This is a blog post I created last holiday season…it is worth repeating. I have edited it somewhat.
Although I love the holidays and tend to perk up during them, I have had the New Year’s Eve blues and most of the people I know get depressed during the holidays. So whether you start to feel down and anxious as the holidays approach or you tend to do your usual brooding about how tough this year was and how you hope/wish/pray/beg for a better year, there are some things we can all do to shift our perspective. I am a firm believer that changing the way you look at something does two things, one it changes how you feel about this issue or circumstance or person and it can begin to energetically shift it so that the actual circumstance/issue changes as well as the you begin to shift.
Many of us live in the past. We think about all the holidays gone by, and what we didn’t have in terms of love, joy, safety. Ironically many of us are still spending the holidays with the people who may have contributed to our unhappiness and so we enter into this dynamic every Thanksgiving, Hanukah, Christmas, New Years etc.
We are brought back to feeling the same old feelings and the truth is we expect it to be this way, year after year.
Before we even go into the steps..I think it is of utmost importance to create new holiday rituals and memories with people who we feel safe with. If you choose to still be in relationship with family members you may have some old resentment toward…here are some tips in letting go of your holiday story. (this is not geared toward survivors who may still be attending gatherings in which their past abuser is still present…I do not recommend these steps in those situations)
My first step in Letting Go of Our Holiday Stories:
Step out of our expectations, step out of the way you think things will be, because that is the way they always are.
My father is going to sit on the couch the whole time and zone everyone out.
My mother is going to flit around and drive everyone crazy as usual.
Expect instead to be surprised, ask the God of your understanding for a new day, a new perspective in you that will allow you to bring a different energy into that holiday. What happens is when we all come in with the same energy, we get the same results, but when one person changes, the others cannot stay exactly the same, it forces everyone else to shift, even slightly. So come in with the expectation to have a good time, to enjoy your family and their quirks, to love them anyway. And ask yourself, how will I make this holiday different? How can I be different?
The second step of Letting Go of Our Holiday Stories is:
To practice mindfulness in everything you do, be present, be in the moment, slow down.
This really helps you step out of the story. You can’t be in the moment and think and worry about what is going to happen on Christmas Eve. You just can’t. So be in the moment, as you stand on the line at Target, as you decorate the tree, as you light the candle, as you prepare for the holidays in whatever way that you do, be present to it. While in your family’s living room, be there, step out of your judgment of how everyone should be, and be there with how it is. Much of our suffering comes from wishing things were different than the way they are. It takes a lot of energy to do that.
Some tips around being mindful are: paying attention to your breath, your body, the person who is speaking to you, be present to them, to their essence, really see them, hear them. As you help out let’s say, setting the table, or cooking, whatever it is you are doing, really be there while you are doing it, notice the details of what you are doing.
Rushing just stresses us out, it jangles our nerves and if you’ve ever noticed someone who is hosting even when everything is done, they are still going, they are still frazzled. Slow it down, enjoy everything you do and then enjoy the fruits of your labor. If you are not hosting, enjoy being a part of someone else’s vision, notice all the wonderful things they did to put this all together. If you are by yourself, create a vision of how your holiday will go, and implement it.
The third step in Letting go of our Holiday Stories is:
To let go and forgive
Now I am not talking about the process of forgiveness that can take months, even years. I am talking about momentary grace we can give ourselves and others. Forgiving ourselves when we don’t get it done perfectly. Forgiving our mother when she says the wrong thing, or our spouse when they once again bought the wrong coffee maker, even though you specifically pointed out the one you wanted at least five or six times. Shift the way you see them, see them as doing the best they know how, see them through the eyes of compassion. Perhaps this is how their parents were. Something that has always helped me is seeing those that have caused me pain as children. Imagining them as children, helps me to shift almost instantly how I experience them.
The fourth and final step is of Letting Go of our Holiday Stories is:
To Choose Joy
Some of us may not have the stresses of being with the family for the holidays, some of us may be spending it alone or with friends and being alone brings up its own set of challenges. Whatever you are doing, choose joy. Make a conscious decision to choose joy. That doesn’t mean you won’t have moments of sadness, what it means is that for the most part, I want to enjoy the holidays, I want to find ways to make it fun, enjoyable and meaningful for me. Asking yourself, what would make this holiday, fun and joyful. One year, I decided to buy inspirational refrigerator magnets, bake some cookies and wrap them up as take home gifts for my guests on Thankgiving Day. It was so simple yet so joyful to choose which magnets I would give to who, bake the cookies, wrap everything up and tie it with a ribbon and then give my handmade gifts to everyone. I chose joy that year.
This year I have already created a list, called the “I Did It” List celebrating what I’ve done and how much I have grown this year. I will also be doing a releasing ceremony and a planning my year and choosing a word for the new year. This feels a lot more empowering than the way I’ve spent the end of the year in the past which is to brood over what I had not done or accomplished.
Celebrate what you did right, what you did well. Choose to look at your life with joy and celebration. See yourself as the beautiful being you are.
Some physical tips for de-stressing in the moment:
• Take breath breaks throughout the day, eyes closed, hands on heart or belly or both, take five deep full breaths and just be.
• Get grounded. If you feel yourself rushing, having what seems to be an out of body experience, feel the ground beneath your feet, bend your knees, let the weight drop down into your legs and feet. Stomp a little, feel yourself here, in the present moment
• Finally continue your self care practices even during the holidays. If you do yoga, don’t drop it, if you have a group you go to, try to keep in touch during the break, if you normally have a routine, keep your routine. If you normally get together with friends, and everyone is busy, at least touch base a couple of times. Don’t let go of what grounds you because it is the holidays, it make it that much harder to get back into the swing of things when you stop.