December has arrived, and the holiday season is officially upon us. But does it ALWAYS feel like it is ‘the most wonderful time of the year’?
The holiday season is a time when many experience feeling stressed, overwhelmed, in a daze, and maybe even angry (think: the mall parking lot on Black Friday/Weekends/Boxing Day)! Some also experience effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD, for short), resulting from less daylight during this time of year. Luckily, there are things you can do to help you stay present, maintain connection to what’s important, and do the things that are meaningful to you this holiday season.
1. Stay Present
There are so many things to think about in preparation for the holiday season that it is often difficult to stay present and focused on the here and now. For example, you may be decorating your tree, but thinking about what presents you still need to buy, which day you need to attend a holiday party, and what you should make for dinner. This distraction may take away your enjoyment of decorating the tree, as you were not fully “there” while doing it.
Instead, try and implement mindfulness into your holiday activities. Engage all of your senses, and focus on your experience of that activity instead of thinking about what you have to do next. To relate this back to our tree example, if you were decorating mindfully, you could be paying attention to the texture of the tree branches and how they feel on your fingertips, the colours of the ornaments, the placement of the ornaments, the sound it makes when you place an ornament onto the tree, the smell of the tree, etc. If you realize that you become distracted by a thought, notice the thought that distracted you and bring your attention back to focusing on the tree.
Try and make a point of staying mindful during each holiday activity that you do. It may also be helpful to engage in a more “formal” mindfulness practice, and dedicate a specific time for it each day. You can check out apps such as “Stop, Breathe, Think” (available on both Apple and Android devices) or scroll down to read previous blogs we have written to find out more information on beginning a formal mindfulness practice.
2. Making Meaning
Some holiday stress may result from the disconnection of the activities we are doing and the reasons as to why we are doing them. There is sometimes a sense of obligation in the holiday season, when we feel like we are obligated or “should” do activities, even though they may not be important to us.
Think of three people who are important to you. Some examples could be parents, children, spouse, coworkers, friends, or community members. Now, think of three things that are important to you during this holiday season. This may include things such as generosity, tradition, connection to others, kindness, etc.
Now compare the things you have listed as meaningful to you to your holiday to-do list. Do all of the activities on your list correspond to one of the people or things you listed as being important to you? This comparison is helpful for reminding us why we are doing the activities we have planned for the holidays, and it often makes activities more enjoyable when you know they are fueled by something that is important to you. Furthermore, if you realize that there are to-do’s that do not correspond with any of your values, it gives you space to make a decision as to whether you would still like to maintain that activity or not.
3. Schedule, Schedule, Schedule!
We can’t stress this one enough! If you do not schedule activities, you are more likely to feel overwhelmed and as though you do not have enough time to complete all of the things you need to do. Scheduling your activities allows you to plan specific times for each task, and removes the pressure of not knowing what to do next.
Use a blank calendar, day planner, or a smart phone calendar to plan out which days you will do which activities. If it is a large activity (e.g. buying gifts for the whole family), break the activity down into smaller steps and schedule the smaller steps into your planner. For example, you may schedule creating a list of gifts, when you will phone someone to go with you, or multiple days of shopping so you do not feel pressured to complete the task in a single day.
When you are creating a schedule of your holiday to-do’s, do not forget to include your regular activities such as exercising, attending work or classes, and volunteering. Many self-care activities tend to fall by the wayside during this time of year, so it is important to ensure you are continuing to complete self-care activities, even if they may need to be less frequent.
We hope that some of these tips may help you stay present, connected to what’s important, and allow you to find time for activities that are meaningful to you during this holiday season. If you think that you would benefit from one-on-one support during this time of year, please do not hesitate to contact us to set up a FREE consultation to find out how we can help.
From all of us at Odyssey Health Services Inc. to you, Happy Holidays!