Its’ that time of year! The time when the air becomes crisp and cooler, especially here in the North Texas area, kids are preparing for holiday breaks, family ‘s are preparing to come into town, your travel plans ramp up and, you said it, stress levels rise! The holidays can be filled with joy and cozy get-togethers, but they can also bring anxiety, tension and even moments of dread. You are not alone!
One of the biggest questions I get asked during this time of year revolves around the busy-ness this time of year brings, and the desire to stay grounded and present in the midst of these moments.
How do I enjoy the holidays without being flooded with dread or anxiety?
To help support a more enjoyable time and find that peace and happiness amidst it all, here are a few practices you can try to help keep you focused on what’s most important.
1. Be intentional. Probably one of my favorite words in life. The act of making this conscious decision with yourself to focus on and be mindful of your happiness and well-being. To be intentional means to do or say something that opens you up to that moment, “priming” you (and your brain) to be ready for those positive experiences. Even research shows that the more intentional you are in looking for the positive emotions, the more open and sensitive we become to them in the future.
2. Savor the experience “being intentional” brings. Let the feels set in and register with your mind and body. When you find yourself laughing or smiling, allow that to register in your body as a moment of happiness and joy. The longer and more often you “savor it,” research shows, the more neural connections we form that strengthens that experience in our memory. Science!
3. Take a break. Move. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the noise, busyness, or yes, I’ll say it, chaos, it’s okay to stop and take a break. Making it a priority to set some time for yourself each day is healthy and necessary. Whether it’s stepping out for a jog, quieting the mind with yoga, or even taking an extra- long hot shower, taking a break to regain your focus reconnects you with yourself and resets your mind.
4. Practice gratitude. This isn’t always an easily embraced one. To practice gratitude does not in any way mean you take things for granted! What it does mean though, is that you set some time to focus on the many things in your life that you appreciate. This may seem like a simple task, but research has shown that when those with depression were asked to write down 3 things each day for 2 weeks, 94% of those had a decrease in depression and 92% showed increase in overall happiness. Even more significant was, when people expressed gratitude towards others, they felt significantly closer to them and experienced an increase in feelings of JOY!
5. Set limits, boundaries. Do you know your limits? Do you know when it’s time for you to step back, take a break, leave the room? Setting limits for yourself, gives you two things; the ability and space to enjoy the moments WHILE also giving you the security and reassurance that there will be time to recharge and reset. The difficulty with limits is that “it bothers others.” Dr. Brene Brown Ph.D., said it best, “daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.” If being out shopping all day in traffic sounds anxiety provoking and stressful, and you’d rather break it up over a few days during the morning hours, that’s a limit. Everyone’s’ boundaries will look and sound different but the point of having them is to create connection not only with others but also with yourself.
This list is small but mighty. It holds some tools and perspectives that will hopefully give you space and motivation to make this time of year, yours! If you find yourself curious about strengthening any of these areas or even exploring more in depth, this is where possibly the 6th tool may come in handy... talk to someone!