6 Practices to Mind Your Holiday Mindset

Christmas is not a Date is a State of Mind

It’s almost time!  We’re in the last week before Christmas, with the last mad rush of shopping and baking and parties upon us.

Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, it’s hard to escape the hectic nature of the season.  Besides the hustle and bustle of holiday activity, world events keep many of us feeling stressed, bewildered, and hopeless.  It’s safe to say the energy this year is different than in years past.

How do we cope?  Especially in the face of events over which we have no control? 

This has been a personal struggle of mine for years.  The holidays have often been less fun as they could be for me because of the stress they bring with them.  I usually want to simply curl up under the covers and hide all month.  However, my struggles a few years ago with adrenal fatigue and the debilitating symptoms that accompanied it forced me to seek more balance in all areas of my life:  diet, physical activity, sleep, time management, and especially mindset. It’s a daily challenge to find balance in all these areas (and admittedly, I still struggle), but I NEVER want to feel that bad again.

As I said, I’m not perfect, but over the years I’ve cultivated some practices that have helped me keep my energy more balanced and my stress low.  I share these tips below in hopes they’ll help you too, not only to get through the holidays, but to actually ENJOY them.

  • Choose not to stress.  Yes, this is easier said than done.  However, when you recognize that stress is based primarily on your perception, rather than the situation or the other person’s behavior, it helps you feel a whole lot less controlled by outside influences.  Breathe deep and find the peace that exists inside (I promise it’s in there).
  • Banish guilt. ‘Tis the season of overindulgence. Don’t beat yourself up over the past or things that can’t be changed.  We make mistake and poor judgements on a daily basis.  Life is too short to carry around that much guilt.  Do the best you can and do better tomorrow.  That’s all you can ever ask of yourself (or anyone else).
  • Learn to say no. It really is ok if you don’t go to every party or get a gift for every person you know.  We all have limits and boundaries and we need to honor those.  Saying no can be empowering.
  • Practice trust and forgiveness.When you allow yourself to let go of some of those feelings of anger, sadness, and disappointment that pile onto your heart from the daily injustices we all encounter, it can be incredibly powerful.  It doesn’t require letting anyone off the hook for doing something terrible.  Rather, choosing not to carry a few heavy things offers a way to lighten your energetic load and allows you to feel brighter & more joyful.
  • Reframe.  When you choose to see the positives aspects of all situations, you’ll soon you’ll start seeing the world differently without trying!   Can’t see the positive?  Create one!  Use your imagination to create a positive perception, even if it’s only in your own mind.  For example:  “I didn’t get invited to the party.  I’m mad and disappointed.”  Consider instead, “I didn’t get invited to the party.  I’m sure they just wanted a small guest list.  They’re my friends and I know they care about me. ”  Work with this process until it becomes natural.
  • Have faith.Tap into your personal beliefs, whatever they are.  Trust that everything is right, in this moment, just as it is.

Do you have any tips or practices that help you through your holidays or other stressful times? Reply to this email or head over to my Facebook group and join the conversation!

Love and light,
Ashley

6 Ways to Relish in Rituals During the Holidays

Santa Claus opening a red Christmas present

This week, let’s look at ways that rituals can help us maintain peace and minimize stress during the holidays.  As humans, we naturally gravitate toward ritual, ceremony, customs, traditions and other formal ways to express our commitment to what is important to us.  We recite wedding vows, shake hands when we meet someone, and give gifts at Christmas.  We follow daily rituals, such as practicing personal hygiene, getting dressed, preparing ourselves (and perhaps our children for the day), making dinner in the evening, and getting ready for bed.

Rituals are a natural part of our lives, whether we realize it or not.  They give us comfort and a sense of control.  They help us feel connected to what’s going on around us and to each other.   They create a sense of commitment to our shared history.  Rituals can help us get through the holidays as well.

When we connect mindfully to the rituals we practice and cherish, we can use those rituals to keep us grounded and connected not only to others, but to ourselves during times of stress.  When we feel chaotic and overwhelmed, becoming grounded helps us regain peace.  The repetitive practice of a beloved ritual can be not only comforting, but also grounding and healing.

Often we overlook rituals as unnecessary wastes of time.  So many times when my kids were younger I got exhausted with the bedtime ritual and wish it would be over sooner.  I could think of a dozen other things being neglected by the time I spent lying in bed until a restless child settled down.  But truthfully, I enjoyed it more often than not.  Those moments in the dark and quiet forced me to relax and be in the now.  And sometimes they were downright magical.   Now, at ages 12 and 14, the bedtime routine belongs to them.  I get to tuck them in, but they no longer require the books and snuggling.  All that time I have now for me is in exchange for my time with them.  What I wouldn’t give some nights to have those early rituals back!

