There’s no denying that the holidays can be stressful, taking away our peace of mind. Whether it’s family gatherings, shopping for gifts, or planning parties, there are plenty of things to worry about. This article covers the ways that you can find peace of mind during this busy holiday season.
This is the time of the year when I reflect upon my own childhood memories; memories filled with awe and wonder as the child-me viewed the world as a magical place. Unfortunately, this time of the year is also one of increased holiday season stress due to all the activities we feel we need to attend and accomplish. Our wish to make this time of the year “perfect” increases our expectations, many of them unreasonable, causing us to stress and lose peace of mind in our planning efforts.
Childhood Idyllic Perfection
As a child, I fondly recall watching the animated Christmas specials and reading all the Christmas books I could find. Those stories not only have positive endings, but most of them also depict perfection. In these stories families gather and get along with each other, the house is majestically decorated, the dining room table is set to rival the fanciest of restaurants. My favorite American painter, Norman Rockwell, painted scenes of American life; some showing pain and suffering, others idyllic life scenes. Rockwell’s holiday paintings are among my favorite as they depict a fictional world I wish existed, although knowing that a perfect world will never exist.
This longing of mine for an idyllic perfection of the holiday season, unlike the desire and longing of many other people, is part of the cause of our holiday season stress and lack of peace of mind. This view of a perfect holiday season is formed when we tend to focus our attention on the memories of the past, coupled with fictional idealisms of the holiday, producing a desire to re-create what never was, nor most likely ever will be. The holidays, as we perceived them in childhood, cannot now be reproduced through our adult perceptions, nor can we expect to create an experience depicted in the controlled environments of scripts, actors, and a stage.
The issue many of us encounter during the holiday season is one of the unrealistic expectations which creates the holiday season stress that takes away our peace. Trying to re-create a “perfection” that actually never existed means that we will fall short in our attempts. Not achieving our expectations is self interpreted as failure.
Find Peace of Mind Living In The Moment
We have control over our feelings only as experienced in the current moment. We need not lose the experience of what is happening at the moment by living in either the past or the future. Experience the present moment for what it is. As I recall my childhood memories of the holidays, I try to keep them focused in light of my experience of the current moment.
Don’t let an expectation of perfection cloud the beauty and the feelings of the moment. Enjoy the recollection of your memories without doing anything. Instead, live the moment without expectation and you will find that the holiday season stress for perfection will fade.
Tips To Find Peace Of Mind
During this holiday season, here are the steps I encourage you to work on to keep yourself as stress-free as possible:
· Refocus your expectations: Take time to reflect on your expectations, considering what is realistic and what is not realistic. For example, we may want a house decorated as we’ve seen in advertisements, but, no matter how hard we try it never looks as it does in the pictures. If you reframe your expectation and perception, you would recognize that you haven’t failed, actually, you created something unique, something that reflects you, not an ad.
· Change your perception: Changing the way we perceive ourselves will change our perception of our world. Therefore, changing our view of this time of the year will change our expectations and so reduce our stress. For example, if you are hosting family, and the reality is that your uncle always makes a fool of himself at these family gatherings, keep your perspective focused on that reality, not on how you wish he would act. Plan for what you can in expectation of your uncle’s shenanigans, for when your uncle acts as he always acts, don’t let it stress you; he is only doing as expected of him to do (at least he’s consistent).
· Learn from your past: It’s important to spend time reflecting on our past, honoring the memories for what they are, and sharing them with current family and friends. Our past has shaped who we are today. Use the lessons of the past to create a present moment of peace of mind. The purpose of the past is not to be recreated in the present, but to be incorporated with the present. Take what was positive for you in the past and use that in the present. What wasn’t positive for you in the past, modify it now in the present for it to be positive. Our past was not perfect; don’t expect the present to be perfect either.
· Simplify your life: Easier said than done, I know. But if you think about it, our material goods, although useful, can be a source of our stress when our focus emphasizes “things”. Living simply means keeping a proper focus, or perspective, on what is truly important in our life. Keep your expectations and perceptions rooted in who you are, not on who you think you should be.
During this holiday season, take the time to enjoy the wonders, joy, and magic of the season. Keep your perspective and expectations reasonable to reduce your holiday stress. Most importantly, focus on what is truly important to you!