The holiday season is about to swing into full gear and even though it is supposed to be about giving, sharing and being with those you love, this time of year can also bring up a lot of anxieties.
Money issues, family dynamics and so on, often feel amplified at this time of year and can cause a lot of stress and unease.
The good news is that the holidays don’t have to be challenging. Here are 5 tips designed to help you get through the holidays compassionately and mindfully.
1. Make Your Gifts Thoughtful, Not Expensive
Money is one of the biggest stresses over the holiday period due to the high expectation to purchase gifts for all of your family and friends.
While it is always a nice idea to give someone you care about a gift, if it’s causing you stress, remember that it’s all about the intention and not the actual gift itself.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money or buy the latest gadget in order to impress, instead you just need to give a gift that comes from the heart.
One of the best and most inexpensive gifts to give are actually the ones you make yourself. The are so many great DIY ideas out there such as making your own cake mixes, bath scrubs, chocolates, flower/succulent arrangements, food baskets and so on.
DIY gifts are also affordable and easy to make in bulk, making them the perfect choice for both friends and family. Also, DIY gifts are often far more appreciated as they show that you have put in that extra effort.
Another thoughtful, low stress gift idea is to purchase gifts from charities or fair trade goods from underprivileged communities or villages. Organizations like Oxfam, offer gift ideas that allow you to purchase a goat or a water pump to a family or village in need.
2. If Are Not a Fan of the Cooking, Eat Before Attending
Another big stress around the holidays is food. If you are trying to watch what you eat or follow a particular diet, it can be challenging and even uncomfortable to attend gatherings where there is lots of food you can’t eat, and lots of family/friends that keep pressuring you to eat it!
Firstly, it is important to not let other people’s food habits disturb you. For example, if you are vegan and your family all eat meat, or if you are particular about the ingredients that you consume and everything that’s served seems to come with lots of additives, preservatives and sugar, it is really in your best interest to not let this bother you.
If you know that the food being served is not going to be to your liking, don’t get all stressed about it. Simply eat before you go, or offer to bring a dish to the event that you know you can eat.
If you do receive comments from people about what’s on your plate, keep it casual and don’t get defensive. You can also try to change the topic by coming up with a question that makes them talk about themselves.
The general rule of thumb here is that if you are a guest in someone else’s house, you need to be gracious and thankful, no matter what is being dished up.
3. Learn to Let Things Go
Family can be a huge trigger for all of us and different family dynamics can definitely be stressful. As the guru Ram Dass says- “If you think you are enlightened, go spend a week with your family.”
If you know that particular family members are a trigger for you, or if you know your Great Aunt has a habit of saying mean and nasty things, it is important to prepare yourself.
When it comes to family, especially older family members, there is not a lot you can do to change their habits or ways, especially if you only ever see them once a year around the holidays.
In this case, the best thing to do is allow their comments to roll off your back like water. Visualize yourself in a white golden light of protection, and use affirmations to help keep you calm and safe.
If you have an issue with a family member or friend that you see on a more consistent basis, there may be more of a reason to address the issue and talk it through, however you may not want to choose to do this during Christmas lunch.
The holidays can be stressful for a lot of people, so also try to be compassionate and more forgiving with others around this time of year too.
4. Focus on What Is Important
If the holidays are a stress-filled mess for you, make a vow to change this starting today. You deserve to have this time period be enjoyable and fun.
The holiday period is really about coming together and giving thanks for the year gone by. It is a time to celebrate your triumphs and failures and to honor the journey that you have been on. It is also a time to think about others and to support those in need.
The holiday period will mean different things for different people, so think about what is important to you and be sure to honor that message or to make it your mantra during the season.
When you focus on what is important, it also helps you to put things in perspective and to manage your stress levels better.
Stressing about gifts and trying to please others is no way to spend the holidays, so get rid of whatever is weighing you down and choose to celebrate in a way that makes it enjoyable and fun.
5. Remember to Breathe
The last tip here is to just breathe. Whenever you feel stress or anxieties coming on, or whenever you are starting to feel overwhelmed with everything you need to do, just pause and breathe.
Breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, exhale for 4 counts and then hold for 4 counts. Repeat this breath cycle for a few minutes for an instant calming and rejuvenating effect.
The holidays are meant to be enjoyable, so this year make it a point to find the fun and allow all the unnecessary stresses to melt away.
Spiritual Guide to Dealing with Family Over the Holidays