For many of us stress reaches a crescendo as we approach this time of year. For myself, I celebrate Christmas. For me, this brings pressure to bake, decorate, shop, wrap, attend events and host parties. For others, it may bring loneliness or anxiety. It’s difficult to manage expectations when we’re stressed and feeling like we are running helter-skelter in all directions. We can miss the true essence of whatever holiday you celebrate and the promise of hope a new year may bring.
So please STOP, try this, take a long, deep cleansing breath and try writing – for just 5 minutes. That’s all it takes to shift your focus and align the meaning of your holiday with what’s most important for you and those around you. Here’s how…
- From this partial list of values, choose 3 that are most important to you, or come up with 3 of your own: family, faith, goodwill, gratitude, harmony, inner peace, kindness, peace, tradition, tranquility.
- Choose 1 value to work with.
- Answer this question: “If this season were in alignment with my value of _____________, it would look like this…” Don’t be afraid to paint a verbal picture of an ideal holiday situation, event, or relationship.
- Now, choose one thing you can do to realign your holiday with your value.
Here’s what I would write:
- My 3 values are family, gratitude, tradition.
- I’m going to focus on gratitude.
- If the holiday were in alignment with my value of gratitude, it would look like this…
“This has been one of those exhausting days. After a full day of work, I ran by the dollar store to pick up wrapping paper and tape; then stopped at the grocery store for sugar and flour so I could make cookies after dinner for tomorrow’s cookie exchange at the office. Finally, I’m in my pj’s and bathrobe, sitting in my favorite chair with a glass of wine. I lean back, close my eyes and think about one thing in my day that I’m most grateful for. Then I remembered the little girl sitting in the grocery cart in front of me while we stood in line. Her Mom was busy unloading the groceries. The child, about three years old, looked me in the eye and smiled. I smiled back and said “Hi!” Then she announced proudly, “Santa’s coming!” “Yes,” I said, “he’ll be here soon.” And I thought of when my own kids were small and how excited they’d be when they saw the Salvation Army volunteers with their red Santa hats ringing bells outside the grocery store. They’d turn to me and ask for a few coins to donate; then they’d drop them into the kettle and run back to me. I pick up my journal and write one sentence: Today I am grateful for the innocence of children and their open-eyed wonder that restores, for me, the true meaning of the season.
- To realign my holiday with my value of gratitude, I am going to take just 5 minutes daily to write one sentence at the end of the day and express my gratitude for this holiday season.
Helen Keller, American educator, advocate for the blind and deaf and co-founder of the ACLU, reminds us, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.” But when we’re stressed, it’s easy to get caught up in the “doing” and miss the “heart” of the holiday season. May you find peace in this holiday season and in the new year.