Though rituals change with development, growth, and time, the adherence to ritual still brings us stability and peace.  Below are six ideas for simple rituals you can incorporate into your holiday season.  You don’t have to make it difficult.  Simply pick what speaks to you and allow yourself to being truly and deeply in the moment.  No rushing, no robotic steps to check it off the list.  Relish in the time they take and the value you receive from the process.  Allow them to be magical.

  • Volunteer.  Donate time to a soup kitchen, do some virtual work.  Gain perspective on your stress from serving others.
  • Do some baking.  Get out the cookie cutters & rolling pin & do some baking.  The end result is worth it!  Enjoy your favorite recipes.  Don’t skimp on your favorites, tweak them with healthy updates (or not) & indulge in the tastes of the season!
  • Enjoy some holiday sightseeing.  Look at the lights & decorations through the eyes of a child, with wonderment & excitement!
  • Get creative.  A new project may seem daunting, but tapping into your creative outlet can actually reduce stress & increase joy.  Make a few gifts, or design your own cards.  Maybe paint a room in your house.  Whatever stirs your creative juices!
  • Sing holiday songs.  Immerse yourself in the sounds of the season & be sure to sing along.  Let the music soothe away your stress (great voice not required)!
  • Journal.  Write down your thoughts, experiences, creative musings.  Release it onto paper then burn it if you need to!

What rituals do you enjoy this time of year?  Do you see them as burdens, additional tasks on the to-do list?  Or do you see them as joyful, soothing ways to stay connected to yourself and the meaning of the season?  Head over to my Facebook group and join the conversation!

And remember in these last weeks before Christmas to take time to deeply experience & enjoy whatever holiday rituals & traditions are meaningful to you.

Love light,
Ashley

8 Tips to Make YOU a Priority this Holiday Season

It’s that time of year again.  The holidays.  It’s one of my favorite times of year, yet it also can bring with it a great deal of stress.

I love the decorations and music, time off with my children, and visiting family. I love the sights and sounds that accompany Christmas, and especially the traditions.  We pick out a live tree, the kids trim the house in a nauseating array of snowmen, glass figurines, poinsettias, and lights.  We bake sugar cookies and the kids take great pride in creatively decorating each individual one with homemade icing and sprinkles.

At the same time, I have so much internal pressure to accomplish my to-do list that I tend to overbook myself, both physically and energetically.  I stress about finding the most perfect, thoughtful present for each person.  I spread myself too thin with arbitrary activities and deadlines.  I try to fit everything into a short span of time, while neglecting my self-care for fear of neglecting something else that’s just as important.  In no time, I feel overwhelmed, irritable, and exhausted. I start canceling plans, shuffling commitments around, and feeling like a human game of Tetris.

Do you do that too?  Or do you have holiday stress conquered?  Let’s share our best tips and tools for staying grounded and peaceful this holiday season!

This week, our focus is on how to make ourselves a priority in spite of all we have to accomplish.  Below are eight tips to remind you to take care of your whole self:  body, mind, and spirit!

  • Take time for you.  Spend 5 minutes (or more) just for you every day –you deserve it!
  • Breathe. When you feel stressed, take a few deep breaths. This too shall pass.
  • Get enough sleep. Lack of sleep causes stress & irritability. Make it a priority to get at least 6-7 hours of sleep every night (7-8 is even better!).   Take power naps when you can. Find time for a 15-minute snooze, even if you have to forfeit something else. Your body & mind will thank you!
  • Watch your sugar intake. Too much sugar can make stress worse. For a sweet fix, grab some fruit instead! Eat your greens! Counter the rich holiday foods with healthy, nourishing green vegetables. A nourished body is less stressed!
  • Don’t over commit. There are so many opportunities & expectations. Prioritize your activities against your values—what really means the most to you—and stick to it.
  • Exercise. Don’t use the busyness of the holidays as an excuse not to work in some movement. Just 15 minutes a day for a brisk walk, yoga, or even stretching will help reduce any stress you’re feeling!
  • Be present. Don’t worry about the future or the past. Simply show up for the people around you, and especially for yourself.   It will all get done, or it won’t and then it will be in the past and you’ll be on to something new anyway.
  • Mind your energy.   When we get frazzled, it’s likely because energy is going out in all directions and not coming back in to us.  Sit quietly, visualizing yourself surrounded by white, healing light, and allow yourself to simply receive.

What tips do you have to share that keep your stress levels in check over the holidays?  What one item from this list will you commit to do for yourself to ensure more peaceful holidays this year?

Love light,
Ashley