Making It Easier to be Mindful During the Holidays

Keepin’ it real here, folks. Here’s our Hanukkah celebration from a couple of years ago – one kid grumpily lighting candles while the other one has a fit. Good times!

Today is Giving Tuesday, hot on the heels of Cyber Monday, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Melt on The Couch Because You’re So Damn Tired Sunday.

Folks, we are officially in the holiday season. Yikes.

By now you’ve probably already read various posts about how to survive the holidays and make them more meaningful without getting sucked into the chaos. You also probably came across ideas such as gifting experiences rather than objects, remembering the reason for the season (which, despite what my kids will tell you, is not acquiring every Lego Friends set ever made)  and adopting an attitude of gratitude. Cheesy rhymes aside, this is all solid advice.

There’s just one problem with all of it: It’s hard to do.

It’s hard to be intentional and chill and super mindful during the holidays for a few different reasons:

  • Very little about our popular culture supports you in doing anything other than buying all the crap all the time.
  • You may have a history of getting sucked into the busyness of decorating and cooking and shopping and trying to make everyone else happy, all of which may have been exacerbated once you became a parent and wanted to make the holiday “perfect” for your kids.
  • The holidays can be triggering because of loss, divorce, family tension, mental health concerns, financial stressors, or any number of other issues.
  • You feel compelled to continue with old holiday traditions or rituals, even when they don’t work for you anymore.
  • Your schedules and routines get disrupted by travel plans, guests, holiday events, and days off school.
  • Things get so busy that you forget to take care of your basic needs (sleep, exercise, quiet time, etc), while holding yourself to even higher standards than you usually do.

This isn’t going to be another post reminding you to be breathe and go slowly (although that is excellent advice). Rather, I want to explore what you can to make easier to be intentional in how you spend your time, money, and energy during the holidays, rather than getting caught up in old habits or reactive behaviors.

  • Take just a little time to figure out what really matters to you. There is no right answer here, other than what’s right for your family. Journaling can help, and if you have a parenting partner, discuss it with them. This is important because it’s hard to be mindful when you don’t know what you’re supposed to be mindful of.
  • Check social media less often. This is important during this time of year for a very specific reason: the more time you spend staring at carefully curated and filtered images of beautifully decorated homes and perfectly iced gingerbread cookies and super meaningful religious experience and warm, loving family time, the more inadequate you will feel. I can remind you twenty-seven ways to Christmas that those images either aren’t real or aren’t the whole story, but your brain won’t remember that when you’re actually staring at them. So give yourself a break.
  • Be flexible with your schedule, but honor the showstoppers. It’s ok for your daily routines to get a little wonky during the holidays because of your daughter’s Hanukkah performance at school or the annual family viewing of Elf. Your kids will likely eat more crap than they usually do, and that’s ok too. It’s part of what makes this time of year fun, so try not to stress about it. However, you would do well to honor the showstoppers in your family. I’m talking about the basic self-care that the each person in your family needs to keep functioning. I have one kid who has to get 11-12 hours of sleep each night or she gets sick. I have another one who gets super cranky if she doesn’t move her body. I get tired and irritable if I eat too much sugar. It’s different for everyone, and some folks are more flexible than others, but if you can figure out the showstoppers for each member of your family and do your best to honor them, the holiday will go more smoothly.
  • Give yourself permission to change course. It’s ok to switch it up, to let go of old traditions and start new ones. It’s ok to say no. It’s ok to set limits. No, really, it is, and not just because some random lady on the internet says so. This is your life, and these are your holidays. How do you want to live them? If you’re not sure, go back to that conversation about your values. It will help.
  • Sleep. Sleep. Sleep. Whether you like it or not, sleep is a showstopper for everyone. Even if you think you can get by with six hours a night, you can’t. You just can’t. Everything about the holidays will be easier and more fun when you’re not sleep deprived, so do whatever it takes to get more sleep. Keep in mind that both alcohol and caffeine can screw up your sleep, so take it easy on the booze and coffee if sleep is a challenge for you.
  • Connect with your peeps. Many of us spend time over the holidays with folks who we may love, but they aren’t our peeps. Our peeps are the friends we can be real and honest and hilarious with, and we know they’ll laugh at our crazy shit and share their insanities. You know you’re with your peeps because after you hang out with them, you feel better: more relaxed, less stressed, more empowered, less ashamed.
  • Go easy on yourself. This can be a hard time of year for so many reasons. It’s ok to feel sad or disappointed or angry or confused. Do the best you can with what you have, take care of yourself, and remember that whatever you’re dealing with, you’re not alone.

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