Staying centered may be easy when life is calm and peaceful, but it can be more of a challenge during the holidays—for many of us, anyway. Stressful times, financial concerns, and complicated relationships with family members may add to the feeling of being off-center and uncomfortable. Many people say they haven't really enjoyed the holidays since they were kids. But there are ways to feel centered and at peace, even during the holiday chaos. And there are ways to find that sweet sense of holiday joy that we had as kids, too. Though it takes some deliberate choices and a little effort sometimes, we can get there if we practice. And the result is worth it.
For those of us struggling to find joy in this holiday season, we may need to step back and start with being grateful. People who “count their blessings” generally have a more positive outlook than those who don't, but there is more to the story than that. If what we focus on expands, well, then, anyone who focuses on gratitude will usually find more things to be grateful about. Being grateful breeds a sense of peace and calm as we tend to focus on what we're grateful for at this immediate moment and that alone can help us to ditch future worries or past woes. That's good news for people who need a little extra cheer and want to remain grounded. Try writing a list of the top ten things you're grateful for today. Or sit with friends and family and take turns listing things and sharing. One mom I know asks her kids to name five things they're happy about every time they seem down or scared. The technique was one they carried into adulthood.
Self-care is more than bubble baths and candles. It's managing our lives in a way that keeps us from tumbling down a rabbit hole of shame and fear. And a primary source of this challenge for many is in their financial strategy. In fact, most people say they don't have a strategy at all. But when it comes to the holidays, we really need to have a budget and to stick to it as a means of caring for ourselves. Nothing can throw a person off their game like realizing they spent way too much money and completely blew their budget for the next three months. Not only can that feel upsetting, but it can cut into other important aspects of life like paying bills and may create a cascading problem with long-term complicated consequences. By making a budget and then sticking closely to it, it's easier to feel in control and stay centered. It's also easier to focus on what's really important during the holidays.
When you're a toddler, you get hungry, tired, and cranky, so you eat, sleep, and self-soothe or seek out people to help soothe you, like your parents. As adults, we aren't so different. We need to make sure we eat healthy meals, get enough sleep, and do soothing things to stay centered during the holiday period. These things help keep us grounded, which adds to our joy and reduces stress levels. Also: remember to stay hydrated as holiday drinks can dehydrate, too. Choose healthy foods to support your body and select indulgences wisely and with care. Moderation will help maintain that all-important equilibrium.
Things aren't always going to be the way they “ought to” be. Sometimes, they go wrong. The pie doesn't set up correctly or the turkey gets a little burned around the edges. These things happen. If we’re only comfortable and happy if the holidays are storybook perfect, we’re setting ourselves up for failure. While we probably want to try our best to have a good holiday season, “our best” doesn't mean making ourselves miserable or frantic trying to please other people or to create holiday scenarios from movies. We need to do what we can, and let the rest go. Burned the turkey? Well, the sides will still be great, right?
It's easy to get caught up in the checklists. Meal? Check. Family Zoom call? Check. But an important aspect of staying grounded and balanced in joy is in finding way s to love the present moment and to create special memories that happen off the checklist. By cultivating space we can allow these special moments to happen. We can do that by limiting the checklist items and leaving room for everyone to just be together. If we let our moments unfold rather than mapping them out, we leave room for surprises. And the surprise of a magical moment with the people we love is where the spark of that childhood magic comes from. But we have to leave it room to show up.
The childhood glow doesn't have to be out of reach. We can spend time with family and friends, give and receive gifts, and enjoy all the good times that come with lights, decorations, and great food—but to have that warm gooey feeling, we need to leave it a little room. If we're feeling ungrounded because of the stress surrounding a long list of "must do" experiences, it's probably time to step back a little and do a little self-care. With a gentle approach, we can often find ourselves suddenly aware of a glowing warmth in our center that radiates out and envelopes everyone we love. And suddenly, we're kids again. And the holidays feel magical.
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