Does your stomach tighten when you think about the holidays? Stressed out? Worried about getting into arguments, not meeting others' expectations, not picking the right gifts? The American Psychological Association says anxiety goes up during the holidays. Though holidays should be a fun time, they bring lots of stress and sometimes dishearten us, weakening our relationships.
Wonder why this season brings stress and headaches instead of a glow of excitement?
Think about how most of us prepare. We overspend energy and money on gifts and meals, argue over misunderstandings, and pack "fun" events into every minute, every day, every night. No wonder it's not fun anymore!
Peek inside the word "holiday." It means "holy day," but holy days should be about building stronger relationships, sharing and loving. So many times, they end up just being a hassle.
All those flashy ads: best gifts, best prices, best deals! They're about body and mind, not the soul to soul connections we need most now. "The hype and commercialism of the season causes increased stress," says a recent psychological report. Holy days should be about strengthening relationships, sharing and loving.
Sure, there are hassles: the cousin who hosts everybody, then fumes because nobody invites her back. The friends who share nasty gossip. The relative who drinks too much and picks a fight, leaving everyone wondering whether they should bother coming next year.
If that's how you feel, just adjust your own outlook. Make this season different so you can finally enjoy and even have fun! Enjoy it like a kid again, with all the blessings of family and love.
Make the holidays a time of soul-to-soul connection. Meet others without expectations ("I chose him a great present and all he got me was this cheesy gift card!") And the holidays will surpass your dreams. Open your heart and exchange the gifts of love, sharing and caring, with these nine easy tips to renew your holiday spirit today!
1. Find out who needs help. If you are comfortable and well-fed, visit seniors, visit hospitals or give out socks to homeless folks. Don't forget your cousin in the army, or that neighbor down the street who lost his wife last year!
2. Reconnect with friends. Think of someone you haven't seen in a while and have tea together. If you live too far far, look them up on Skype and say hello.
3. Avoid hot button topics. Try not to bring up sensitive issues … keep it light and fun.
4. Remember the kids. Many organizations arrange Santa visits, plays or concerts to make Christmas in the hospital a happier time for kids.
5. Plan a field trip. Buy treats your own children can give out in a seniors' residence or to adults with disabilities. Tell them people who seem different deserve a wonderful holiday, too.
6. Discover your own style. Just because your sister-in-law hosts a slick New Year's buffet brunch doesn't mean that's your thing. No MIMICKING what works for others! Your style may be a potluck lunch instead. Just make it your own!
7. Take care of you and Relax. Your body won't thank you for rich, indulgent party food. Too rushed to cook and eat properly? Find simple foods to prepare easily and truly nourish your spirit. Go for a walk, practice yoga if you're up to it. Sit quietly and relax, without distractions: put away your phone, mp3 player, remote control, notepad …
8. Make that call. There's one person out there you feel you can't call. Maybe you lost touch because her husband was sick. Maybe he's fighting with a friend of yours and you didn't want to take sides. Mend those fences, and you'll heal yourself, too.
9. Do your best, then let go. Despite your best intentions, life will throw you a curveball. Unexpected health surprise? Cash crisis? Don't let them undermine all the work you've done. Take a deep breath, refocus, and keep trying.
Finally, a word about forgiveness. Hearts are soft at this time of year; we are ready, willing and able to forgive. Forgive yourself first, and let go of grudges. Ask others for forgiveness. What an amazing gift: "I think I hurt your feelings; I'm sorry." Only a grinch would say no to a chance to reconnect on a soul-to-soul level.
Always thank God for the blessings before you, release your burdens, and offer the world the gift of your renewed spirit, with love and laughter and lightness to last through 2014 and beyond. Let us pray together for this coming holiday season:
Let us reach out beyond ourselves.
Let us bring light to the world
By being light in the world.
Let us serve others with joy
Let us reach out with joy
And feel only wonder
Surround ourselves with love
By spreading love in the world
Changing only ourselves
We can change the world.
"Love and Light to All"