Expectations course through our lives at this time of year often creating a stream of unhappiness, stress, and disappointment. As children, these expectations were experienced as excitement, joy and anticipation. Somewhere along the way, for many people, these positive feelings transformed into negative ones and the magic of the holidays began to diminish. The excitement of getting a Christmas tree and decorating it with hand-made ornaments turns into ‘where are we going to put that tree?” and “wow, those trees cost $100 now”, or “when are we going to find the time to decorate?” as the tree sits in the living room, unadorned for two weeks. Decorating cookies, buying presents, planning family gatherings can all take on the weight of another ‘thing to fit in’ our already hectic schedules or the pressure of ‘doing it right, buying the right present’. Just in the past week, I’ve heard a dozen times about my friends, colleagues, clients feeling the “stress” of the holidays.
LET’S SHIFT THIS EXPERIENCE! LET’S EXPERIENCE THE MAGIC OF THE HOLIDAYS!
With these 5 Gifts, we can shift from stressed out, tired, and “waiting for the holidays to be over” mentality to one of JOY, EXCITEMENT, BLISSFUL, PEACEFUL, COLORFUL, SPARKLING, and GRATIFYING.
#1 & 2 : The Gifts of INTENTION and PRESENCE
The year flies by, the holidays fly by and before we know it, we are in 2019, ready to start another year of our lives. Stop right there. Let’s not have the time “fly by” …. Let’s be present and intentional with every day. Our lives, every day, every year are valuable. We all know someone who has lost their life this year, been diagnosed with a life threatening illness, or, with the fires, escaped with nothing but their lives. The phrase, “life is short” takes on a depth and reality that cannot be ignored. I’ve found that the most powerful antidote to disappointing expectations and stress is to practice setting intentions and staying present. It can be a simple and yet very rewarding practice. Start with the following questions…
- What experiences do I want to have over the holidays ?
- How do I want to be – to show up – during the holidays ?
- When I get off track, how can I get back on ?
In a narrative form, the answers could look like this…. My intention is to spend time with my family in Oregon, and enjoy the games, activities, food and celebrations that we all have. I want to be patient, kind, gracious, and present before and after Christmas. I want to enjoy shopping, planning and decorating. I want to show up as someone who is grateful for the many blessings in my life. When I get off track, I want to take a breath, a walk, a break, a ‘time-out’ to meditate and re-center. My intention is to take responsibility for my experiences and keep showing up – over and over – in line with my intentions. My intention is to stay present and when I get distracted or ‘pulled away’, to bring myself back.
I invite you to take time right now to reflect on your intentions for the next month, answer the questions, and journal. Steer your own ship and set your own compass. No matter the weather – wind, rain, storms or sunshine, you set the course and experience the holidays with intention and presence.
#3 & 4: The Gifts of SPACE AND GRACE
Of all the gifts, these two are probably the hardest and yet most valuable. By nature, I am fairly impatient, critical and set high standards for myself and others. These qualities have helped me very successful academically and professionally – I go for what I want and believe in myself. They also have created pain and hurt for myself and those I love when I subject others to my judgement and criticism. Hard to admit, but true. When I catch myself creating experiences for myself or others that bring pain instead of love, I try to take a step back and give myself and others the gift of space and grace. Space allows me to be curious instead of judgmental. “I wonder what is going on with him/her/them right now?” and remembering not to take things so personally – it just might not be about me! Give others space when they are tired, frustrated or in pain. Literally, take a step back as a reminder to not react. One of my favorite quotes is by Viktor Frankl, and a wonderful reminder of this practice:
“ Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
Grace is the forgiveness, patience, gentleness of our presence when responding. Grace is what we can offer another when they are struggling, stressed, frustrated. Grace is patience, acceptance, respect, and kindness all wrapped up into one breath. What a precious gift to give ourselves and others this holiday season.
#5 The Gift of LAUGHTER
The best antidote to stress is laughter. It is often hard to ‘lighten up’ when feeling overwhelmed and stressed. Finding the joy of the holiday season – watching children’s smiles light up when they see Santa (at least the ones that aren’t terrified of the old man in a red suit in the middle of a mall), watching your friend’s smile when she opens a gift, or laughing at the holiday gag gifts that are being passed around at the party, are all ways to reconnect to the joy of the season. We can get so serious! If the tree is lopsided, the cookies burnt, the dogs eat the wrapping paper, or the cherished gift doesn’t arrive from Amazon Prime as promised – take a breath – smile – laugh – let it go. Really, truly, those wobbles are what make this season perfect. They become part of this story, the one that was meant to be. The most exciting football games are when someone fumbles the ball and the other team runs 60 yards for a game-winning touchdown! So when the oven breaks down the morning before your guests arrive,or the turkey falls on the floor, remember this is your story and find the laughter in the moment – life is good – life is short – enjoy yourself and your family! Sometimes we really do need a reminder to find the silliness and laughter in a mistake or stressful experience. I guarantee if you do nothing else but look for the opportunities to smile and laugh over this next month, you will not be disappointed!
Be intentional and present, offer space and grace, and be playful, silly and laugh often this holiday season and see if the magic returns!
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