by Jill Hope
As a mom, the joy you can experience during the holidays is second only to the joy your children feel. I always watch from a place of wonder and deep appreciation as my son embraces the family traditions we’ve created, enjoys his school holiday parties, delights in decorating cookies, and sings in his school holiday performance.
But in our role of mom, we also take on all the additional errands that go along with making the holidays special. Decorating, baking, shopping for gifts, being present for all of the performances and activities… just thinking of all this can be exhausting, let along doing it. And for some, this time of year can also carry with it less desirable reminders. Family friction, extra money demands, or financial stress can be even more of a presence at this time of year.
This added pressure can add up to a whole lot of holiday stress that over- shadows the joy we’d like to feel instead. If the demands of the holiday season keep you from being fully present to the joy that surrounds this time of year, I have good news.
You DO have control of your stress levels over the holidays!
You may be thinking “how can that be?”, and I understand that response because I used to feel that way. I thought living with stress was my cross to bear, not just during the holidays, but all throughout the year.
However, the truth is that our feelings come from our interpretations of an event. In other words, we create a story about what we’re experiencing, and how we react to that story is what creates our emotions and stress levels.
So how can you take control of your thoughts and enjoy a stress-free, joyous holiday?
Here are 5 strategies that can help:
1. CREATE AN INTENTION FOR YOUR DAY Just because you have a lot to do doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it. If you could create your day, how would you like it to go? How would you like to feel when you go to bed at night?
Take a moment each morning before you get out of bed and scan through your day. Visualize each task, appointment, and errand, and see yourself feeling calm, happy, and free from stress. This takes less than 5 minutes, and makes a world of difference in terms of how your day flows and how you feel going through it.
When you consciously focus on how you want things to go, what it will look like, and how you will feel, you greatly increase the chances of things happen- ing the way you envision.
2. WHEN STRESS HITS, FOCUS ON WHAT IS GOING RIGHT It’s easy to fall into the trap of negativity when you start feeling overwhelmed. When something doesn’t go well, we can fall into a downward spiral that makes everything feel harder.
When things aren’t flowing smoothly, notice how you are feeling and allow those feelings to be there, without judgement. Then, shift your thoughts away from what’s going wrong, and instead, run a checklist in your head about what has gone right.
By catching yourself in the moment and noticing how many things actu- ally do go right in your life, you stop the downward spiral of negativity, and instead create a sense of wellbeing.
You may have heard the saying “What you focus on grows”. Keeping your focus on all that IS working will help you more easily get through those things that aren’t working.
3. USE A MANTRA AND DEEP BREATHING TO QUICKLY SHIFT OUT OF STRESS AND INTO CALM When you find yourself in the midst of anxiety and overwhelm, your physiology changes. You become contracted, your breathing can become shallow, your mind is less receptive to ideas, and your body tenses up.
When you notice yourself in this state of contraction, immediately take at least 3 slow, deep, conscious breaths, breathing the air all the way down to your belly. After 3 deep breaths, your mind opens up, ideas can once again be received, and the tension in your body will dissipate.
Then, have a mantra ready that you can repeat to yourself to get you back to a positive frame of mind and remind you of how you are supported. Some mantras I have used are “Everything always works out”, “I am connected to the Divine”, or “Everything happens FOR me, not TO me”.
These steps can literally be done in less than a minute, quickly taking you to a more positive state of being.
4. OWN YOUR POWER How often do you say “yes” to someone because you don’t want to let them down, but inside you really want to say “no”? When you don’t act in alignment with your desires, you are not acting from your place of authentic power.
Energetically, this means that your energy is split, which can drain your vitality and your ability to get through all those errands you have to do.
To get back into alignment with your authentic power, start noticing when you say “yes” when you really want to say “no”, and “no” when you really want to say “yes”.
Once you become aware of how often you aren’t honoring your true feelings, you can start taking back your power.
Start saying “no” when you mean no and “yes” when you mean yes and see how that feels. Acting from your place of authentic power will increase your energy and help all aspects of your life go more smoothly.
5. CREATE A DAILY PRACTICE TO EXPERIENCE MORE PEACE AND TAP INTO YOUR INTUITION One of the practices I added to my daily routine that has had the most profound effect on my life and business was adding a daily spiritual practice.
Not only have I created a deeper level of peace within, but I am more easily guided by my intuition, and I’ve even become more productive.
Creating a daily practice can include quieting your mind, meditating, doing deep, conscious breathing, or even writing in a journal.
In the practice I’ve created, I put on some deeply relaxing music, quiet my mind, allowing any stray thoughts to move through without entertaining them, and then doing some deep breathing.
If I have a question I am struggling with, I may ask it and then write down in my journal the first thing that comes to mind.
Engaging in a regular daily spiritual practice can reduce stress, increase relaxation, and help you get acquainted with the voice of your intuition so that your choices will be guided toward your highest good.
Even 10 minutes of a mindful practice in the morning before your kids get up can be highly beneficial. And what’s best is that the benefits of a spiritual practice are cumulative. The more you do it, the more peace you cre- ate to sustain you through the holidays and beyond.
You can consciously choose to minimize the feelings of stress, worry, or despair brought on by holiday activities. And in doing so, you greatly increase your chances of experiencing more of the joy your kids feel. What’s more, the healthy practices you estab- lish now can extend well beyond the holiday season.