No matter how beloved this season is, no one is immune to the stressors that come along with it. From difficult road conditions, to tense family relationships, to the desperation to keep up with the hustle and bustle of shopping and decorating on top of normal life, it gets to everyone sometimes. There’s no need to feel guilty of the holidays come along with their fair share of apprehension as well as excitement. While the stress tends to be at least somewhat inevitable, there are things you can do to reduce the impact that stress has on you so you can make the most of this most wonderful time of the year.
Before I get into these grounding practices, I want to address a couple core stresses that tend to come with the holidays that you can handle before they start. The first is the attachment to perfectionism. While I, like most people, want to create a welcoming holiday atmosphere at home and a beautiful holiday celebration with friends and family, when we hold ourselves up to magazine-photoshoot standards it steals the joy from those moments. When you feel yourself getting caught up in the perfectionist standards of perfect decorations or well-plated holiday dinners, try to take a step back and focus on the beauty of the exciting, but imperfect, moments. No one will remember a child crying because their peas touched the mashed potatoes, or how the lights weren’t perfectly distributed around the tree. They’ll remember coming in to hot cocoa or egg nog, laughing at silly floats on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and sharing the good and stressful moments with each other. Perfectionism, even more than comparison, is the thief of joy. Don’t let it steal yours this holiday season.
Now, on to grounding practices for the holidays for when the ham gets burnt, something spills on the floor, and that one person made that one comment that just got under your skin…
- Take a short walk. If it’s not cold enough to be deadly in under 5 minutes, just throw on your shoes and coat and walk on away from whatever is freaking you out. Walk around the house, around the block, or up and down the street for 5-10 minutes to quiet your thoughts and compose yourself. Bonus points if you combine this with 3 or 5.
- Recite something to yourself. A song you know by heart, a poem you memorized in college, a passage that means the world to you, anything will do. Doing so can help you ground yourself in time, focusing on something that has been comforting in the past. If you’re doing so in your mind, try to visualize the words on a page or the images that the words represent.
- Use a deep breathing technique to help your body physically calm down from the stress. My personal favorite is in for 4 counts, out for 4 counts; in for 4, out for 8; in for 4, out for 12. Repeat as-needed.
- Sit with your pet, or whatever pets may be available to you. There are few things in life as wonderful as connecting with a 4-legged friend.
- Repeat a phrase to yourself that affirms who you are, not just what you are doing or think you are supposed to do. Some great examples are “I am not responsible for other people’s feelings,” “I am worthy of love and community, regardless of my productivity or lack thereof,” and “My best is always enough.”
- Visualize a safe place. Think of the place that you feel the most at peace. A quiet corner of the library, your favorite window in your home, a childhood playground, wherever you consistently have felt safe and comfortable. Visualize it clearly, focusing in on specific details like the scent, the physical sensations, and how well-lit the space is.
- Practice gratitude. I usually list my gratitudes in 3s, 5s, and 10s, but there’s no “magic number.” When you start to feel angry or overwhelmed, take a moment to mentally list a few things that you are grateful for, no matter how big or small they are. If you can, physically write these things out on a little post-it note or notepad for later, so you can physically see it as the season continues.
- Stretch. Take out the earbuds, turn off the TV, and set aside 5-10 minutes to stretch yourself out. PopSugar has some quick-and-easy yoga flows for relieving tension that I’ve found helpful, as well as exercises and stretches I learned in physical therapy. You might not even realize how much tension you’re physically carrying with you until you feel it release!
- Make yourself a particularly cold or warm drink, and focus on the physical sensations of it as you drink it. Is it a cold, bubbly, refreshing soda? A hot, bittersweet, creamy hot cocoa? A cold, rich, thick egg nog? Whatever your favorite holiday drink is, try to get a few minutes alone (outside if needed) to sip and savor every drop of it, spending the entire time focusing on the pleasant sensations that go along with it.
- Close your eyes and/or get as much solitude as you can, and count to 10. Cliche? Yes. Still useful? Also yes.
Obviously this isn’t an exhaustive list, but these 10 grounding exercises have been really helpful for me while dealing with daily and seasonal stressors! More than anything, the best thing you can do for yourself and your loved ones this holiday season is to do your best at all you set your mind to, letting go of perfectionism, filling your cup before pouring into others, and being truly present when you are with them.
You are enough, you are loved, you are worthy. Your best efforts are enough. Your attempts are enough.