Navigating the Path Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s

The message in music, what we see, what we smell, what we touch, resounds with peace, love, and harmony.  And yet, in the midst of our busy-ness, what we think and what we feel are not in line with the season’s ruminations.   

They are just about here.  You have seen the displays in Walmart and other department and craft stores since October.  The “holidays”.  You were probably thinking, can’t they just wait at least until November?

And now, a certain unsettledness takes place, and if you are paying attention, perhaps what you are feeling is a nudge from a familiar old  adversary; that being unpleasant memories of holidays past.

The holidays can bring out the absolute worst in the perfectionist in each of us who desires to fulfill expectations of magic, light, and pure, unconditional loving relationships with family and among friends.

The message in music, what we see, what we smell, what we touch, resounds with peace, love, and harmony.

And yet, in the midst of our busy-ness, what we think and what we feel are not in line with the season’s ruminations.

On the other hand these days can bring out the best of our creativity in meal planning, decoration, parties, gift giving, and worship.

We get excited, we anticipate, we build images of joyous moments where we are surrounded by love, and we hear expressions of deep, sincere gratitude that we have prepared the perfect meal, provided the longed for gift, and that we have achieved our desire to have fun, to be loved and accepted, and to feel safe and secure within the elements of home and family.

Alas, it is between Thanksgiving and New Year’s that we become over-invested, other-focused, and under-served.  We grow resentments, get cranky, eat too much, drink too much, and in the end, wish like hell the holidays would just be over and done with.

And then, reality.

It is mid-January.  We have over-spent.  We have over-attended.  We have over-estimated.

We have over-expected.  We are over-whelmed.

That New Year’s resolution went down in flames 5 days into it.

And then, depression knocks on the door and enters with an insidious presence.

Anxiety becomes a co-conspirator.  Sleep has left the room.   Comfort is now a stranger.

How to pay the bills and how to maybe reel back those words you cast without thinking.

Worries and agonizing of how to repair whatever damage that was created in the heat of unmet expectations are full-time residents in our heads.

These do not respond to edicts to evict.

If this scenario does not fit your experience of “The Holidays”, well done!  You are adept at setting and keeping boundaries, your expectations of yourself and others are realistic, and you are ok that others might not appreciate your efforts.  What a great achievement!

On the other hand, if you have found that your experience with “The Holidays” resonates all too well with what you have read, and you would rather not go through the agony of another “Holiday Episode”, there is help through the development of mindfulness skills that can help you to navigate your way around the effects of these situations and, perhaps, roll in to January with a sense of pride in how you were able to handle the stressors of “The Holidays”.

With a little preparation you can learn to be alert to personal vulnerabilities that could drive you to spend more money than you would like, say things you would regret, or drink/eat to excess.  Here are a few hints to get a jumpstart on managing holiday stress.

Exercise, stretch, keep hydrated, and SMILE!

Learn to take at least 3 “Mental Health Moments”© throughout your day.

A Mental Health Moment is a simple task and consists of 3 elements.

Take a seat and sit upright, feet on the floor, hands rest comfortably on thighs or chair arms.

  1. Breathing: Slowly inhale through your nostrils to the count of 5, exhale through slightly pursed lips to the count of 6. Repeat during this exercise.
  2. Mindfulness: While you are breathing, notice and experience your breath: The rise and fall of your chest and abdomen, the sound of each inhale and exhale. Feel supported by the floor or ground beneath your feet. Allow your shoulders and neck to relax and notice the difference.  Smile.
  3. Engage your 5 Senses:
  • What do you see? Eyes open yet relaxed, find an object upon which to focus, i.e. spot on the carpet or picture on the wall, just a little something to look at.
  • What do you hear? Your breath, background noise, sounds of traffic outside, just notice and acknowledge.
  • Feel and notice textures: Upholstery, chair arms, some people hold on to an object and notice how it feels to touch.
  • What do you smell? Some find it helpful to carry a special scent such as lavender with them just to help trigger calm and peacefulness.  What aroma would help you to relax and enjoy your Mental Health Moment?
  • What can you taste?
    • Can you connect with the memory of something you really love to taste? Coffee?  A  Mint? Apple Pie? Mulled Apple Cider?
    • Allow your salivary glands to produce saliva. Anxiety and stress cause Dry Mouth and so, by purposely creating saliva we can better direct our minds to engage in this Mental Health Moment.

    Now, practice putting all the elements together.  Be purposeful in learning and applying these steps several times a day, beginning today.  Wear a smile.

    “Sometimes our Happiness is the source of our Smile and sometimes our Smile is the source of our Happiness“.

Rehearse during times that are stress free and do not wait until you are stressed to start learning.  Be prepared, be purposeful, be persistent in using this little tool to help you slow down when you need it.

Press Pause and take a breath.

Once you have it down, it shouldn’t take more than 2 or 3 minutes out of your schedule.

Remember, there are no easy fixes to reducing Holiday anxiety and stress.  Learn to take a moment and imagine yourself moving through the days between Thanksgiving and New Year’s being ok with who you are.  Relish your time, nourish your nostalgic moments, and savor the comfort that comes from keeping right with yourself.

For more information about Mindfulness plug into this website.  http://www.livingwell.org.au/mindfulness-exercises-3/

Or this one.  http://www.mindfullivingprograms.com/whatMBSR.php

Remember and apply the wisdom of planning ahead and being prepared to manage your holiday stress.

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