December. Holidays. It’s that time, whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice, Kwanzaa, or Fill In Your Generic Mid-Winter Celebration Here. No matter how hard you try, it’s almost impossible to avoid the holiday crazies–be it increased traffic, higher stress, or online drama about coffee cups and pleasantries.
On the Holiday Lunacy Scale, I fall somewhere safely between Scrooge McDuck and that Will Farrell character from Elf. I’m not a complete monster–I will sing along with Bing and The Andrews Sisters (or Bing and David Bowie) if it comes to that, and I’m not gonna turn my nose up at some eggnog or ginger cookies. I am just as apt to “ooh” and “ahh” over holiday light displays as anyone else.
But I don’t take it too far. There is a point of taking it too far (even though my holiday-loving wife would disagree with me.) To be honest, if it weren’t for Kathryn, I probably wouldn’t decorate and I certainly wouldn’t bake! Too many years working in customer service have created a thin veneer around my holiday spirit, rendering it not exactly impenetrable, but a little less flexible than your average Who.
As I move through my spiritual path, I find the need to connect more during the holidays. It’s hard to do, considering the demands on our time and energy as the world shifts into high gear. Tempers get shorter, money worries seem more pressing, and the anxiety from a never-ending to do list can be overwhelming even to the most balanced person.
I wanted to share a few tips this week for keeping yourself spiritually balanced during the holiday season.
- Stay Organized Crazy as it sounds, when you’re making your list and checking it twice, you might want to pencil in time for your spiritual practice. As things get crazier, it’s a good idea to commit to your practice in writing. That may mean arriving at a holiday party an hour later so you can go on your daily run. It may mean scheduling holiday shopping at odd hours to avoid heavy traffic, or doing more online shopping to avoid being overwhelmed by crowds. Getting up 30 minutes early to meditate can transform your day. Remember to make your spiritual practice as important to you as all your other commitments this month.
- Watch Your Food/Drink OMG, the cakes and candies and beverages and good food that are all around during this season! Well, yeah, that candy looks fantastic, but your body doesn’t have different rules for December. Overindulging is fun, but the hangovers can be a bitch. If you are like me and tend to binge eat when stressed, take a few extra steps to keep binge-worthy food out of reach. In truth, it’s best to stick to your normal diet for the most part, with only slight forays into holiday treats. Your body and soul will thank you for your compassion.
- Be Creatively Generous If you are a baker, consider gifting a portion of your baked goods to others: the office staff at your apartment complex, the servers and kitchen crew at the little restaurant you love so much, etc. You can make up a bunch of goodie bags if you live in a city, and keep them in your car to share with the homeless. Include small bottles of dry shampoo, inexpensive blankets, gloves, socks, energy bars, anything you think might be helpful. Go “Elfing,” a holiday take on Glamour Bombing – to spread random acts of holiday cheer. Small gifts, poems, etc. left in secret can bring a lot of joy to your neighbors, as well as stoke the imagination of your awesome inner child.
- Learn the Word “Chillax” When you start stressing, remember the humble feline, who will ignore the expensive cat toy to play with the wrapping. Enjoy the process, and let go of the results. Be like the Buddha Cat and practice awareness, relaxation, and conservation of energy. Unless there’s a laser pointer. Then, chase it like crazy and have fun.
- Think “Elsa” In other words, “Let It Go.” The family dramas, the bills, the politics, the trials and tribulations are all going to be there when the holidays are over. Perhaps, as a spiritual practice, you may want to just put your problems on hold for the month. The pressure to spend time with family who may or not agree with you on fundamental issues can be transformed into an opportunity to practice extreme patience. Anger doesn’t have to be a horrible thing–it can be a portal for healing and reconciliation. Holding on to grudges and falling for the baiting tactics of relatives can put huge pressure on you. Letting it go? That’s an Oscar-winning solution.
So, here we are. Another holiday. Another opportunity to over-indulge, stress out, argue with family, and generally wear ourselves out.
Or…we could try something different.
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