At this time of year, party invitations, family reunions, office get-togethers and school plays can jam up our diaries. So we how do we stay more present this Christmas season? It’s all too easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season and end up feeling anything but merry and bright on Christmas Day. Sure, perfectly wrapped gifts, five-course meals and a beautifully decorated tree are wonderful, but it turns out that the people we love value our presence more than anything else.
Rather than getting caught up in working for the season this year, let this time serve you. Continue reading for some ideas on how to choose less stress and more presence this holiday season.
Remember the reason
In all the chaos of Christmas I sometimes lose sight of what it’s all about. God, becoming flesh and coming to earth as Immanual. Making time each day to remember helps me keep all the rest of Christmas in perspective.
The virgin will conceive and give birth to a Son, and they will call Him Immanuel.
Gratitude brings us closer to our surroundings. Take a deep breath and pay attention to your surroundings, including the sights, scent, and sounds. What catches your attention? What makes you happy at the moment? There is always something to be grateful for. Begin by waking up every morning and thinking of one thing you’re grateful for before getting out of bed.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances.
Remember that saying yes to one thing always means saying no to something or someone else. That could be coloring with your kids, an unhurried conversation with a friend or spending time thinking about the true meaning of Christmas. You will not be able to do everything.
Your energy and time are precious, so take a few moments to write down what your priorities are this season. If you don’t have time to bake cookies for your office Christmas party, it’s not the end of the world if you buy something ready-made! And be firm with yourself when you feel the urge to fudge your boundaries.
Use all of our senses
You may already know that your sense of smell is closely related to memory. As a result, conjuring up holiday magic may be as simple as lighting a pine-scented candle. To fully immerse yourself in the Christmas spirit, involve all of your senses in festive traditions.
Smell: While a freshly roasted turkey or a gingerbread house will immediately trigger your sense of smell, you can also use evergreen sprigs, mulled juice or a peppermint mocha to make it smell like Christmas.
Touch: As a child, you may have resented your aunt’s desire to kiss your cheek whenever she saw you. As an adult, you should understand the value of human connection. Christmas is a time to show others how much you care about them. Make eye contact with your neighbor and give the mailman a friendly wave.
Taste: It’s not difficult to find foods and drinks that taste like the holidays. The real challenge is knowing when to stop! While using your sense of taste is a great way to get those warm and fuzzy holiday feelings, over-indulging on unhealthy foods can be a major source of stress and guilt.
Hearing: When it comes to enjoying the holidays, tradition is extremely important. So make time for a few of your favorite holiday songs. This is the time of year to blast our Michael Buble and Mariah Carey without a care in the world!
Take a social media break
Documenting your child’s expression as they open their gifts, that perfectly decorated gingerbread house and your uncle’s (slightly off-key) rendition of Jingle Bells are worth remembering and sharing. However, we’re often sucked into the online social world and pulled out of the moment. So, instead of hitting share this season, choose to enjoy a few moments just to be present for you and those with you. Or, for the best of both worlds, take the shot but save and post it later when you have time to step away.
Make contact with someone
We, unsurprisingly, find ourselves rushing from place to place during this season, and one of the simplest ways to check yourself is to schedule a time to connect with someone in your life. So slow down, listen actively and be present for quality conversation. You can carve out an hour for coffee with a friend, call your sibling or plan a just-the-two-of-you date with your significant other.
Make intentional margin a part of your day
It’s so easy to overcommit during Christmas. This can mean you’re paying half your attention to the task or event at hand while mentally moving ahead to what’s next on the agenda.
Instead, schedule a few minutes of unstructured time into your day, whether it’s ten minutes or an hour. You can use that time to catch up on emails, deep breathe, finalize your meal plan or sneak away for a refreshing walk around the neighborhood. Plus, having some extra time in your schedule allows you to avoid the holiday traffic!
Grounding technique 54321
The excellent Kathryn Purcell taught me the 54321 Technique. It is frequently used to combat anxiety but can also help if you feel overwhelmed or disconnected. In addition, this technique of noticing how your senses interact with what is going on around you can help you stay present.
Play this game out loud or in your head the next time you’re doing something holiday-related (shopping, cooking, wrapping presents, etc.)
Five: Make a list of five things you can see (e.g. a pine tree, snow, busy people)
Four: Make a list of four things you can feel (e.g. heat from the stove, your warm socks)
Three: Make a list of three things you can hear (e.g. a carol playing the background, a baby crying)
Two: Make a list of two things you can smell (e.g. perfume from the woman in line in front of you, warm cookies)
One: Describe one positive trait about yourself (e.g. I’m great at remaining patient while waiting in line or I notice when someone is not feeling good).
I hope this little guide will help you learn how to be more present this Christmas season.