The holidays are great but even for an extrovert like me, all the extra time with family and friends and neighbor gifts and malls and stocking stuffers and holiday parties and ugly sweaters can be a bit overwhelming. I often feel like yelling “Serenity Now” like George Costanza’s father in order to calm myself down (if you don’t know this reference, I cannot help you).
Instead of yelling “Serenity Now” maybe try whispering it to yourself when you find yourself overwhelmed. Remind yourself that you don’t need to do everything the ads and the neighbors are doing. You could opt out of holiday stress if you really wanted to. Your kids might be grumpy with you, but they’ll probably get over it. Eventually.
Decide what matters to you, focus on those holiday traditions and forget about the rest. Yes, it’s harder than it seems, but here’s the thing: it gets easier the more you do it. Serenity now.
This is the go-to skill of yogis, Navy Seals, and everyone in between. Focused breathing can help you slow yourself down, lower physiological arousal, and center yourself so that you can cope more effectively. Try it, you’ll like it!
I have created a Survival Skills resource that helps you keep it together when you feel like you’re falling apart. In it, I have described how to box breathe (and the importance of it!) You can download that free resource here.
During the holidays you’re going to have to go with the flow. You may be traveling or you may be hosting visitors. Either way, your daily routine is going to be altered. If you have high expectations, you will most certainly be disappointed. A flexible mindset will put you—and others—at ease and ensure you enjoy the most wonderful time of the year.
Stick to a Schedule
Do I contradict myself? No, not at all. While you must be flexible during the holidays (and every other day of your life), your holiday season will be made more predictable with a reasonable schedule. Don’t be rigid but consider where sticking to a schedule will pay its highest dividends. Is it your sleep schedule? Your exercise routine? Your writing schedule? Consider your goals, your holiday plans, and the costs and benefits of deviating from your schedule.
For instance, I pay a high cost if I deviate too far from my sleep schedule (as does everyone else within in the sound of my voice). Therefore, even though I could burn the midnight oil during the holiday break, I typically don’t. I may push my regular bedtime a bit, but generally I stick to my regular sleep schedule because I function so much better when I do. But I do suspend my writing schedule during the holiday because I find I have no trouble picking it back up once the holidays wrap up.
Variety is the spice of life, and the holidays are definitely a time to add variety into our lives. It is a perfect time to step back from busy schedules, relax, reflect, and rejuvenate. But be considerate of your needs and recognize that key to self-care is the question “what is best for me?” and that while the holidays are a time to celebrate, self-indulgence isn’t necessarily self-care.
Put Yourself in Time Out
Family is great, but family can also be overwhelming. There can be a lot of people in a confined space and those people have a lot of opinions! As much as you might wish to put your Uncle Billy in time out for his bad behavior, you may need to settle for putting yourself in time out. Take a breather to practice your box breathing. Any spacious coat closet should do! Take a brisk walk around the block so no one can see you throwing your cousin’s MAGA hat in the trash. Hide in the attic while you look for your whistle to better referee the impeachment debate entering its second hour in your dining room. Take all the time you need, they’ll be here all night.
From the tenor of this blog post, you may get the sense that I have a pessimistic view of the holidays. I do not. I love the holidays, but I also try to stay realistic. The holidays are not all twinkling lights and gingerbread houses, and sometimes the holidays can be downright difficult. By the way, I do not like gingerbread houses—for the record.
But I love holiday traditions and I love gathering with those I love to celebrate the season. And I love the opportunity to reflect on the reasons—the real reasons—I celebrate the season. This brings me to my values and always brings me home to gratitude for the immense and immeasurable gifts of my life. And this centers me more than any twinkling lights ever could.