We all know the holidays can stir up a lot of emotion. Some good, some not so good, but all the same, no one can argue that most of us are feeling A LOT this time of year.
I don’t know about you, but when things get busier and end of the year to-do lists pile up, the things I tend to let slip are the things that would usually help me the most: self care, time with friends, yoga, reading a good book--all the small, good things that keep my soul healthy. They easily get replaced with holiday shopping, and baking, and decorating…
Don’t get me wrong. These activities all have their place and bring a little joy to my heart in their own way. But you get what I’m saying, right? It’s like all of our “regular routines” fall away, we lose our structure, and sometimes with that goes our grounding.
In order to get through an emotionally challenging time of year for many of us, it is crucial that we have a firm foundation. Following are 5 tips that help me during the holidays. As always, you will need to find what works for you, but hopefully these give you a little bit of a jumpstart in the right direction!
1 - Gratitude
One of the most grounding and resetting activities I’ve found is to write in a gratitude journal. This is a simple task I do right before I go to bed. I either write a simple list of what I am grateful for, or I think of an event that went well during my day, why it went well, and why I am grateful to myself for orchestrating it in a positive way.
I’ve read and concur that putting more specifics and feelings into the lists makes the activity even more powerful. An example of this is, rather than writing “I’m grateful for my family” but writing instead, “I’m so grateful for my father, he makes me laugh and he has such a kind heart.” This simple task that takes no more than 5-10 minutes carries so much power.
2 - Love
Take some time out and do something that you love. This time of year, our focus tends to be on others constantly, and oftentimes ends up being very materially-focused. I believe this is a big player in what contributes to us feeling so unsettled during the holidays.
I encourage you to look deeper into your heart and ask yourself what YOU love about this time of year. If that is ice skating, take yourself ice skating! If that is binge-watching the Hallmark channel and drinking gallons of eggnog, do that. (Well, maybe not gallons...) The holidays were magical to us as kids for a reason. Look down deep and find what it is that little inner child used to love doing or maybe has always wanted to do, forget about everything and everyone else for even as little as an hour, and do your thing!
Things change. Financial burdens arise; loved ones are lost; deadlines and stress loom at work--not to mention all the things on the news that are gut-wrenching. It can be excruciatingly painful during times of joy and celebration because we cling to “what used to be.”
Trust me, I am a very “feeling” person, and I tend to hold tightly to the memories that came before. A simple activity I’ve found that helps me a little is taking some time to myself and giving myself the gift of walking down memory lane.
Sometimes I like to do this on a literal walk in the woods. I let myself cry, feel, laugh, and acknowledge whatever it is that comes up. Sometimes the walk is enough for me. Other times I need a little follow-up, usually journal writing. Either way, I give myself the space to feel, and then I come back to the present and do one of the things listed above such a writing in my gratitude journal or doing something that I love to remind myself of the goodness still around me.
Connect with others! I have been feeling so compelled to curl up in a ball and sleep the holidays away this year. But you know just as well as I do that this life of ours is all about connection. No matter how introverted you may be, spending time with a loved one can without a doubt lift your spirits. It can be as simple as grabbing a cup of tea, going for a walk, or taking a yoga class. This is so easy, yet oh-so powerful.
Yes. Yes. Yes. A must-have to finish off the other 4 powerhouse ideas for grounding during this busy, emotion producing, time of year is compassion. Compassion that you WILL feel lots of things, you WILL get sad, you WILL feel stress, but you WILL also feel JOY.
Developing compassion for yourself can be extremely difficult. I like to do this by starting out in the morning with a small routine that resonates with me; I find I can foster more compassion for myself throughout the rest of the day when I stick to a particular exercise.
Lately, my favorite exercise has been to stand in front of a mirror in “superhero pose” (hands on hips, chest lifted high) and repeat the mantra: “Everything happens for me, not to me.” I do it in front of the mirror because the connection with my eyes brings me back into my heart, but it can be done anywhere.
This is just a suggestion. The key is getting into your heart. Some patients tell me they do this by watching YouTube videos of cute animals; some do it by going for a walk outside; some look at old photos. Once again: whatever resonates for you. When you are in your heart, you will know it. You soften, and you can go forward in the world with much more compassion. Compassion for others begins with yourself!
This time of year is challenging in so many ways, all of which are deeply personal and specific to each one of you. I hope some of my gentle suggestions can help you find some peace. I wish for you a season filled with whatever it is that comes up - and the compassion for yourself to know that you are doing your best.