Each year during the holiday season, my otherwise carefully constructed routines become derailed. Despite my best intentions, I find myself overindulging in multiple ways every late fall and early winter. In addition, I experience a level of stress that far surpasses what I typically allow to infiltrate my life.
I have learned, through the years, that there are several practices that help me to maintain emotional and physical balance during the holidays. Here are a few of them:
- Plan ahead.
If I know that I am going to be in a situation that might provoke an imbalance in my physical or emotional health, I try to anticipate triggers in a way that does not provoke worry or lead me to dread the occasion, as well as the most effective response that I might utilize for each of them.
I also plan carefully so that I agree to participate in fulfilling, rather than draining, experiences. It is OK to say no to activities that add unnecessary stress. There are a few obligatory gatherings at which I need to make an appearance where there may not be the most enriching environment; for those events, I carefully plan how and with whom I will spend that time and, if possible, I also plan a graceful early exit.
- Enjoy moderate indulgence.
It would be unfair to deny ourselves all of the joys of the holidays. We should participate in and savor as many of these joys as possible, if these experiences do not put ourselves or anyone else in real danger. Rather than universally restricting ourselves, we should enjoy each moment as it comes along. While it may seem noble to uphold the most stringent routines consistently through the holiday season, appreciation in the moment — which will likely lead to cherished memories that last a lifetime — is more valuable than illusory perfection which may actually contribute toward more anxiety.
- Participate in centering activities.
The holidays can be a very busy time filled with many extra activities and responsibilities. This can be stressful and make it difficult for us to find the time to take care of ourselves. Just as we need to plan ahead to make the most of holiday activities, we need to plan to make time for activities or quiet time to ground and center us. These special, restorative experiences will give us the fortitude to value the very best of all of the goodness found in friends, family, and community that surround us during this season.
With all of the chaos and commercialism to which we are exposed during the holidays, it can be difficult to remember the real reasons why this time of the year holds such a special meaning in our society. Take the time to reflect upon the values that are most meaningful to you and use the holiday season as an opportunity to live and share those values with others.
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