It’s that time again. We are about to embark on the Holiday Season, and I know several people who are already stressing about the fact that the season is so stressful. This year try these six tips to lower your stress level and raise your spirits during the next month and beyond.
1. Determine the basics and let the rest go. Decide who you are going to celebrate with and how. Pick a location and volunteer to bring mushy green bean casserole or whatever, or commit to doing the things that are most important to you and then let the rest ride. Too often we meddle, try to control, and add items we don’t actually want to do, to our to do list. Don’t do it. Commit to what you want, then let the rest go.
2. Accept what shows up. What if the parents fight or the turkey is too dry or grandma decides not to come? We spend our lives what-iffing, preparing for every outcome. We focus on managing situations rather than living them. This is amps up our stress. Most of what we worry about never happens anyway. So, this year, just be in the moment. Accept whatever comes. You don’t have to like it or dislike it. You don’t need to judge it. You don’t have to do anything at all. Just observe it. Notice it. Stop predicting, planning and projecting and just be present and you’re going to feel better. Plus, acceptance breeds appreciation and gratitude.
3. Act with compassion. Oddly enough, compassion is very self-serving. When you act with kindness, you will benefit in a big way, and so will crazy Aunt Edna and everyone else you share time with this season. If you can slow down long enough to extend empathy, to perhaps understand the experience of another, and to recognize that they may be stressed and difficult to deal with, but, still have this this deep need to feel valued – just like you do –it will help create a more peaceful, better feeling holiday. Really. We all just want to feel like we belong. We want to fit in. And the people who are the most difficult to deal with, often need our compassion the most. If you can meet each moment with compassion, even when piqued, you’ll be surprised how well others behave. It’s a game changer.
4. Get curious. People are fascinating. They are complex and each moment with them – even those people we’ve known forever – can be an act of discovery. Treat the holiday like this, as an exploration. Don’t take people for granted. Challenge yourself to learn something new about everyone at the table. To open to who they are and what they are saying without judgment, but as an archaeologist uncovering some secret key to a lost civilization. We tend to look at those we are familiar with as one dimensional. We focus on the flaws and miss their gifts. This year look for the gifts. Reacquaint yourself with the people you celebrate with. Don’t presume to know. Do this, and you’ll find greater meaning in the time you spend together and greater meaning in the holiday.
5. Change any traditions that no longer bring joy. Before the holiday sit down with your family and decide which traditions are meaningful and which can be eliminated. Often we outgrow our traditions, but keep them simply because we think it matters to the kids or the mother-in-law. If you find that the traditions are a source of stress or no longer important, hit delete. The holidays might be busy, but if they are filled with things that matter to you they don’t have to be depleting.
6. Give thanks. Seriously people. How many time have I said it? Gratitude is a life changer. Stop worrying about what might happen, and give thanks for the house it is happening in and the food that is in the oven and the paper plates you are using. Give thanks for the breath in your body, or the ability to smile, or smell, or love. Give thanks for the people you have in your life – those who are flawed and may be crotchety and challenging at times. Give thanks for those people who love you, who show up even when you are flawed and crotchety and challenging at times. Seek out the goodness and give thanks for it, often.
Follow these tips and start accepting whatever shows up with compassion, curiosity, and gratitude and you might just back yourself into a joyful holiday season.