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The media unabashedly portrays the holidays as a time of unbridled joy. In advertisements, the season is a picture-perfect, endless party of convivial eating, drinking and lavish gift giving. Everyone gets along. All problems disappear. In comparison to this market-driven, manufactured portrayal, our everyday lives seem boring and mundane at best, or troubled beyond repair at worst. In reality, the holiday season will alternately fill us with both joys and concerns, and with doses of calm and chaos.

This peace invariably centers on the health-enhancing connections of the relationship we have to ourselves and to others

Adopting realistic and compassionate expectations for others and ourselves will help us immeasurably to stay centered through it all. Unavoidably, we will no doubt feel that our to-do lists are too long and the hours in the day are too short. Our best hope for maintaining sanity lies in returning to the true meaning of the holidays: reconnecting with a sense of peace. This peace invariably centers on the health-enhancing connections of the relationship we have to ourselves and to others. By doing this, we stand a better chance of enjoying the holidays; not merely surviving them.

A Few Tips For Increasing The Peace This Holiday Season 

Make Time Each Morning to Savor the Stillness

My instinct is to bolt out of bed, diving headlong into the day. When I do this, I forfeit the quiet centering I want and need to calm me and nourish me before the world gets a hold of me. Through meditation, I claim and direct my energies before my schedule can lay claim to them. Bonus: Cap your quiet time by reading a brief, inspirational passage from your holy book of choice.

Schedule Time to Move

Running endless errands does not equal consciously chosen exercise time. A key to managing stress is to go directly to your calendar (do not pass go, do not collect $200) and strategically schedule a minimum of one half hour of exercise per day. Bonus: Exercising with a friend fosters both connection and fun!

Pamper Your Body

Eat mindfully and take periodic rest breaks to help to fuel and re-fuel energy levels. One’s emotional fuse will get longer as stress levels decrease. Bonus: At the end of your busy day, take a warm, luxurious bath (scented oils are a plus) an hour before you would like to go to bed. As the body temperature cools down, post bathing, sleep is induced. Ahhhh…..

Activate Your Senses

Take time to see the beauty of the holiday decorations. Enjoy listening to your favorite music CD to accompany your drive. Appreciate the aroma of your favorite tea or enjoy a scented candle as you work. Savor each spoonful of your go-to, yummy, holiday soup recipe. Let the hug from your loved one linger, don’t be the first to let go. Allow the arms around you to fill your awareness with warmth and appreciation. Bonus: Plan a cozy evening with family and friends to watch a favorite holiday movie. To keep it simple, ask everyone to bring a healthy snack to share. Savor the sweetness of hot mulled cider together.

Reverse Engineer Your Holiday Plans

Break down your social calendar into manageable pieces. When anticipating your various obligations/invitations, ask yourself if they fill you with delight or dread. Choose the delightful ones and take a friend along as a merciful buffer for the dreaded ones you cannot forego. Bonus: To conserve your valuable time and energy, cross off at least one item from your to-do list each day. Delegate it, or simply let it go. Yes, you can.

Express Thanks

In Positive Psychology research, gratitude correlates highly with greater happiness, improved health, and stronger relationships. Making a frequent effort to send an “I appreciate you” text, call or email will lift your spirits and the spirits of your recipients. Inducing a tender, bonding moment into an otherwise fractured world is not a small gift. Bonus: As you close your eyes to go to sleep, replay the acts of kindness and experiences of joy that you received that day: a welcome call from a friend, an unexpected compliment, the satisfying completion of a project, the cheery hello of a loved one returning home. Allow the gratitude to settle you into its encompassing validation.  The holidays can be a challenging time. They can also be an enriching time, provided we remain vigilant in seeking ways to increase the peace, inside and out, by safe guarding our health and well-being as we go. What are the most powerful tools that you use to ‘increase the peace’ for yourself and family during the hectic holiday season?

Contributed by

Mimi O' Connor
Group Support Specialist

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