This week is the last few days before Christmas and the end of the year is right around the corner. Hanukkah is over and it feels like it we just finished the Thanksgiving turkey. Time has been quite strange this past year. It felt at times so slow yet here we are at the end of 2021.
As I reflect on 2021 and the rollercoaster ride it has been for all of us, I also want to take the opportunity to relate how grateful I am. Grateful that I and my family are healthy. And the folks that I work with are working towards getting healthier every day.
And one of the best ways to stay healthy is to keep the stress levels down, especially over the holidays. We are all grappling with maintaining our health during the renewed resurgence of Covid and how to best handle family gatherings.
All I can say is please get vaccinated, get your boosters, get your flu shots, do what you can to resist the pandemic, not just for you but also for those you love. Wear masks when you go out to public places, keep your distance as best you can, celebrate outside when you can, and wash your hands.
These simple habits will help mitigate our risk while we socialize with those closest to us. And that, my friend, is important. We maintain our equilibrium by being around those we love, not distanced out of fear. I think that is the number one way in which we can reduce our stress and anxiety over the holidays.
I want to share with you some of my other personal favorite ways to navigate this busy, stressful time of year and make this season a lot more enjoyable, less stressful and a time you will remember with fond memories.
These secret weapons of mine include…
Put forth great effort to be present. It can be difficult, I understand. It’s almost a reflex to pick up our phones and scroll through Facebook or our email when we have a free moment – do you do the same? One way I like to dodge this is to leave my devices in another room. Don’t even allow yourself the temptation to pick up your phone and disengage from communicating with your gathered loved ones.
When I’m feeling particularly scattered, what really helps ground me is focusing on my senses. What do I smell? What do I hear? What do I feel? Stopping and thinking through what’s going on around you at that very moment really brings you into the present moment unlike anything else. If you have gone through the mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) meditation with me, you already know how to do this. If you haven’t and are curious, contact me , with the subject line: MBSR and I will send you a “how -to”. It’s a wonderful tool to use to dial in and be present – and is a great tool to use year-round, not just during the holidays!
Give up those expectations. A lot of the stress we put on ourselves this season lies in the notion that we expect things to be perfect. That’d be lovely, of course – but putting your entire extended family in one house is bound to have something go awry. Therefore, dropping the expectations of perfection will allow you to be prepared for when something may spring up. Remember in the Christmas Story movie, the Bumpus hounds tore into the turkey? The memory of a holiday dinner at the Bo’ling Chop Suey Palace will be with the Parkers always! There is joy to be found in each situation, so even when things don’t go exactly as planned – spend your energy finding gratitude in your circumstances and enjoying as much of your time as you possibly can. Tis the season!
Find time to move. It’s incredibly important to keep movement in your schedule, no matter how busy you may feel. Even if it’s just a brisk walk after lunch or dinner – make it a habit to bundle up in your favorite scarf and winter coat to go for a walk alone to clear your mind, or with someone you enjoy being around. Be sure that you are getting your time outside in nature, breathing in fresh air, while burning off some calories and keeping your heart rate up.
What are your favorite ways to get some movement in during the cold months? I lead monthly walks on the first Saturday of the month. Maybe I will see you there?
I hope you try to incorporate a few of these habits into your regular routine this winter. It may help you maintain your balance as we continue to live in uncertain times.
And of course, I wish you joy and love during this wonderful time of year. And always!