The holiday season is upon us. It is a time of family, friends, laughter and presents - a magical time. Or is it? For so many of us, the magic of the holidays is in a constant battle with the stress that goes along with them. The “Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” can also be the most stress-filled. And let’s face it; your plate was already full before the holiday season arrived. So when you add all the holiday activities and preparations to your calendar it can feel impossible to manage. Suddenly, our hope for a holiday filled with magic can feel more like a holiday filled with headaches. So how do we successfully manage stress in a season that can seem so overwhelming? By mindfully managing our expectations, our approach to tasks and how we interact with the people we’ll interact with throughout the holiday season.
In my work as a Life Coach and Energy Worker, stress is a topic that I deal with on a daily basis. Stress is part of life, but that does not mean it has to rule our life. The more quickly we can recognize it and accept it, the more easily we can transform it and turn it into something that works for us instead of against us. A huge factor in what causes stress is what I call “perfect pictures” - the ideal we create in our minds about the way things should go. We feel obligated to make life look like the perfect family experiences in the holiday commercials. But, that commercial itself had a team of writers and producers working on it. They had several chances at making it perfect. Striving for the life we see in commercials is setting ourselves up for expectations of a life that works in the first take. The perfect vignettes we see in commercials do not get produced in one take so we shouldn’t expect life to go that smoothly either. Instead of focusing on the outcome, the achievement, a better use of our energy is to focus on the present moment. Often, when we need things to be perfect it is related to the need for approval. We want others to accept us, to feel good about us and approve of us. Well, no one nor no life is perfect and spending time trying to achieve perfection is spending time trying to achieve a goal that is just not possible. We need to roll with the challenges and accept and manage missteps. After all, part of living and learning is messing up. If we can allow life to be a bit messy, we can relieve some stress and maybe even find something interesting about life in the process. Some of life’s greatest inspirations come from life’s biggest gaffes. Instead of focusing on being perfect, I advise my clients to focus on being present in the moment. Somehow, the rest will take care of itself.
Being present in the moment will not only relieve the pressure of an expectation of perfection, it will enable you to hold onto the positive themes that the season is really meant to be about - gratitude, reflection, giving, and enriching relationships - even when we run the risk of being overwhelmed by our calendars and to do lists. When you strive to be present it is about being where you are, right here and right now. Joy can only be found in the present moment. When you are wrapping a present, how often are you really focusing on the gift? Most of the time we focus on what we need to do after we are done wrapping. Our life becomes hostage to our tasks. So take time to allow your mind to slow down. Take your life back by enjoying your tasks. When you get a gift for someone, think of how the person will appreciate the gesture and not whether or not it is the perfect gift.
In the midst of all the people we will need to interact with, cook or shop for during the holidays, we may find ourselves longing for solitude. But what would the holidays be without some celebration with others? Sure, the more people and events there are the more tasks and stress you have to manage, but you can turn this stress around as well. During the holidays we often say “yes” to things we really do not want to do or should not add to our plate. We often do things because we feel we “have” to do them. Then, we find ourselves angry or unhappy when we are doing them. This happens often with family. We get conflicted because our heart wants one thing but our head wants something else. Usually there is guilt involved in these decisions. I would never tell a client what to do or not to do, but I would suggest considering two things. The first was taught to me by one of my teachers. He said, “No is a complete sentence. You do not owe anyone an explanation of your decisions.” This can be a very dramatic stance to take with certain family members, but just like we cannot depend upon others to make us happy, we cannot live our lives to make others happy. The second thing is, you are not doing anyone favors by fulfilling obligations and then being angry or cranky about them. Energy expands. Energy is contagious. Whenever you are upset you are literally polluting the world with negative energy. If you are going to say “yes” to something that you really do not want to do, find a way to feel good about that decision. Find a thought that helps you align with happiness about your decision. You can always find a thought that can make you feel better about a situation. Once you find that thought, you can always find an even better thought than that. Keep searching for thoughts that feel better and eventually you will find that you feel better.
Although the holidays can be stressful, there are always things that you can do to move into a better frame of mind. Letting go of “perfect pictures,” focusing on the joy of the moment and finding a way to feel good about your choices are just some of the things you can do take make the holiday season less stressful, and more magical.
The HOW TO with Kim Mazzella is a weekly column featuring Kim's expert life coaching tips for the modern woman navigating entrepreneurship, motherhood, work-life balance, and more!
ABOUT KIM MAZZELLA:
Kim Mazzella, founder of the Life Guidance Center, is a Healer, Teacher, Spiritual Coach and Writer. Her work is based in the belief that our natural state is health and wholeness. Her job is to help those she works with remove the blocks that they have placed in the way of the free flow of energy and healing. She integrates the knowledge from her study of A Course in Miracles and universal laws with her study of massage and understanding of the body’s energy system to create a holistic approach to healing and change.