It’s that time of year again—time for “getting it all done,” time for planning and parties and presents and…peace?
Are you feeling peaceful this season? Are you feeling joyful? For many, the answer is, “no.” In a season when the reason for the holidays is supposed to be focused on the peace, joy, and hope of the birth of Christ, or on the miracle of the Hannukah oil, or on the unity, purpose, and faith associated with Kwanzaa, the truth is the real meaning is often lost in the hustle and bustle.
Our physical and mental health can also be lost in the holiday bustle, thanks to too-full calendars, shopping, decorating, wrapping, less sleep, relationship stress, poor eating, less exercise, and the mental and emotional toll all of this can take. I know, because I end up seeing more clients just before and right after the holidays, due to holiday-related stress, than any other time of year. They often show up right after Thanksgiving, then disappear during the middle of December, and reappear after the new year, exhausted and in need of succor.
I also know, because I’m not much better than my clients. I try to be, but I feel it every year—the push to “get it all done,” the high expectations I put on myself to make this “the best Christmas ever,” or to make handmade gifts for my family, or to host a party for friends, or to attend too many events, or to keep adding “to do’s” on to my already-full family schedule when all we really want is “to be.”
That’s what I’m seeking this holiday season—a little less “doing,” and a little more “being.” I’m seeking to not only talk about but to feel the true meaning of Christmas. I’m seeking to give gifts that matter, that mean something, that last far longer than those that come in a box. I’m seeking greater peace, and joy, and meaning, and love.
How to Feel More Peace & Joy This Season
How can we make the holidays less stressful and more peaceful? How can we feel the joy this season is meant to restore? The following guide is here to help you not only survive, but to truly thrive this holiday season. Read it well, then get out there and do even one thing to make this year the most meaningful, peace-filled holiday of all.
- Slow down and see. Before you can understand what you really need and desire, you have to stop all the doing. Even 10-30 minutes of stillness can allow your brain and body to slow down and allow you to get in tune with what’s really going on. Ask yourself, “How am I really doing?” Then, ask, “What wonderful things am I missing in my life because I just haven’t been paying attention?” Too often, we miss the best parts of life because we’re moving too fast, but when we stop and pay attention, we begin to see and feel the true richness life has to offer. Finally, ask honestly, “What do I need?” Only once you see what’s really going on can you choose to make a change. For more help on this, try this exercise in Slow Down & See: How to Appreciate the Richness of Life or read Stress Management: 15 Proven Ways to Stress Less & Smile More.
- Simplify. It seems like an oxymoron, but the holidays are when we need simplicity the most. Whatever you can cut out of your schedule, do it. For instance, I recently took a few months off of seeing clients and a month 1/2 off of blogging so I could focus more on family and self-care. Say a polite “no” to extra events you just don’t need or even to sending Christmas cards. Opt for a movie night with your kids, in PJs, instead of throwing a party or having a night on the town. Let go of the need to make everything look perfect and instead do the bare minimum decorations. And when it comes to presents, try “The 4-Gift Christmas.” It’s made a world of difference in my family, and it could just do the same for you.
- Go after peace. Stress has a way of just coming after you, whether you want it or not. However, if you want peace, you have to actively seek it. This means being willing to make change in order to feel peace. This may involve making yourself get to bed earlier, go for a walk to clear your mind, or saying “no” to a few activities. There is no one way to find and feel peace; it’s up to you to decipher what will bring more peace to you. Read “6 Ways to Create a More Peaceful Christmas Holiday,” and Practicing Patience: 20 Ways to Be More Patient Today, or watch “Give Yourself the Gift of Self-Care” for more ideas.
- Give gifts of meaning. I decided this year to give my family the gift of a more loving me. So, on December 1, I put myself to work on being more loving. Each day, I’ve been looking for ways to actively put more love into my family’s life. When I start to feel stressed or overwhelmed by my kids (which happens often!),I stop myself so I can instead seek the more loving alternative. I move to a quiet area and pray for help to change how I feel and show me a better way to be. I sit and feel the frustration or worry or whatever it may be. And when I’m ready, I go back and approach my family in a more loving way. I’m still learning, and I’ve got the rest of this month to practice (and all of next year–“Loving” is my new yearly theme!). So, I know I will improve, and that’s what counts. The best gifts don’t come in a box. This season, create a more meaningful holiday by giving gifts of meaning. For more ideas how to do this, check out “Create a More Meaningful Christmas with The 5 Gifts of Meaning” and “Give the Gift of Hope.”
- Focus on relationships. How much more meaningful can we get than to improve relationships that need improving, connect with those with whom we need to connect, and spending time with those we love most? Make your holiday activities about strengthening relationships this year. My example, above, of seeking to be more loving is one way to focus on and improve relationships. It’s also a time to look for ways to spend quality time with those who mean the most to you. And if you’re struggling with family relationships, use my Holiday Relationship Stress Survival Guide to get you back on the right track.
- Create joy. Don’t wait around to feel joyful. Instead, try acting cheerfully. No matter how you feel, you can choose to be of good cheer, and when you do, you’ll find you begin to feel more joyful as a result. If you want more joy this season, seek to create it. Smile on purpose. Seek ways to laugh more. Look for the good, and put more positivity into your vocabulary and emotions. Isn’t this what the holidays are all about? Joy, love, peace, hope, cheer? Let the good stuff begin with you. For some great ideas on how to be more cheerful, read Be of Good Cheer: 12 Ways to Become More Cheerful!