Too much of a good thing
1.) Too much to do. There's really no need to explain this one. We all have too much to do and not enough time to get it all done. If we don't learn to prioritize our time and energy, then we become victims of the demands that we place on ourselves and others. This leaves us feeling burned out, resentful, and disconnected from the spirit of the season.
2.) Too much to buy. The pressure we feel to buy the perfect gift for others can create an inner conflict that throws us into a state of anxiety and guilt. We look at the price tags and know we can't afford these things, but we buy them anyway. We can end up racking up debt that leaves us feeling financially overwhelmed and out of control.
3.) Too much to see. More people travel during the winter holidays than virtually any other time of year, with Thanksgiving being the busiest time of all. Fewer and fewer families live close to one another now, so spending time together means hitting the road or catching a flight. Adding to the stress of travel is the fact that many families plan activities as part of a larger holiday vacation, which can disrupt schedules, stretch the budget, and leaves less time for quality conversations.
4.) Too much to be. There are those of us who feel like we have to be everything to everyone during the holidays, and that can take a toll. The truth is that we can't possibly meet everyone else's needs or expectations of us, just like they can't meet all of ours. Plus, family dynamics from the ghost of Christmas past can force us into older versions of ourselves when parents, children, and friends aren't able to accept us for who we are today. This can make us want to head for the hills instead of the dinner table.
(To be fair, there are also other important factors that can cause holiday stress, such as painful losses, family dysfunction, and past trauma that are all heightened during the holiday season. Even so, understanding the four factors above can help us to reduce stress and experience a saner season.)
Taken in moderation, each of these things has a lot to offer the Buddy the Elf inside all of us. But when we overdo, they turn on us and bring out our inner Scrooge.
8 tips for a season of sanity
1.) Stay in the present moment. The greatest gift you can give yourself and others is the gift of presence. Truly this moment is all that we have for sure. The past is a memory and the future is a dream. Practicing mindfulness and other awareness activities can help you reduce stress, respond to challenges better, and make memories you'll be grateful to have.
2.) Prioritize your time, energy, and money. Knowing what matters most to you, and why, can help you to know exactly how to use your valuable inner and outer resources. Consider making a simple holiday mission statement that answers questions like:
• What is our budget?
• What do I want to teach our children this year?
• How do I hope to feel at the end of the season?
• What is the one thing I can do differently this year?
• How will I conserve energy by saying "no" to things that aren't important to me and/or my family?
Sample holiday mission statement: "I will have a meaningful holiday season this year, focusing on the gifts of life, love, and family, while remaining within our budget and choosing an attitude of gratitude every day."
3.) Stick with your personal and family routines as much as possible. People are creatures of habit, and when our routines change it causes stress for everyone involved. The holidays throw our normal routines into a tailspin unless we consciously try to keep at least a few of them the same. Consider keeping your morning or evening rituals even if you're away from home. Or, find a couple of other times where routines signal that "everything's the same" to your family. These will serve to refocus everyone and reduce stress by reinforcing family bonds and familiar patterns.
4.) Be intentional about your shopping. Easier said than done, but progress is possible. Make a list of every person that you want to buy a gift for, and then out to the side include a maximum amount to spend on each person. Be sure that the total amount is within your budget from Tip 2. When you pull out your wallet, check your list and check it twice to see that your spending is in line with your plan.
5.) Give creative or homemade gifts. If your money is tight, or if you'd like to add a special touch, create your own gifts for loved ones. Jars of hot cocoa, baked goodies, handmade cards, unique candles, or family photos can add that something extra that pricey gifts often lack.
6.) Take time to play. Holidays were originally designed to help us experience the joy, magic, and mystery of being alive. Remember to have fun and allow the natural ups and downs of the season to happen without taking it all too seriously. Bring out your inner child and let it play like it used to. You still know how, even though you might not think so. Let go! Remembering to play is literally just like riding a bike. Once you do it, you never really forget.
7.) Reframe personal and family issues. We all have them. Those problems that just won't go away: the longstanding feuds, broken relationships, painful addictions, and embarrassing holiday sweaters. Right on cue, these things resurface in all their brilliant glory for all to see during the most wonderful time of the year. But that's just part of what it means to be family. Allow your personal and family issues to take a back seat this year. Acknowledge the messiness, but focus on the good stuff. Look for the best in yourself and others, give people more freedom to be themselves, and stay focused on being your own best self. Take time to listen, laugh a little more, and give up the fight. Life is too short for long-term grudges.
8.) Practice compassion and kindness for yourself and others. Above all, remember that we're in this together. You're not alone. We all have battles that we're going through, and the holidays can bring up some of our hardest struggles. But, they also reveal our truest hearts, deepest love, and purest joy. Determine to consciously practice being gracious towards others, relieving their stress when you can, and doing the same for yourself. We could all use a little more kindness, and a little bit goes a long way.
This year, give the very best you have to offer and you'll receive more than you ever thought possible - a calm mind, a clear heart, and memories to last a lifetime.
How will you make this a season of sanity? Share in the comments below!
Charles Gosset is a Certified Professional Life and Leadership Coach (ACC, CPC) and founder of Full Integration Coaching, LLC. He helps big-hearted people with huge drive lead exceptional lives. You can find out more about him and the transformational services he offers by visiting: www.fullintegrationcoaching.com.