‘Tis the season to be…..jolly?

By: Kate Ketchum, MA, LPCC

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! And also the most stressful…

overwhelming… busy… and chaotic. From end of the semester to do’s to traveling, to finals, to extracurricular activities, to family, etc. the holidays are not always what we expect or hope they will be. Although we imagine Hallmark movies and festive celebratory bliss, the reality is that this time of the year is filled with both joy and stress. If we are being honest, the holiday season has become less about “being” and more about “doing”. There is a tendency to “do” and “go” and falalala frantically to get everything done. But, as the Grinch says, “Maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more.” What if this “little bit more” actually required us to do less and be more present? (no, this does not mean buy more presents).

Being present takes a conscious effort and mindfulness. As Mother Teresa said, “Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.” Being happy in the moment is enough. When we realize that is enough, what we experience is more freedom, more enjoyment, more peace and a deeper connection with others. Children do this the best. Think about the last time you were around a child at Christmas…they are “all-in” wherever they are and whomever they are with. They are not focused on things to get done, regrets from the last year, or what is to come in the next year; no—they are immersed in the present moment and that’s all. Whether they are twirling in their new princess gown or building their Lego fortress, that’s their only concern and their only focus.

Teens, like adults, may have lost some of their ability to be fully present. So, how do we make the effort to be in the present moment? How do we find peace this holiday season? How do we embrace, and help our teens embrace, the inner child? How do we not let the stress of the season distract or entangle us?

Here are a few tips that may be helpful as we approach the holiday break:

1. Practice mindfulness. This can be as simple as thinking or saying to yourself, “be here now.” This small practice along with a deep inhale and a cathartic, full exhale can serve to ground us this holiday season and remind us to be present.

2. Invest in quality conversation and time with loved ones. Isn’t it ironic that while we are with people constantly over the holidays we are not really with them? We may be at a Christmas party or social gathering, watching a holiday movie, at an event, concert or party, but we are not engaged with them nor have we learned anything new about them other than maybe what new recipe they’re trying for their Christmas brunch. Try asking intentional questions and seeking to know how those around you are really doing. This does not have to be with everyone, but think about a person you would really like to converse with and make it a point to invest quality into your time with them this holiday. For example try asking, “How are you doing at college?” instead of “How’s college?” This subtle difference says, “I care about you” more than “I care about what you’re doing.” Just try it on and see how the conversation shifts.

3. Limit your to-do’s and social media. This is not to bash social media! Social media can be a wonderful form of connecting with others. And, like anything… everything in moderation! Over the holidays there are things to do, but make sure there is a balance in the doing and being. Allow yourself the grace of stopping, beingand enjoying where you are and whom you are with. Put the phone down, drink some eggnog (or hot cocoa) and take in with your eyes (not through a lens) the joy of the holidays—it’s there and it’s meant to be enjoyed.

4. Make it simple. Play games. Make Christmas cookies. Go on a walk. Think like a kid and play! So often we forget to play as adults, so this holiday season, get creative and allow yourself to play! Invite others to do the same and enjoy being present and playful together.

5. Don’t “over”- overspend, overwhelm, overdo. Take pressure off to impress or prove to others how great you are at the holidays. Rather than being voted “Most likely to give the most expensive gift” or “Most likely to throw the most extravagant Christmas shindig” try for “Most merry and bright”. Think about it… isn’t that who you actually want to be around during the holidays? And isn’t that what you want to model for your teen? People enjoying people who are enjoying… this Christmas season, try to be the person who encourages enjoyment rather than exhaustion.

If you or your teen are struggling with stress and overwhelm this holiday season, reach out to connect with us. We would love to help!

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