How to Have Your Best Holiday Season Yet

holiday season

The holidays can range from joyful to bittersweet to difficult, and many variations in between. Whether you plan to spend time with family and friends or you’ll be alone, stress doesn’t need to take over. Here are some simple yet powerful ways to take care of yourself and not just survive this season of celebrations, but thrive.

Gain Clarity

While holiday preparations often take the form of buying gifts and making meals, moving through the season with greater peace and joy involves a different type of planning. It starts within. The mindset and heartset that you cultivate in advance and carry with you, along with what you consciously choose to do, will be key allies.

Take some time to reflect on previous holidays and make a list of what has — and hasn’t — worked for you in past years. Journaling is a helpful way to get your thoughts out of your head and into a form where you can physically see them. As much as possible, focus on being an objective observer rather than getting swept up in any emotions that arise.

This is for your eyes only, so be honest and authentic as you’re making the list. For example, you might realize that you enjoy spending time with familiar people in small groups, but the energy of large gatherings feels overwhelming. Or, overall, your family honors differing viewpoints, yet there’s a family member whose strongly expressed opinions leave you feeling uncomfortable. Whatever it looks like for you, allow yourself to engage in an honest assessment without judging yourself for how you feel or default to thoughts about what your perspective should be.

When you look at what has worked, find your way to a feeling place of gratitude and appreciation for those experiences. Get to know what that feels like in your mind, heart and body, because it’s a place you can return to time and again when you need or want to bring yourself back to the present moment in the midst of holiday busyness.

When you look at the items on the list that haven’t worked for you, take them one at a time. (This helps reduce a feeling of overwhelm, or a sense that “everything” isn’t working or is stressful.) Ask yourself what you can do to make this aspect of the holiday season easier or better for yourself while also honoring those you love or usually spend time with. It helps to have at least a couple of options in mind so you can choose what feels right when the time comes to implement them.

For instance, in the previously mentioned scenarios, plan to take mini-breaks if you’ll be attending a large gathering that historically has induced stress. When you feel the sense of “too much” arising in your mind, body or emotions, take a breather by doing something physical and shifting your focus. Wash dishes, go for a walk if the weather allows or simply head to the rest room where you can be alone for a few minutes. Breathe, center and remind yourself of the gratitude and appreciation you felt for the holiday season from your what-works list from previous years — or what brings you to a sense of thankfulness and peace in the moment.

To help make it easier to be in the presence of someone whose opinions don’t align with your own, practice. Develop kind and neutral yet honest responses in advance so you won’t have to think of something in the moment. Ask a trusted friend or a supportive partner to help you brainstorm what you can say, or even play the role of that other person so you can get the hang of what it feels like to offer your new responses. You may find, too, that not responding is a better option. You can be content with your own perspective within yourself, or you can remove yourself from the immediate situation by engaging in one of the activities suggested in the previous paragraph.

Take a Different Approach

If it looks like you’ll be spending the holidays alone and that creates a feeling of sadness or loneliness, shift your circumstances by doing something. Volunteer. Spend the day with someone else you know will be alone, which provides a solution for both of you. Be the one to arrange a light-hearted, easy gathering in your immediate or extended community for those who otherwise would be alone, too.

None of these suggestions has to be time, labor or money intensive. The focus is on being together. Getting outside of yourself and offering a generosity of spirit benefits everyone involved.

You could also opt out of traditional plans and choose to spend the holidays alone. Whether you want to have time for quiet reflection, immerse yourself in nature or take a special trip, there are many ways to celebrate the season yourself. And having frank, loving conversations with those who might miss you at their gatherings can help avoid hurt feelings over your absence or a change of plans.

Celebrating end-of-year holidays doesn’t need to be a dreaded, hectic time. By taking time to connect with yourself and what’s important to you, and prepare your mind and heart, you can rediscover the holiday spirit, reduce stress and enjoy the season of giving.

Published in Featured Articles, Life
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