Some people welcome the holiday season with open arms and jingle bells. Then there’s the rest of us who shudder a Game of Thrones style “Christmas is coming” the day after Thanksgiving. As a kid, I loved the holidays more than any other time, but as an adult, I cannot believe the barrage of events, obligations, and general insanity around this time of year. If not navigated properly, the most wonderful time of year can quickly become the most stressful. Here are a few of the biggest challenges of the holidays and how to keep your calm in the face of them:
The general stress of it all
Stress is caused by changes of expectations and demands, which might as well be the subtitle to the “Holiday Season.” Whether you have a stress reaction or a creative interaction to the demand depends on how much energy you have to adapt to the situation. The increase in things being thrown at you can cause many people to fall off their meditation and self-care practices. But this is the time to really make an effort because it is only by resting that we can bank up our adaptation energy allowing us to keep us rolling with whatever tinsel-covered nightmares come our way.
Too many events and obligations
There are only a few weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas, yet everyone is hosting their events in this short sliver of time–holiday parties, breakfasts with Santa, Nutcracker rehearsals all on top of one another. The trick here is to get quiet and let your intuition filter out what is relevant and what’s not. If the idea of going to that Ugly Christmas Sweater party for the tenth year in a row is making your stomach churn, then probably a good idea to graciously bow out.
Dealing with relatives
This is a big one. One minute you’re humming along to “Home for the Holidays,” and then suddenly your uncle starts quoting Fox News and you find yourself pouring more brandy in your glass than egg nog. Family issues are always so tough because of repeated old patterns. Karma works in loops when we don’t learn our lesson, so when we’ve known someone a long time, we’ve seen a lot of the same loops over and over again. Remember, it’s not personal, everyone including your relatives are only able to act from their own state of consciousness. Observe it all as just information about that state of consciousness. And put your awareness on what’s best about them. Everyone is evolving so there is always something good shining through that we can encourage by giving it attention.
The cost and consumerism
This one is really top of mind this year as climate change and the general environmental state of the world is becoming exponentially more urgent. I struggle to reconcile wanting my kids to have a magical Christmas morning opening a mountain of presents with the reality of the cost, both financial and to our planet. The truth is, what the people in our lives want more than anything is our attention, especially our kids. If you can give gifts of experiences together rather than more stuff, you both will get more out of it and hopefully keep the consumerism down. For example, for one of my daughters, I plan on wrapping a small tea pot I found and inside putting a gift for an afternoon with me where we’ll bake scones and have our own personal tea time. The more we are able to meditate, the higher the quality of our attention.
It’s easy to get so stressed by the holiday fervor that Scrooge seems to start making a lot of sense, but hopefully by prioritizing your self-care practices and making a slight shift of perspective here and there, you can rekindle some of that long-forgotten holiday wonder.