Christmas is a pretty loaded season; whether good or bad we seem to carry a lot of baggage around this Festive time of year. It can feel like we are weighed down by loads of expectation and anxiety and fun and fear and giving and competing. I know this year is an especially daunting one for me because it will be the first year that I have to share my kids with their father and his new family. Like so many other situations it is bittersweet. My son is just about 3 and it’s so hard to know I will be missing out on his first truly remembered and understood Christmas morning. (I know I am fortunate to have my children with me at all and that many would sacrifice for this gift.)
Although far from being a Scrooge, I am also not Little Suzy Snowflake when it comes to the Holiday season. My decorations typically make it up by mid-December and having worked retail for most of my young adult life, I am pretty selective in my Christmas music. What I really look forward to this time of year is what I define as the Spirit of Christmas. Spending time with the people who matter most, which can be family by blood or family by choice. Taking the time to choose gifts that are perfect for the people I cherish and watching as they are opened. Baking in the winter is so much more satisfying, filling the house with gingerbread, shortbread and all the other goodies that make winter bearable. Most importantly I actively look for opportunities to be charitable; whether that is by giving money, time or kindness, just making it a priority.
Sometimes, even embracing the Spirit of Christmas is not enough to life the weight of current or past events. As with many people, I have a lot of not so great life events that have occurred around the Holiday season. In order to remain Mentally Festive during this Season of Cheer, I have decided to set some ground rules for myself. I am hoping that by approaching this proactively, I will be able to stay mindful and grateful and let the season be what it should be, which is Magical.
Rule # 1 – However you’re feeling is OK
It is OK to feel sad, it’s OK to feel overwhelmed and it’s absolutely OK to grieve. One of the things I have had to come to terms with is that any negative feeling you try and run from will only grow and become overwhelming. Every emotion you feel is valid and needs to be recognized. When you acknowledge the feeling you can more easily move past it. Whatever you resist persists, so don’t resist, don’t numb and don’t push down.
Christmas can come with a lot of pressure to be perfect, to give perfect and to always be happy. None of those things are possible. Perfection is a prison, not an aspiration, our faults are often what makes us most beautiful and unique. So instead let’s be authentic, give wholeheartedly and validate all feelings both ours and others.
Rule# 2 – Change the Story you tell yourself
Nothing is forever, our current feelings are valid and they will change and our circumstances will too. So do rant, vent and share your emotions, and then let them go. Just let them go. We often experience painful events in our lives, but we don’t need to choose to suffer from them forever. Today may be hard, but tomorrow isn’t fated to be the same way. So rewrite your story, maybe quite literally, write it all out. Then go back and reimagine it with more insight and perspective. Find the positive things that have happened and that will continue to happen for you. Keep your hope for better alive, manifest your future and remember that this is all temporary and you get to choose how you see things. Keep your inner dialogue positive and actively work to shut down any self-critical voices.
Also, be open to alternate endings, often we can get hung up on the way things are supposed to be. Christmas is supposed to be about family, but what if you have none, or what if your family are not healthy for you to be around? So maybe you spend time with people who feel like family? Or maybe you go and hand out sandwiches to the homeless, or maybe you plan nothing and allow whatever happens to happen.
Whatever events take place, appreciate them instead of pining away for some idealized version. Take a moment to ground yourself and see what is there instead of what isn’t. Take a breath and notice the crisp wind, or the night stars or the smell of baking cookies. I am going to miss being woken up by my over-excited children on Christmas morning, but I can’t wait for the running hugs I will get when I see them later that day. I don’t always get the memories I wish for, but I will be making every effort to cherish the ones I do get to make instead.
Rule # 3 – Find and Uplifting Community
When things are rough finding a community to inspire you. This community may be outside your friend circle, they may not be your family. Find people who had overcome adversity and learn from their struggles. Their stories may be nothing like yours; perhaps they climbed a mountain, succeeded in business or lost a loved one. Allow yourself to be inspired by their ability to overcome the challenges they faced. Allow their triumphs to change your mindset on how you look at the obstacles in your life. Connect with their power, passion, and mindset and allow it to mold your journey forward. (Really you can watch almost any Christmas Movie you can find and you will easily find your community.)
Personally I love listening to either Simon Sinek or Brene Brown speak. (I plug into YouTube videos and listen to anything they have available.) I can’t rave enough about either one of them and if you like to read I highly suggest either Simon’s “Start with Why” or Brene’s “Daring Greatly”, both books make me want to be more, they drive me to my own personal revolution, evolution, and growth.
So, my friends, these are my staying sane this Holiday Season Rules, I don’t know if they will work, but I can tell you I feel better knowing they exist. I am hoping that if I keep reminding myself of each of them I will not just survive the Holidays but be able to really enjoy the Magic of the Season.
-Michiko @Sweet Serenity