“Dream and give yourself permission to envision a ‘you’ that you choose to be.” – Joy Page
Holidays can be a very happy and connective time for many of us, but they can also produce a fair amount of stress. This is the time of year when we spend or drink too much, go off the diet that wasn’t going so well in the first place or feel insecure about our job security. That stress can trigger us – and the people around us. While we may be able to keep fairly sane during the rest of the year, the lack of Norman Rockwell-type family members and friends is magnified. Instead, we experience “Needs to impress people because I’m feeling insecure” over-talking at the holiday dinner table while “fear of retaliation for setting boundaries” is having difficulty deflecting her inappropriately personal questions. “Fear of abandonment” is buying too many gifts for people while “I’ll do the opposite of what you tell me” is showing up late to the church service.
What methods can you employ to find your joy during the holiday season? Take time out for yourself. Spend as much time with supportive friends and family as possible and try to minimize contact with those people that drain you. Focus your energies into helping others if you are feeling sorry for yourself this season. Take a break from the news and keep the sounds of your favorite music, people or podcasts playing in those earbuds. This restorative connection with spirit and supportive loved ones and the positive energy that is shared by helping others is a resource that all of us can reach for, in the midst of stress.
Toward the end of the year, you can usually find me running off to some kind of workshop, personal growth seminar, meditation weekend or having a personal retreat with my journal. I was born on the day before Thanksgiving, so starting a new birthday year and ending the calendar year during season focused on gratitude, birth and light, seems like an appropriate time for reflection. It’s exciting to envision the year ahead and reorganize my time and energy to maximize those things that really matter to me. I experience at least one good epiphany – the very subtle but definite kind that makes for deep and lasting change.
Helping others can be an effective way to make yourself – and others – feel joyful, also. A few years ago, in the midst of the economic recession, when mass layoffs were being announced daily, the prevailing mood at the holidays was fearful and very negative. Instead of marinating in the negativity of an environment over which I had no control, I wondered what I could do to shift my focus to the positive. I organized an Adopt-A-Family effort in my workplace and I seemed to have hit a nerve with my colleagues. So many people signed on to help that, ironically, we collected more gifts and groceries than any other year that I have been involved in similar efforts. Many confided in me that they felt fortunate enough to have a job and wanted to share their good fortune with others. Others said that bringing joy to others was a welcome distraction from the worry about their own job security. Everyone who participated seemed to understand that turning toward something positive was a great way to combat their own negative mindset.
Introducing new traditions can help you find your joy during the holidays as well. A friend of mine was divorced this year and will not have custody of her children on Christmas Day. To her credit, instead of wallowing in her negative feelings she is trying to formulate a new tradition for herself. She will reschedule her celebration of Christmas with her children on a different day (yes, this is allowed!) and will take a short overnight trip to pamper herself with some ‘me’ time – something she has rarely had in the past. One year for Christmas I decided to try something I had wanted to do for years – I skipped Christmas and went to Florida instead. I had plenty of company on the beach in sunny Fort Lauderdale. I lounged on my beach chair feeling as if I had just discovered the guiltiest pleasure and best kept secret of all – that we are allowed to take a year off from the holidays. Trust me, it was pretty awesome.
During the holidays this year, give yourself permission to find your joy. You can reach for that deep sense of connectedness with your own spirit and the support of your loved ones, no matter what is going on around you. You can stay positive by helping others, or allowing yourself to minimize your participation in any part of the holiday tradition you choose. Try something new and see what happens. Happy holidays!