For many, the holiday season is about slowing down and enjoying what really matters in life. What matters most in life differs from person to person, because each person is unique. Many of us in Acadiana participate in long-time family traditions of getting together with loved ones and sharing a meal while exchanging gifts, listening to music, or playing games. Many deepen their experiences with religious or spiritual traditions. And many focus on giving and sharing with others.
During a time filled with enriching experiences, why are the holidays so stressful? So overwhelming? It can be different. It just takes some adjusting.
Follow the season
Naturally, winter is about rest and rejuvenation. With shorter days and longer nights (and hopefully cooler weather), life encourages us to rest more during this time of year. More time is spent indoors, allowing for restful activities like reading, watching a movie, making a fire, or sleeping.
During Christmas, many people reflect on the life of Jesus for guidance. Jesus often took the time to recharge, pray, and reflect. Jesus also enjoyed companionship with others. Christmas is a good time for both. It is a good season to reflect on what works and what does not work in life so that changes and adjustments can be made for better results.
Listen to your body
If you have to drink caffeine to push through your day, then you are depleted and you are pushing beyond your natural boundaries. There is still work to be done during winter; but it can take on a different tone, at a slower pace. Some holiday preparations (meal planning, online shopping, etc.) can be done by candlelight while you put your feet up, sipping on tea or hot chocolate. It does the soul good to live according to the natural way of the season. Enjoying time with others is more vibrant and easier when we are well-rested.
Although fall and winter offer more time for restful activities, we still have to be intentional about our time. Our phones, computers, and TVs are always available. However, we often do not feel truly rested and energized after using these devices. There is also the risk for comparison if too much time is spent on social media. Take some time, if you wish, to consider what you really want to experience this holiday season. Peace, joy, rejuvenation, adventure, generosity, reflection, spiritual growth, quality time with loved ones. Ask yourself these questions without being too quick to answer; really sit with them and see what comes to you:
“What helps me to feel good within myself?”
“What works for me this holiday season?”
“What really works for my family’s needs this holiday season?”
Most people don’t need a lot to feel good. We just need what we need. Choose consciously so that you can create what means the most to you.
Make room in your life
A frequent complaint is how busy the holidays can be. Time is quickly filled with shopping, decorating, hosting, cooking, projects, and attending events. How can we enjoy anything if we are not fully present? How can we be present if we are overwhelmed? Give yourself a chance to be joyful, loving, and generous by making room for it.
There’s many ways to “make room”:
- Clear your mind
- Lighten your schedule
- Reduce high expectations of yourself and others
Making room allows for new, more relevant solutions to appear. We do not have to fill every nook and cranny of our life. Just like our closets need to be de-cluttered periodically, what we pay attention to and devote ourselves to needs de-cluttering as well. Really cool things can happen during the unstructured, unplanned time.
Give yourself permission
Give yourself permission to do something differently.
Give yourself permission to do what works for you instead of what others think works for you…or what you think should work for you.
Give yourself permission to say “no”.
Give yourself permission to say “yes”.
What worked last year may not work this year. What worked before having kids probably won’t work after having kids. What works well for your neighbor may not work for you at all. Fun traditions may not be fun anymore after a loved one dies. Life changes, we change. Adjusting to those changes is both natural and healthy. Perhaps the extended family traditions are great, but you also want to start a tradition within your immediate family or circle of friends. Perhaps you have never enjoyed some aspect of your typical holiday routine. What can you do differently that would be more enjoyable this year?
Create your inner state
Some things are within our control, but many things are not. Regardless of the external situation, we have the power to change our inner state (which often positively influences the external situation). Victor Frankl, a psychologist, and Holocaust survivor wrote about the meaning of life. One of his well-known quotes offers wisdom to us in choosing our own inner state:
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
This holiday season knows that you have all the power regarding your attitude (thoughts, feelings, and perceptions) and your own way (your choices and actions). That’s a lot! When we are filled with joy, joy flows out of us effortlessly.
(This article was originally posted on 337magazine.com)
Allison Saltzman, LPC is a psychotherapist whose passion is rooted in helping her clients cultivate joy and practice the art of being fully present in their lives.
She founded Connected Counseling, a group counseling practice in Lafayette, LA, which provides services to children, adolescents, adults, couples, and families.
Connected Counseling is about living well in all areas of life, offering Cognitive Behavior Therapy, mind-body techniques, Play Therapy, and mindfulness-based interventions.