The holiday season can be a very difficult time for many. Lots of emotions pop up around the holiday season as another 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 perhaps 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 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. We can try being mindfully in the moment by checking in with our breath and with what our body is telling us right now. Let’s remind ourselves that nothing lasts forever, so if the present is not pleasant, it too will pass and that right now in this moment, we are okay.
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 let’s give ourselves permission to find some quiet time this holiday season to rest and unplug. Unplug from whatever it is that we need a break from- too many people, phone/email/social media, to-do list, etc. If we can give ourselves the gift of some calm and peace (even if it is just 20 minutes) doing something we enjoy or even doing nothing at all, rather than doing only the things we feel we need to do, we can enjoy the season much more.
E- Unrealistic expectations lead to disappointment. Let’s try to soften the expectations we may place on ourselves and our ability to handle the season, the stress, or the family. We have to stop ‘should-ing’ on ourselves and expecting things to go perfectly. This means we are trying 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 expectant thoughts 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 our body, mind, and spirit. If we can let loose, we can raise our 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 we 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 we feel the tension building, let’s 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. This is a sign to stop and notice our breath. We want to mindfully inhale so deeply that the belly expands and then slowly and completely exhale. Once we are focused on our breathing, we can add counting to focus the mind. Inhale for 4 counts and exhale for 6 counts. The longer exhalation helps to amplify the Parasympathetic response of the nervous system, literally calming the body. As frequently as we can think of it, let’s aim to take a few deep, expanding breaths in and then exhale slowly and mindfully.
N- Notice 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. This is where we take a deep breath, notice how we are feeling and envision how we want to respond. This is a practice in replacing reacting with responding and it won’t always go perfectly, but once we are aware of what we are doing without thinking, we can work to change it. We must also try to let go of judging ourselves in this process.
C- 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. The first step is to cut ourselves some slack by remembering that no one is perfect and we can’t expect ourselves to be the exception to that rule. It’s ok to ask for help when we need. Once we have accepted our imperfect nature, we can allow ourselves to find a more creative ways of coping. This will exercise the other side of our brains and give us a break from the linear, repetitive, and judgmental thinking that pops up when we are stuck in black and white thinking.
E- Enough– as in we are enough just as we are. We must remind ourselves that we are not our accomplishments, our past, our family, or even our bodies. We are the incredible spirit inside that is on the journey of this life. We are all just trying to figure it out as best we can. We are good enough, smart enough, creative enough, brave enough, beautiful enough, successful enough…You are enough. Just as you are. Maybe we could even try that on as our mantra this week: “I am enough.” Enough said.
I hope this is helpful. Pick one and give it a try. Find your own version. Reach out to others and share what you are trying.
May you experience connection, joy, love and peace this holiday season.
Chat again soon.