As we approach the final pages of the calendar year and temperatures begin to drop, we enter the Holiday Season. When we begin to anticipate the Holidays, life can become more stressful. Stop for a moment and think about this time of the year. What thoughts run through your head?
If we plan properly, holiday stress need not overwhelm us. There are a variety of ways to help us handle this annual stress. The most important thing is to realize and accept that stress is normal. During the Holidays, stress takes on a different character than at other times of the year.
In addition to stress-inducing Holiday preparations and shopping, tensions often arise when we get together with our families. Certain triggers from unresolved family issues may upset us and become magnified during the Holiday gatherings. We could additionally be feeling sad and lonely-missing someone through death, divorce or distance, such as a child in another city, with whom we traditionally shared holidays. We might even dwell on losses or disappointments of the past year as we become reflective. The Holidays connect us to our past. For many, the idea of forced merriment causes further stress or melancholy.
It’s easy for us to imagine that everyone else is enjoying Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas or New Year’s with friends and family but there are actually a large number of “normal” people who spend those days alone. Some self-pity is okay. Yet, when you think about it, in the grand scheme of things spending a Holiday alone is a minor inconvenience for that day. Life continues and luckily tomorrow is a new day!
Traditions need adjusting as our lives change. If we become stuck in the past for too long we become unable to seize the potential of the present moment. We may still cherish old traditions as new traditions ring in the next chapter of our lives.
My family is spread out in different cities this year. I know I’m not the only one facing celebrating the Holidays in a different way than in years past. My real pleasure, though, comes in celebrating Thanksgiving or Christmas or New Years another day when I am with those whom I care about. Celebration doesn’t have to be on a specific or designated “day.” As long as we take the time to consider the good and express gratitude for our life, that is enough.
Another way to reduce Holiday stress is to use reflective meditation. Giving yourself a rest from your mind chatter is refreshing. In the book “Hearts on Fire,” Stephen Wolinsky suggests asking yourself, “to where does that thought subside”. This space from where your thoughts arise and then subside is a place of stillness. It takes a little practice to identify this place where a thought or feeling lessens inside you. The longer you focus on this quiet still place within you, you’ll find the cloud of discontent fade away. Reducing your stress by connecting to a state of calm will naturally lift your spirits.
Nineteenth-century essayist, Edward Sandford Martin said, “Thanksgiving Day comes, by statute, once a year; to the honest man it comes as frequently as the heart of gratitude will allow.” Allow a thankful heart to sweep through you any time of the day and throughout the year