From Holiday Panic to Holiday Zen

You’re driving into work with your mind on the proposal that’s neatly tucked away in your bag; the one you stayed up half the night preparing, the one that could have benefited from even just ten more minutes of fine-tuning, had you an ounce more energy.  The snow is fiercely blowing, your eyes are red from exhaustion, and the unexpected traffic is causing you to glare resentfully at a clock that is advancing faster than usual. You switch on the radio for some solace and that’s when you hear the most horrifying sound: “Have a holly jolly Christmas; it’s the best time of the year!”


But…but it can’t be, because you just hosted Thanksgiving dinner! You’re sure of it because the memory of half your guests requesting a gluten-free, dairy-free, meatless turkey that resulted in much panic and recipe experimentation, is still so fresh in your mind. Also echoing, is the fact that, since then, you took the children trick-or-treating, did the winter tire change thing, have been steadily clearing snow from your windshield, and have been diligently working toward a year-end report at the office. Instantly, your palms are clammy and your mind spins as you try to account for the time lost. As it turns out, there is nothing holly or jolly about this realization and you turn off the radio, choosing to experience this moment of reckoning in silence.


Can you relate? If so, you are one of countless individuals who, annually, feel caught off guard by the holiday season. A time that promises joy in the form of kindness, togetherness, laughter, and all things chocolate, can often bring on undue stress. For, it is true, gifts must be purchased, meals must be prepared, and journeys must be voyaged. You begin to wonder if the holidays have always been this challenging and though you cannot say for sure, you’re pretty sure that a glazed ham, a Barbie doll, and a pair of footed pajamas used to be enough. Oh, and guests never used to request a gluten-free, dairy-free, meatless turkey. And your mom, well, she was here. She was the one who handled the cooking and she also expertly occupied your crazy uncle Ray who spends each gathering covertly spilling copious amounts of spiked eggnog into his cup.


Queue the anxiety attack in 3…2…1…


WAIT! Do not despair! I’m here to tell you that there is hope for you to enjoy the holiday season after all. Here are two practical tips that will get you off to a healthy start:


1) Restore Balance: First off, to enjoy yourself you must regain a balance that has been lost. The bulk of the stress stems from being overworked in the days and weeks leading up to the holidays only to enter into a supposed “break” that is filled with more work. See, lining up in stores, spending countless hours shopping online, wrapping gifts, cleaning the neglected corners and crevices of your home, and hosting into the late hours of the night, are all seemingly innocuous activities (activities that are intended as fun) but how is your brain processing it all?

You might be surprised to learn that our bodies will often have a visceral reaction to such outwardly harmless events in the same way that it does to something that is physically jarring. So stave off the release of adrenaline, cortisol and other icky stress hormones by understanding what you truly need in this time, and gifting yourself that thing, in the moment, without guilt! Feed your mind, body and spirit the elements they crave. Decide whether tonight you need rest, or socialization, whether you could use more self-restraint, or more self-indulgence. Do away with what you have been told you should want and discover what it is you need

How can you know what your body is craving, you ask? Thoughtful mediation will enable you to understand what your mind, body and spirit are asking of you. That doesn’t mean that you need to find a mountain top, a guru, or spend ample time with your legs uncomfortably crossed.  Three deep breaths, with your eyes closed (not while driving!), and then a calm review of what’s really important to you is all it takes. The things that are concerning you will surface and you will gain clarity on how to best dismantle your barriers. Once you are more in tune with your needs you will be better equipped to achieve balance. Remember the no-guilt policy!


2) Ground Yourself:  Perhaps venturing into the outdoors, kicking off your shoes, and planting your feet on the ground in order for your chakras to be at one with the earth is not a possibility where you are because, well, there is nothing calming about frostbite and hypothermia. Nevertheless, a sense of rootedness and connectedness to the abundance of the universe can be achieved by stripping away all of the literal and figurative bells and whistles that are ubiquitous at this time of year and harnessing only the things that are truly important. 

For example, you might be missing a loved one; so hold dear their memory, call them to mind as often as your heart yearns for them, and if possible, reach out to them and let them know that they are in your thoughts, and what they mean to you.

Another way to find calm is to put distance between yourself and the superficial by prioritizing your to-do list. Be gentle with yourself and allow the universe to carry you forward with time, without all the shoulds and have-tos. Consider it a major win if you have had time to play with your children, read a book, or catch up with that old friend of yours, but now because of all that, your cupboards haven’t been dusted and the tub tiles are still in need of a good scouring. Never surrender to the inconsequential!

You can also eliminate a lot of stress by opting for a secret Santa gift model, replacing gift-giving with a book exchange, or, dare I say it, skip the presents altogether and focus instead on presence. Unplugging from the virtual world and stepping into the fresh outdoors is another simple (yet perfect) example of how you can withdraw from the material, transcend the physical and feel whole again.

A wish of health in the form of balance and groundedness to you and yours this holiday season!


When you feel ready to deepen your practice of being in service of yourself and others, then we invite you to join us in the upcoming Conscious Leadership Experience, a leadership skills course in Ottawa/Gatineau, Canada that will positively change how you lead. We guarantee it!