This is the one time of year we all (with the exception of Scrooge) share the common goal to be happy. We expect ourselves to be happy. Our favorite people who we may not get to see very often come to town. We feel happy with our lit candles, the taste of our favorite holiday drink on our lips, the smell of cookies baking in the oven and the sound of Christmas ringing through the stereo. This is our goal, to have a Happy Holidays!
For many of us, our best holiday memories are of when we were children. Unaware of the hustle and bustle behind the scenes, children everywhere experience the bliss of holiday magic. Often, for adults the pursuit of a Happy Holiday becomes so stressful that the goal is completely missed.
Here are six helpful self care tips to help you achieve a happy holiday season:
Create your wish list.
List all the activities, parties, shows, people to visit, homes to carol, gifts to wrap, etc. Imagine what each of these activities might look like: what sights, smells, and sounds are there? How do you feel as you imagine items on your wish list?
Check your list twice.
Label each item, “naughty” or “nice.” Nice being most happy making and naughty the most stressful. Remember that happiness doesn’t come through doing everything, it comes through enjoying everything. Instead of “doing it all;” you might need to pick and choose what you want to do most.
Create a personal Advent Calendar.
Daily, open the gift of “the moment.” Allow yourself to stop thinking about how life compares to your wish list. Observe the smile on people’s faces as they find that perfect card or gift to place under the Christmas tree. Breathe in the smells of Christmas: pine, cinnamon and gingerbread. Enjoy the sound of bells ringing and carolers singing. Feel the embrace of your loved ones.
Dream of sugar plums.
Take a 10 minute pause each day to clear your mind and breathe. Count your breaths (or sugar plums) and feel your heart rate slow down. See if you can slow your breathing down to 6 breaths per minute. Try using this technique to settle your mind before bed. Remember, most things can wait for tomorrow!
Give to others as you would yourself.
Thinking and doing for others is one of the best ways to feel happiness. We think of one another and find happiness in the altruism of finding that special gift that shows how much we love and care for them. While we are thinking of others, we stop thinking about the things that make us feel sad.
Give to yourself as you would others.
Share kindness with yourself. Say kind and forgiving words to yourself. Give yourself a hug. Especially when you feel frustrated, hurt or rejected; take a moment to encourage yourself. While it’s exhilarating to be with distant loved ones, sometimes the actual miles are characteristic of the emotional distance in those relationships. Instead of pushing yourself to forgive and forget, exercise “Self Compassion” validating your hurts, concerns and dreams for conflict free exchanges. Release yourself of expectations to be perfect.
This post was written by Shari Morin-Degel, MA, LCPC, Clinical Director. Shari oversees all therapeutic youth homes and day treatment at Youth Dynamics and brought equine therapy to the agency in 2010. Shari lives in Helena.