Some people view the holiday season as one of high festivity. Others view it with high anxiety. I bounce back and forth and I find many people feel the same way.
Maybe it’s because we are bombarded with temptations to shop more, eat and and drink more and be on our cheeriest best behavior.
Maybe it’s because the year is closing to an end and we start to reflect on what has/has not happened in our lives.
Maybe we lost someone we loved or have yet to find someone who wants to love us back.
For me, I reflect on growing another year older and wiser as my January 1st birthday approaches. I take stock and think about letting go of anything I don’t want to carry into the new year.
I find airports, in particular, make me anxious this time of the year. All the coming and going, leaving loved ones behind, facing the reality some people may no longer be there to greet you. I always see people embracing and crying; are they happy or sad? I see people scowling and staring at their screens intently at airports, on planes. I wonder, “Aren’t you happy to be flying home for the holidays?”
I find a lot of people have holiday anxiety. We all need to calm it down. There’s no better present you can give yourself than a rest from all the flurry and a break from feeling you need to plugged in, lit up or in sync with anyone. Just let it go.
Here are my tips to be calm for the holidays:
1. You do not need to post every photo and every dish you eat in real time on social media on Christmas Day and around the holiday table. Share your time with the people you are with in the moment you are in, and share your photos and comments online later when everyone is gone.
2. Eat and drink what you want in moderation and hydrate with plenty of water. Don’t expect your hostess to tailor her dinner party to your dietary needs, and don’t make a big deal about it when you get there. Offer to bring a dish you know you can eat and others may enjoy or just eat a small meal before you go.
3. If you are traveling use the time to unwind en route if you are not the one driving. Read a book. Listen to music. Meditate. Sleep. Make getting there part of the fun or time to relax. It also helps to travel at off peak times when lines, crowds and traffic may be less. Allow more time to get wherever you plan to go.
4. Take a break and step outside for fresh air, a walk, a run or some stretching. The days are shorter for those of us in the northern hemisphere. Use the morning to seize the day by taking care of yourself first and then taking care of business.
5. If you feel alone, you are not alone. Many people have no plans, work over the holidays or have families and loved ones elsewhere. Call a friend to talk. Invite someone over or out for dinner. Volunteer for a local charity. The act of giving of yourself is a good way to feel better about yourself.
6. You may feel financial strain from buying and giving gifts. Buying gifts should be an act of joy and not an obligation. Give in other ways that have just as much meaning and don’t feel pressured to over extend yourself.
7. Take a deep breath. Too often we take breathing for granted unless we are gasping for breath. Long, slow deep breaths will both calm you and energize you. Sit still; breathe deeply and center yourself. You do not always have to be on the go. Learn to take it slow and low key if you start feeling anxious. No one has a stopwatch timing you, so why run yourself ragged?
8. Instead of reflecting on the past or thinking about the future, just be in the present and give it the best you can. It’s the only time you truly have, and it is up to you to make it better or worse for yourself and for those around you. One of my favorite sayings is “Yesterday is history, Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is your gift. That is why is it called ‘the present.'”
Some of my most “alone” holidays ended up being among my most memorable. And when the new year rolled around, how I spent the holiday became another piece of my past, part of a collection of diaries that one day will make a great memoir. An entire year of what can be and positive possibilities always lay ahead.
Remember, in the context of the year, Christmas Week is a small amount of time given a very large amount of attention. It’s only a year coming to an end, not the world.