There’s an expression: “If you think you’re enlightened, spend a week with your family.” Our families and the people we love most may, at times, bring out the worst in us. There are a lot of old patterns, stories and conditioning from our childhood that show up when we’re with our family, making the holidays a stressful time. Add to that the mania of activities, holiday parties, gift shopping, cooking and general “good cheer” and you have a recipe for high anxiety!
Here’s how to deal with it all during the holiday season:
Buy less, give more
Instead of going on a spending spree and buying a lot of random kitchen appliances for people you love, consider volunteering for a charity you care about or buying gifts for kids in need instead. Giving back is one of the best ways to feel good during the holiday season.
Just say no
It’s easy to over-commit during the holidays. If you have two holiday parties on the same night this year, instead of trying to get cocktails at one party and rushing straight to dinner at the next, consider saying “no” more often. If you’re dreading that cookie decorating party, give yourself the gift of staying home and taking a bubble bath instead (check out this cheat sheet on how to say no without feeling guilty).
Doing deep belly breathing is one of the best ways to lower anxiety. Start by lying on your back with your feet on the ground or a bed, knees bent. Put your hand or a heavy book on your belly so you can feel the rise and fall as you breathe in and out. Start by inhaling slowly to the count of six, pause and hold your breath for the count of six, exhale slowly to the count of six, and pause again for the count of six before inhaling. That’s one rep. Do at least three of these reps in succession and feel your anxiety start to melt away. People in the military are trained to use this breathing technique when they’re in a combat zone – so give it a try the next time you’re in the emotional combat zone of holiday mania!
Take space and be alone
While you may feel guilty or think you need to spend a lot of time with your family and friends during the holiday season, one of the most important things you can do is to carve out some alone time. Every. Single. Day. Go for a long walk, take a yoga class, take a nap or read a good book. Do something to rejuvenate yourself, alone, each day.
Remember what really matters
Whatever your religious or spiritual preferences, we can all agree that the holidays are about love. Rather than rushing around buying more stuff, spend a few moments sitting quietly, thinking of all the things (and people!) you love in your life and that you’re grateful for. Here’s a short gratitude meditation to reconnect with what really matters.
The points in this article are the opinion of the writer.