Tomorrow is December 1st – can you believe it!?
We’ve made it through the mad rush of cooking and preparing for Thanksgiving and the chaos that is Black Friday/Cyber Monday/Crazy Shopping Extravaganza. So now it’s time for everyone to take a chill pill and just mellow out, right?
Not so much.
For most people, the past few weeks have been just a small taste of the holiday pandemonium that is yet to come. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or another winter holiday, you probably have a to-do list that’s as long as Santa’s naughty or nice one!
There are presents to buy, cards to write, gifts to wrap, cookies to bake, lights to put up, trees to be decorated, and halls to be decked!
But there’s one thing that seems to be missing from everyone’s to-do list and wish list: presence.
Presence is the act of living in the present moment.
To be present means to be completely in the here and now. Not distracted by something on your phone or in your mind. Not walking around in a fog, blindly carrying out tasks. Being present, or mindful, means focusing wholly on what’s going on right now.
Why is it so hard to stay present during the holiday season?
Well, for starters, there’s so much to do! People are running on overdrive trying to get everything done in time. Because we all know that Christmas would be ruined if a single decoration or dessert was forgotten!!
Just kidding. That’s the thing – people put so much pressure on themselves to make everything perfect, when really, no one’s going to notice if there’s one less pie on the table or ornament on the tree.
And to top it all off, we humans are greatly affected by what people around us are doing. That’s why we have problems like peer pressure and the mob mentality. So when we go to the mall and everyone around us is buzzing about from store to store in a tizzy, we get sucked right into it and do the same, whether we entered the mall feeling stressed or not.
How can I stay more present this year?
Abandon the idea of perfection
The first step to staying present during the holiday season is to ditch the idea that things have to be a certain way in order to make the holiday a good one.
You have to accept the fact that whatever will be will be. It will either all get done or it won’t, and either way, it will all be ok! The food you make will be enough, the decorations you put up will be enough, and the presents you buy will be enough!
And those things aren’t what the holidays are really about anyways…
Like, literally. You don’t have to speed walk around the mall like you’re in the olympics or something. Moving too fast makes things infinitely more stressful than they have to be.
Slowing down will make every experience more enjoyable, whether it be shopping or cooking or wrapping gifts. Plus it decreases the possibility of undesirable consequences, like forgetting something or injuring yourself.
So slow things down, take a look around, stop and the smell the flowers (or the pine trees, as the case may be).
Pay attention to the little things
This goes hand in hand with slowing down. When you slow down, you start to take in your surroundings more, and this allows you to find joy in the simple things. And when you can find joy in the simple things, the big things seem to become much less stressful.
So when your favorite Christmas song comes on the radio, turn that shit up and JAM! When you see a house all decked out with lights, take a minute to appreciate how beautiful it looks. And when someone does something nice for you, no matter how small, thank them and take the time to appreciate it!
One of my favorite holiday traditions is grabbing peppermint hot chocolates from Starbucks with my mom and driving around town looking at all the Christmas lights. To me, this is the epitome of living in the present moment. We don’t have to worry about getting anything done. We have one goal and one goal only: to view all the beauty that this season has to offer.
Do something for someone else
The holiday season is supposed to be all about giving, but sometimes we get so wrapped up in everything we have to do to that we end up focusing solely on ourselves. Focusing on someone else’s needs is a surefire way to get out of your own head for a minute.
This could be something as simple as paying for someone else’s coffee or donating to the man dressed as Santa and ringing the little bell to raise money for the Salvation Army. These small gestures keep us present and remind us what the season is all about.
Another one of my favorite holiday traditions is taking ornaments from the giving tree at Church. Each ornament has the age and gender of a child in need, and then you go out and buy Christmas gifts for that child. Every year my mom and I pick a child, then go to Marshalls and get clothes, toys, books, etc. for them. Instead of worrying about what we have to do for our own Christmas celebration, we get to spend time picking out fun things for kiddos who may otherwise not get anything for Christmas!
Do something special for yourself
You all know that self-care is kinda my jam. I believe that when we take good care of ourselves, it enables us to take good care of others. So in order to be able to give back to our families, friends, and even strangers, we need to keep ourselves refreshed. Book yourself a massage, soak in a nice bubble bath, or treat yourself to a mani/pedi – do whatever will help you keep the stress down.
When you’re relaxed, you’re less likely to rush and more likely to stay in the present moment than if you’re stressed.
The Gift of Presence
Being present during the holiday season is the best gift you can give to your family and friends. Take some time this season to be with your loved ones without distraction or stress (meaning no cell phone usage, no worrying about your to-do list, and no stressing over stuff that’s supposed to be joyful!).
Play a board game. Watch a Christmas movie. Share a meal. Go for a drive to look at the lights. Chat over hot chocolate/coffee/tea. Make cookies together.
Do these things and be all there. People are much more likely to remember good times than good gifts.