As much as the Holiday Season brings joy and great delight to many of us, others among us fall victim to the increasing pressures of spending money we don’t have, spending time with people we don’t want to be with, and eating and drinking much more than our body welcomes or can tolerate. We have become mindless – and sometimes reckless – in spending personal and financial effort and resources on rituals that have become meaningless for us. Yet, like hamsters on a wheel, we just don’t know how to get off!
I can think of no other time of year that activates a collective cultural coma like this one. It is as if the bells chime (or the starting gun fires!) and we’re off!… diving head first into the frenzy that begins at a fast pace and culminates in a crescendo of exhaustion, frustration and a sense of ‘Oh my gawd…I’ve done it again! How am I going to pay for all this?????”
This year, before you’ve been sucked too far into the ever-increasingly spinning vortex of a holiday gone bad, consider an alternative…another way to move through this busy time of year, so that it can actually be one that leaves you feeling satisfied instead of stuffed, gratified instead of gouged…and won’t cost you a dime!
Trust your body!
It’s the one thing you can be sure will never lie to you.
Notice when you’re hungry and stop…take the time to sit quietly and have a light snack or a thick, juicy steak. It’s not what you eat, it’s that you honor the message that fills your body.
Notice when you’re tired and stop…take time to rest with a short nap or a cup of tea – even if it’s only for 10 minutes.
Notice when you’ve had enough…talking, spending, doing, doing, doing!…and allow yourself to just ‘be’. Take a moment to ponder what you’re doing, how you’re doing it and the degree to which it leaves you feeling good about yourself.
Listen to the messages your body is giving you and pay attention! Treat your body well and it will do the same for you.
Begin to notice when you’re holding your breath. Most of us hold our breath much of the time. Hard to believe and yet, we have become a culture that ‘manages’ what our bodies reveal to others by managing the breath that moves through it.
Begin to notice whether you hold your breath on the exhale (which will cause your body to feel heavy and slow you down) or on the inhale (which will cause your body to feel light and agitated, and will spur you on to do one more thing!).
What will actually stabilize your body and relieve tension and/or stress is to take long, slow, deep rhythmic breaths while letting your belly soften, your shoulders drop and the sound of your own breathing escape from your lips. Amazing, isn’t it, how we’ve even taught ourselves not to make a sound when we breathe!
Tell the truth of your experience!
I can’t think of any other time of year when so many do so much from a sense of obligation instead of from great desire. We are driven by a sense of others’ expectations; by the desire to be seen to be doing the ‘right’ thing; by rituals and habits that may once have held meaning but, as we’ve grown and changed, have become empty and irrelevant in our lives.
This is a time when the things we say are often untrue and the ones we don’t are held in check so as not to damage a fragile truce with our past. Telling the simple truth of our experience can change our lives and enhance wellbeing far beyond diet, exercise and the discipline that goes with it. When we redirect our efforts from pressing down the truth to allowing ourselves to claim that truth, our world expands. It may just be that this year, we choose NOT to go home.
Telling that truth can come in many ways: a quiet conversation with someone we trust; a journal entry on paper or screen that lets the flow of that truth be honored; a declaration out loud to another human being, through telephone or face-to-face. The most important aspect is to honor what’s there in a way that keeps us feeling safe, respected and respectful of our needs and those of others. Contrary to what afternoon television may suggest, everything does not have to come with drama!
Stay in the tough conversation!
The toughest conversation we’ll ever have is the one with ourselves. Once we become willing to allow ourselves to know the truth of our experience; and we become willing to claim inside of ourselves what we want and what we don’t want, our bodies become the territory from which we play out our conversations with others.
You can’t tell someone else the truth before you can tell yourself the truth. And this may be the year that you grow up and, as the adult you are, take charge of carving out your own path for the Holiday Season.
Be willing to stand alone!
How many fights could have been avoided; how many debts prevented; how many headaches, hangovers and family dramas eliminated had we just been willing to say NO! When we do things that we don’t want to do, we become less of who we are. Our acts of self-betrayal add up…and at this time of year, they do so fast and furiously!
When we are willing to breathe, tell the truth of our own experience and stay in the tough conversations, we sometimes find ourselves standing alone. However, what I’ve discovered is that we also soon attract to ourselves those who have the desire to share that new experience of ourselves that we’re revealing. Far too often, in our family systems, our work systems and our lives, it just takes someone willing to go first. Maybe in your systems, it’s you!
Shape or be shaped by your world!
Our choices determine our outcomes. If we don’t make different choices, we’re destined to live the life we’ve got instead of the one we want.
We shape our unique, personal experience of our world by what we say ‘yes’ to and what we say ‘no’ to. This Holiday Season, become willing to shape your world in a way that genuinely and authentically brings you joy. Make the choices that allow you to be honest and present to the world you’re creating, recognizing that you’re creating it all! When we do things because we think we have to, our world is shaped for us by external expectations and pre-conceived outcomes. It’s not good/bad, right/wrong…it’s just the way it works.
Let this Holiday Season be the one that awakens you and the people you love to a new way of sharing your lives together! Take a deep breath and pause before you just keep doing what you’ve always done and discover that you are still loved, still wanted and – best of all – still yourself!