This is a stressful time of year.
Sure, it’s joyous and whatever too, but let’s not candy-cane-coat this. Many people are feeling a time crunch, family pressures, and money stress. Those of us who struggle with anxiety and/or depression tend to have a hard time, thanks to ridiculous holiday expectations.
But we can do this.
Here are some things that help me this time of year.
Walking (especially with the dog) is a sacred time for me. Even a few minutes of fresh air helps clear my head, get me grounded, reconnected to the natural world, and focused on what really matters. And anything that makes Grace happy, makes me happy.
I always feel better when I am able to stop obsessing about my own life and help someone else. Volunteering or just doing something for others (baking cookies for the mail carrier or simply telling someone how important they are to me) brings an abrupt end to my pity party.
I am a yoga fanatic; I think the benefits are endless for mind, body and spirit. I love that it can be done at home without fancy equipment and is accessible to everyone, even those with a severe lack of physical grace, like myself. I start my day with some simple Sun Salutations (which are great for beginners) and tend to unroll my mat whenever I’m feeling stressed. Yoga with Adriene offers free Youtube videos that are perfect for newbies and experienced yogis alike.
Writing is my outlet. I have written angry diatribes, compete with outlandish accusations and the inventive usage of profanity. Once I write it out, I usually realize how silly it was to begin with and can let it go. And watching all that that drama go through the shredder is immensely satisfying.
Setting boundaries is integral to maintaining sanity any time of year. I have social anxiety, and parties tend to be really difficult for me. When my husband is with me, it’s a little easier, but there are events that I need to attend without him. Even though carpooling with friends might be more efficient, I almost always drive myself so I don’t feel trapped and I can leave if I start to feel a panic attack coming on. Knowing that I have an immediate out allows me to relax and actually have some fun. But even with those accommodations, there are times I need to decline an invitation and stay home with the couch and a book. And that’s okay, too.
Meditation has been an incredibly effective way of dealing with my anxiety. Like everyone else, I always thought that my mind was just too busy to meditate — but something significant changes when you take a few moments to breathe, slow down the incessant thinking, and become aware of the present moment. (I have recorded a short guided meditation for people who think they can’t meditate – hear it here!) Meditation is not easy, but it’s so worth it. If you are interested in trying mindfulness, just sit in a quiet place, set a timer (start with just three minutes and work up to more) and count each inhale up to ten, and then back down to one again. Your mind will wander – constantly – but don’t get frustrated. Simply come back to focus on the breath, no matter how many times you start thinking about that witty comeback you didn’t say.
Here are some of my favorite books on meditation:
10% Happier – Dan Harris (For the meditation skeptic)
Wherever You Go There You Are – Jon Kabat-Zinn (For simple directions on mindful living)
Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation: A 28-Day Program – Sharon Salzberg (For those looking for audio guided meditation)
You can also check out the rest of my favorite books on Goodreads.
Most of all, don’t get caught up in silly holiday propaganda and think that everyone else is perfectly merry with their perfect families and perfect homemade hot cocoa you are the only one getting stressed out.
Remember the profound words of Ellen Griswold —
So, let’s just take a deep breath and we’ll all make it through this joyous season in one piece. Happy holidays, everyone.