Giving is better than receiving because it gives you a break—from relentless self-criticism, from self-absorption—and shifts your focus elsewhere. With love, there’s always a risk—of vulnerability, hurt, disappointment. But you can’t receive what you don’t offer. This season, make it a practice to give without fear, without condition or suspicion. Expect the best and you’ll never regret it.
Nothing puts your holiday spirit on ice like overwhelm, disappointment and resentment—and these things have a way of seeping in this time of year. It’s easy to blame what’s out there—but your response to the world around you is what counts. Get ahead of the curve by shifting your focus to what is working, what you do love and care about. This allows you to come from a place of warmth and acceptance and connection that can seal out the winter chill.
It’s easy to think of gifts as merchandise. But there’s far more to gift giving than what gets wrapped. Sure, retail gets the lion’s share of attention, but to keep the holidays from turning into a mere goods transaction, decide to make a heart-centered effort to do and say the things that make life feel festive—whether that’s helping out, setting up, staying late, or just being there for someone. And remember a few kind words go a very long way. So don’t hold back.
We often think of inspiration as something that should show up. But in fact it starts with you: your actions, your words, your decision to make something special and memorable. Don’t spend this holiday season hoping for something wonderful to happen, for good spirits and festivity to arrive on time. Take a deep breath and use that peace and calm to fuel your efforts, and make this holiday count.
You can get so caught up with getting it all right that you forget to enjoy any of it. At the end of the day, no one will remember what place settings you used or even what you wore. They’ll remember what it felt like to laugh with you. Find every opportunity you can to do it and do it often—not just because it feels good, but because it’s hard to take yourself too seriously or succumb to perfectionist tendencies when you’re in the grip of a satisfying guffaw.
There’s nothing wrong with spending some money on gifts that matter, provided you have the means to do it. But spending gets out of control when it comes, not from a place of intention, but from need and fear. So if you find yourself spending more than you should, ask yourself why. What’s driving it? Do you feel the need to compensate for a flaw in the relationship, to prove yourself? To make them like you? Recognize what’s driving your spending and you’ll give what you can, not what you feel you should.
The holidays are not the time to try to lose weight—and obsessing over weight gain will do little but spoil your fun and enjoyment. Rather than think about what you can or can’t eat, should or shouldn’t, focus on being fully present to whatever’s in front of you, be it a hot chocolate or a chocolate cake. Choose to taste rather than fill, and you’ll feel more pleasure in the moment. Let the guilt go.
Fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year means time is of the essence, and you can feel it in the ratcheted-up hustle-bustle. You may need to get more done in less time, but that’s not the same as racing. Do what you can to breathe and be wherever you are, even if it’s just for a few moments. Whether you’re in line or in the kitchen whipping up a batch of cookies, take a second to recognize what you’re doing and why it’s important.
Go beyond holiday presents to holiday presence this year. You don’t need hours and hours to prove you care for someone. Even just a few minutes with your friend, sister, coworker matters. Ask questions, listen, look her in the eyes. Being there for someone has never been so important, or so valuable as when stress is high and time feels short. Time with someone you care about is never wasted.
The holidays come with their own breed of pomp and circumstance that varies person to person, family to family. In the midst of your own traditional ceremonies, make room for the best part—the celebration. And that means tuning in to the connection you feel with others, and letting things get a little messy. Keeping order and neatness has its place, but it can sap the joy out of the holidays. So let a dirty dish sit a moment, and set yourself free of perfectionist standards. For now.
It’s easy to be merry when everything’s going your way. But chances are, you, like everyone, has hit a few ruts in the road. Rather than worry that you’ll be derailed from the ideal holiday, see them as opportunities to try harder, care more, and bring your whole self and compassion to bear. And, dare we suggest it? If things get tough, ask for help. It’s the season for giving—and receiving.
You have an idea of how the holidays should be. Sometimes they turn out like you planned, but often, not. The stress comes most often from that gap between what you thought would happen and what did—and that’s a stress you can ease by deciding not to hold real life to the ideal. You really don’t know what will happen or how. You may be surprised. But when you keep your mind open to loving it all as it unfolds, you’ll be able to enjoy it far more than you thought possible.
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