As we gear up for the holidays, I’ve noticed my family, friends, colleagues, and clients are feeling a bit more stressed. Previous blogs have focused on stress and holiday stress and what to do about it (check out the archives), and I wanted to focus on something more positive, like how to bring back the fun and kindness that the many holidays this time of the year tend to embody. In the busy-ness of our everyday lives and the additional time needed for holiday planning and shopping, it’s easy to forget what the holidays are all about: family, friends, and love.
I realize that the holidays aren’t happy for everyone because we are missing loved ones who are no longer with us or we don’t have great relationships with our families and wish we did, among other things. Those aren’t situations that can be changed easily or quickly. However, even with our problems, we can bring joy to others, those in need and those we care for and want to enrich.
This is a great time to get outside of ourselves by volunteering. Helping at a food bank or homeless shelter are great places to start; and they’re great family and group activities if you have others who would like to join you. There are coat and toy drives online and in stores, churches, and almost everywhere I go. Going through your closet or going to a store to get something new for another person is a great way to bring holiday cheer, even if you’ll never know the recipient. By doing something for someone else, we get a small boost in happy hormones that’s called a helper’s high.
When everyone else around me is stressed, I try to work extra hard to be kind and thoughtful so that I can maybe take away some of the overwhelm they are feeling. Offer to do a chore or run an errand for someone, and see how that makes both of your days. I know that I set myself up by wanting and planning to do more than is humanly possible, so a great way to be kind to yourself and the others around you might be to drop some of the plans and expectations. There is only so much time in a day, and generally no one but you will notice if you decide to let a few things slide. Better to let go on the front end than to spend time worrying and wasting precious resources you could be using elsewhere.
And finally, remember to stop and take some time out. It’s easy to get caught up in the fast pace of everything and forget to enjoy the whole season. Really take time to be mindful and stop long enough to just be with the people who are spending time with you. Sit quietly and observe all the beauty and joy that is happening around you in the smallest gestures. Remember why we celebrate holidays, and let yourself experience that. That’s what holiday magic is all about!