just reacting without thinking first. Once we are aware, we can work to change it. But, try to let go of judgment as this one can take some practice.
C- Cut yourself some slack and get creative. Many of us get ‘stuck’ in our analytical, non-creative brain when we get stressed and we start overthinking, over-analyzing, and making ourselves even more stressed out. First, cut yourself some slack by remembering that no one is perfect and you shouldn’t expect yourself to be. It’s ok to ask for help if needed. Next, find a creative outlet to exercise the other side of your brain and to give yourself a break from the linear, repetitive, and judgmental thinking that pops up.
E- Enough- as in you are enough just as you are. You are not your accomplishments, your past, your family, or even your body. You are the incredible spirit inside that is on the journey of this life. You are good enough, smart enough, creative enough, brave enough, beautiful enough, successful enough…You are enough. Just as you are. Maybe you could even try that on as your mantra this week.
May you experience joy, love, and peace this holiday season.
We will talk again soon.