holiday stressI recently ran into a friend at the grocery store and started discussing how busy we are.  We’re both are up to our eyeballs preparing for the holidays, traveling, attending parties and meeting work deadlines.  She was frustrated because she had gotten into spat with her husband about the holiday “to do” list and confessed, “I just want to holidays to be over so we can enjoy our life again.”  My heart sank as I sensed her stress, but it was an honest confession, which I suspect many of us can relate.

The season is a time when we’re supposed to feel festive, loving and grateful, but instead, we experience moments of stress, overwhelm, exhaustion and even sadness. It’s natural to want to make the stress or overwhelm to simply “go away” just like my friend, but every time we try to make something go away, it tends to persist.  So how do we handle the stress of the season in a way that’s both realistic and satisfying?  The answer (or at least one of them) is to stay present in the moment.  It may not fix everything, but it’s a very reliable tool that I know will help.

This last weekend I got caught up in the length of my holiday to-do list and I used presence to help me move through it. We had a lot of “to do’s” on the list and on top of that, for part of the weekend I was solo-parenting.   My kids and I rushed into the car and I forgot something inside.  That was my first hint I wasn’t present.  As I came back to the car, before I turned on the engine, I simply closed my eyes and took a breath.  I noticed how tense my lower back was and that my breath was pretty shallow, so I took another moment to just notice my feelings and body sensations and almost instantly, I felt more grounded.

Then, after attending a holiday event, we went to the mall to get Santa pictures.  The mall was really crowded and as we waited in line, I was thinking about work and became impatient with my youngest son when he asked me a question.  In that moment I looked at his face and said, “I’m sorry honey, I wasn’t paying attention.  What did you say?”  As he spoke, I again took a few breaths and focused on his words.  As I listened, I realized I was missing an opportunity to share a special moment with my boys.  When I really brought my attention to the moment, I couldn’t help but feel immense love for my kids and that’s how quickly I was able to become present…for them and myself.  The best part was in that one moment I felt at peace and deeply grateful.  In that moment the stress of the holiday season gave way to the joy of the season. 

When you are feeling the stress of the holidays, the best gift you can give yourself and others is to simply be present in the moment. Allow yourself to notice what your body, mind and gut are telling you.  Give others your full attention so they too can feel seen and heard. No matter how hard or frustrating the situation is, believe it or not, the practice of being present always helps you and those around you move through it with more efficiency and ease.  What a gift!

Experiment:

The next time you notice you’re feeling overwhelmed, focus on these presence-building fundamentals to bring yourself back into presence:

  • Take a breath or better yet, take three!  In those moments of breathing, really bring your attention to being right there in the moment.
  • Move your body.  Take a walk, exercise or simply stretch.  When you’re moving, try to notice as much as you can about the experience.  What muscles are moving, what the air feels like or even your heart pumping.
  • Feel Gratitude.  In the moment, notice how much you have.  Think about your loved ones, the abundance in your life or your health.

Here’s to a wonderful holiday season and to a wonderful New Year!