Holidays: High Stress High Reward
As we are approaching the winter holiday season, we are often reminded it is a time to be present with the joy and gratitude around us. It’s a time to be a little nicer, a little happier, a little more generous, and way more stressed. Between the traditions, Pinterest ideas and trying to make sure everyone else has an amazing season, and keeping up with the normal day-to-day obligations of our lives, it can be overwhelming. We can be bombarded with messages that we should be better, our homes should be cleaner and better decorated, we should make more buckeye candies to give away; it can be overwhelming. Through all of this, we can miss out on our own joy. We can miss out on actually being present for the little moments that make this season special.
What Brings You Joy?
Instead of getting buried in the “shoulds” of the season, take some time to reflect on what truly brings you joy. Does baking bring you joy? Does cocoa by the fire bring you joy? Does watching holiday movies bring you joy? If yes, do more of those things. If not, do less of them.
To be more present and fill your season with abundance, we should focus more on what brings us joy and less on what we think we should do because we think it brings others joy. Think about staying up late to decorate cookies. If you enjoy decorating cookies, staying up late to decorate cookies can be fulfilling and energizing instead of a tedious task that’s limiting the amount of sleep you are going to get. If you don’t enjoy decorating cookies, staying up late to decorate cookies will be an exercise in frustration that will be exacerbated tomorrow by having gotten less sleep due to being awake decorating cookies.
Give yourself permission to truly evaluate what you do around the holidays to determine what actually brings you joy. Once you know which activities bring you joy, you can prioritize those over the more stressful/less rewarding activities.
Level Up Gratitude
Many people have a gratitude practice. Maybe they savor good things as they happen, maybe they reflect on them in the morning or at bedtime, or maybe they share their good stuff at the dinner table.
Bob Proctor recommends another time to practice gratitude: when you’re stressed. This has been a very powerful practice for me lately. When I’m feeling overwhelmed and stressed, identifying something I’m grateful for gives me a boost of positive emotions. Positive emotions have been shown to undo the negative effects of negative emotions while increasing mood and creativity (Fredrickson, 1998).
However, I've noticed it’s easier to find things to be grateful for which involve other people or circumstances. It’s much harder to find things about ourselves for which we are grateful. We can check the box and name a few things if asked, but there is so much greatness within us that we minimize or overlook.
In previous posts, I’ve talked about gratitude and boosting gratitude by taking time to savor and reflect on the good things around you. In this post, I encourage you to elevate your gratitude practice again. In this post, I encourage you to find 3 things each day by identifying one thing to be grateful for in each category (others, circumstances and self). I have started using the following sentence starters to help me keep my gratitude practice elevated.
I am grateful for ____________ (person) because _____________________________ (what they did or what about them that makes you feel grateful)
I am grateful for ____________ (event, thing, circumstance) because ____________ __________________ (why are you grateful for this event, thing or circumstance)
I am grateful for my ______________ (attribute or strength you possess) because ________________________________ (what this attribute or strength enables or empowers you to do)
I have used these sentence starters when I am feeling overwhelmed and they have been immensely powerful. Especially when the “because” is solution oriented. For example, I am grateful or my creativity that will help me find a solution to this challenge I’m facing. I am grateful for my husband because he will pick up our son so I can finish this project.
Try these out and personalize them as you need to. I encourage you create more joy for yourself this season by prioritizing what brings you joy and leveling up your gratitude practice.
Brown, B. (2010). The Gifts of Imperfection. Center City, MN: Hazelden Publishing.
Fredrickson, B. (1998). “What Good Are Positive Emotions?” Review of General Psychology. 2(3) 300-319.
Proctor, B. (2015, May 18). How an Attitude of Gratitude Changes Everything. Retrieved from http://www.proctorgallagherinstitute.com/6207/how-an-attitude-of-gratitude-changes-everything.