As we head into the holiday season, I remind myself that this is supposed to be a season of joy. But for many of us, it is a season of stress.
I was raised in a typical American pseudo-Christian household that did all of the commercial Christmas things. The majority of my holiday seasons have gone like this: spend lots of money, worry if I bought everyone the “perfect" gift, eat a lot, drink too much, spend a lot of time in the kitchen cooking and cleaning, experience euphoria on Christmas Eve and Christmas day, followed by a big crash after the New Year. Then, I would tough it through the boring, blah winter months. Winter was always a let-down after the holidays.
Does this sound familiar to anyone? In reality, why should December 25 or December 26, 2005 be any different than any other day? It is just a 24-hour time period. Ideally, if we are connected to our source, every day is one of celebration and joy.
Some people love the glitz and glamour of the holiday season. Others despise the commercialization of the holidays. I used to roll my eyes and wax poetic on the corruption of sacred holidays. Geez, people get into debt, get stressed out, everything is for sale - “peace", “joy", “love" - I would rumble.
However, since I have changed my view from one of scarcity to one of abundance, I see things a bit differently. Now, I marvel at the abundance of gifts, decorations, food, etc. Wow! This is a really abundant world, I think. And, I can choose whatever I want from this holiday smorgasbord. I am free to leave whatever I want alone.
Why do some people see what they like and others focus on what they don't like? Well, it's all a matter of controlling your focus, thoughts, and emotions.
What is the best way to control holiday stress? Focus on what you want out of the holidays and ignore the rest. There are only a few things that we can control in life: Our thoughts and how we spend our time. Make sure that you are in control of what you focus upon and how you spend your time.
I have finally learned to stay grounded, centered, and peaceful during this time of the year. And when January 2nd arrives, I am no more or less energized or burnt-out than I was on December 2nd.
How do I do this? By remembering the following 3 things:
1) I am in control of my experience - I can choose all of my activities, conversations, and people who I interact with. It is possible to say “no" when I am invited to a holiday event that I don't really want to attend. I am in control of my schedule.
As the holidays approach, I spend some time meditating and refecting upon what experience I would like to have. This year, I want my daughter to experience the wisdom of all of the sacred holidays and the winter solstice. So, my husband and I are going to have fun celebrating lots of days.
I love getting a tree and decorating it and singing carols - these give me joy. I love baking cookies with my mom. I enjoy shopping for meaningful gifts on the internet. I enjoy spending time with friends. I will make one trip to the mall to see the decorations. I will pause to reflect upon the change of seasons. I will cook healthful meals, meditate, and exercise as I always do.
2) Joy and peace are inner jobs. Whenever something happens - an event or thought - that disturbs my peace and equanimity, I have an opportunity to explore what button has been pushed. A guru has showed up to show me how to maintain my natural state of peace and joy. Thank you! If I overextend myself and get too tired and cranky, I will get a reminder to slow down and rest. If I get angry at having to do something, this is a reminder that I missed an opportunity to say “no".
3) Every day is a celebration. I can experience joy without the hysterical holiday euphoria by counting my blessings every day and knowing that each day is a gift. As I celebrate these “special" days with my family and friends, I have a unique opportunity to express my love in focused ways. Remember: Choose joy. Make each and every day special. Make it a celebration.
Here is an exercise that will help you to avoid holiday stress. Spend some time reflecting on what you like and don't like about the holiday season. If you were to design a perfect couple of days or weeks, what would it look and feel like? Who would you spend time with? Where would you go? What holiday(s) would you choose to celebrate? Make this part of your daily intention setting and if you find that your current plans don't groove with your desires, then make a change now. Book that cruise, cancel unwanted travel. It is your life - do what makes YOU happy. You are not responsible for anyone else's happiness. If you are dreading a trip to the in-laws, then cancel it or cut it short. Practice Joy!
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