The holidays are meant to be a beautiful time of positivity, gathering, and celebration. Trees are decorated, presents are wrapped, and lights are blinking on every street corner—it’s perfect, right? The truth is, though, sometimes the holidays aren’t as easy, as peaceful, or as filled with love as we’d hope. Unfortunately the buzz of the Christmas season brings a lot of pressure. There’s pressure to have a ‘perfect’ family, ‘perfect’ gift, and ‘perfect’ decorations. There’s the stigma that when you’re without loved ones on the holiday, you’re alone. And there’s the constant battle of competing with the gifts everyone else is getting for their family and friends.
The holidays are meant to be beautiful and cozy, but sometimes they’re overwhelming and downright painful. Especially if you’re someone who has to work, if you’re experiencing loss, or if you’re unable to spend time with loved ones/don’t have them around to spend it with. But they don’t have to be. Regardless of your situation, here are eight ways to de-stress this holiday season, re-center on inner peace, and remind yourself that the time of year doesn’t have to dictate your mental wellbeing.
1. Find a ‘safe haven.’
If you’re visiting loved ones for the holiday, create or find a place that will be uniquely yours throughout the duration of your stay. Maybe it’s an old bedroom or back porch. Maybe it’s a corner of the front room, or the front step (bundled up, of course). Regardless of where, make it yours. It’s not bad to need some time alone, or to retreat when things get too crazy.
If you’re at home this holiday, perhaps create a ‘safe haven’ that’s away from your normal routine. Instead of curling up in bed (which may trigger feelings of loneliness), head to a coffee shop, library, or apartment common area, for example. You might find yourself surrounded by others who are ‘alone’ for the holiday and feel encouraged.
2. Create a ‘code word’ with someone you trust.
There will be awkward/uncomfortable moments, frustrating moments, and moments where you just need to get away. If there’s someone you trust, set up a ‘code word’ (or hand sign, gesture, etc.) as a ‘rescue’ from your current moment. This can help diffuse an escalated situation before it even begins, or just give you a break.
If there’s no one around, or no one that you trust, set up this system for yourself. Rather than saying a word aloud (which you could, if you wanted) instead tap your foot, clear your throat, stretch, etc. But do this movement when you’re feeling stressed, then take action to move away from the current conversation/situation as soon (albeit politely) as you can.
3. Listen to yourself.
You know yourself best. If you’re starting to feel on edge, anxious, or like you’re walking on eggshells, listen to yourself and see if you change your environment. Can you redirect the direction of the conversation? Can you step away and grab a drink/fresh air/snack to simply remove yourself from something that doesn’t sit right with you? Or can you shift away to focus on a different family member or friend, rather than surrounding yourself with a toxic one?
If you’re not around family and friends, can you listen to your body when you feel tired, overworked, or at rest? When you tune into your inner feelings, you can create situations and emotions that uplift you, rather than keep you spiraling into negativity.
4. Practice morning and night ‘meditation.’
Okay, I know what you’re thinking—is it really practical to meditate when you’re vacationing or visiting relatives for the holidays? Honestly, yes. Don’t think of this as a yoga class, elaborate ritual, or even true meditation practice. Simply see this as a chance to reset your focus on what you think, believe, feel, and desire for your day.
Wake up a few minutes earlier and focus on your breathing. If you’re religious, take a moment when you’re alone to pray. At night lay in bed with your eyes closed, thinking over the moments of the day and letting them go, one by one. This intentional release and reset will give you the peace you’re in desperate need of.
5. Create list(s) of mantras, affirmations, and intentions.
With New Year’s right around the corner, resolutions are all that anyone’s talking about. But don’t make your focus on what you haven’t yet accomplished; instead set intentions for the year.
The practice setting intentions is less about goal-making and more about shifting your mindset. With that, also create a list of affirmation as you reflect on the past year. What are you strong at? What did you achieve? And what makes you successful? When you shift your attention to more positive, empowering thinking you’ll feel good heading into the year, rather than burdened.
6. Start becoming more comfortable with saying ‘no.’
You don’t have to participate in something because someone said so, to keep the peace, or for whatever reason that’s pressed upon you. If you’re tired, if you need rest, or if it just doesn’t feel right—feel empowered to say ‘no.’ Obviously saying no comes with a bit of baggage (especially depending on what it is), but if you calculate your reasoning and it’s valid, don’t feel guilty for expressing what you feel and desire. You are not obligated to be everything to everyone.
7. Embrace the beauty of ‘yes,’ especially when it benefits your state of mind.
Just as wonderful as it is to say ‘no’ sometimes, saying ‘yes’ can be equally valuable. Say you’re cooking three different dishes for your family and someone asks if you need help. Instead of taking the burden on yourself, learn to say ‘yes’ and invite the help.
Saying ‘yes’ can be encouraging, uplifting, and burden-releasing. Whether it’s welcoming someone in, embracing something new, or shifting your mindset, this simple word can help you de-stress this holiday season.
8. Give yourself a break (in whatever context this applies).
Are you a workaholic, slipping away at every chance possible to send emails, get back to customers, or set up meetings? Are you the mediator, constantly trying to fix family feuds and make everyone happy? Or, are you the one who’s always making the food, cleaning the kitchen, trying to make the house look as perfect as possible?
However this relates to you, give yourself a break. The work obligations can wait. The family can function with you. And the holidays will still be wonderful even if you’re not constantly a slave to your kitchen. Step away from what you feel you ‘have’ to do, and make time for what you want to do this season.
Featured Image Credit: Alicia Petresc