The holiday season is meant to be filled with good company, delicious food, and time-out from the humdrum of life. It gives you a chance to reconnect with those you love. Yet, despite the excitement of what the happy holidays offer, the stressors can often seep in to override the joy of the season. The pandemic has the potential to add even further to your fear and uncertainty. So, is it any wonder that you might feel hesitant as you approach the merry month?
from Authors Michelle Burke and Lilamani de Silva
The holidays can increase the chances of loneliness or the possibility of heated conversations. It can also add to financial burdens or create obligations, like cooking for family and friends. Given these various stressors, maintaining joy requires that you learn to notice the small pleasures, or what we call joy gems: a hot shower, a sunny day, or a smile from a stranger. It's also important that you stay alert to how you are feeling and what triggers you so that you can soak up all the laughter and fun and make meaningful memories.
The following tested tips will help you maintain your joy throughout the holidays.
Notice how you are feeling. Are you caught up in the stress, frustration, and rush of getting everything done? Take a moment. When you are kind to yourself and give yourself grace rather than trying to make everything perfect, it releases stress and anxiety. It also allows for others to not to have to be perfect either. Do your best to lower your expectations of what the holidays need to be and go with the flow. Make it easy on yourself by asking for help. For example, figure out who can bring dessert or sides for your holiday party or Christmas dinner. It's okay to say no to a request if it feels difficult or doesn't bring you joy. And remember to breathe and be present; if necessary, take it minute by minute or hour by hour.
Start the holiday season right now by saying aloud what you are grateful for whether it's a cup of tea, walking the dog, or hearing your child laugh. Do this every day. It only takes a few minutes and yet has lasting results. Research shows that when you practice gratitude, it increases the happy hormones of dopamine and serotonin, improving your mood and lowering stress. Create a gratitude habit, and who knows, this will become a regular practice after the holidays are over. Isn't it true that life will inevitably throw you curve balls, especially during this busy season? Focus on what is good and right, rather than what is wrong or not working. Being grateful immediately makes you feel better.
When sharing a fun experience, it creates a memory that can last a lifetime and one you can relive over again. So, get out your camera or phone and take unexpected pictures or videos while playing, cooking, singing, or laughing. Have an ugly Christmas sweater contest. Bring out your favorite games or play charades or musical chairs to add some old-fashioned fun to the day. Decorate the tree together to get everyone involved. Go caroling with family or friends and bring cheer to your neighbors. Presents don't need to be expensive to be meaningful. Give the gift of an experience or make something handmade that is personal, like baking cookies or making jams, soaps, candles, or a photo album. Sharing time with loved ones creates those fun stories to be shared again later. The gift that keeps on giving!
Helping others makes you feel good inside and reminds you of what's positive in the world. Volunteering also creates a sense of social connection if you're feeling disconnected or lonely. In fact, research shows when you give back, you help yourself too by releasing those "feel-good" hormones. The act of doing a good deed is known as the "helpers high." When you find a way to give back to your community or a cause that is meaningful to you, you, as well as the person you are helping, will reap the benefits.
When you take time to pause and apply these tips, you will be on your way to enjoying the holiday season. These solutions can also help you get back on track when there are bumps along the road. Maintaining joy takes time, awareness, and practice. It's worth the effort though as the more you focus on the joy gems in your life, those "small pleasures," the more joy will appear in wonderful and unexpected ways.
Michelle Burke is a sought-after, highly respected, certified coach, facilitator, speaker, and founder and CEO of Energy Catalyst Group, a consulting and training company for well-being. She has worked with Stanford University, Disney, HP, Microsoft, and Sony Electronics, and has been featured in Business Week Magazine, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Wall Street Journal, and Star Ledger. Michelle is the author of The Valuable Office Professional and coauthor of 15 Minute Pause: A Radical Reboot for Busy People, and she partnered with Lilamani de Silva to create Personalogy™, a line of conversation games, and Teambuilder™, a card game for building collaboration. Michelle enjoys spending time with loved ones, fun adventures, cooking, reading, sports, and walking her dog Jadie. Her latest publication Joy Cards releases on March 8, 2022, from Beyond Words Publishing.
Lilamani de Silva's eclectic career has spanned different industries including media relations, TV production, and the creation of innovative products for home, work, and school. She has worked for London Zoo, BBC World, and has helped produce documentaries for Discovery, Animal Planet, and ITV. An avid self-taught painter, Lilamani has sold her artwork worldwide. Her many experiences have opened her mind to different cultures and perspectives, reflected in her artwork and other projects. In her spare time, Lilamani enjoys being active, traveling, reading, painting, and spending time with loved ones. Lilamani's latest publication Joy Cards releases on March 8, 2022, from Beyond Words Publishing.