I don’t remember when I dropped out of all the drama of Christmas, but long enough ago that I almost don’t relate to it.  I do remember that I left a cart in our local Best Buy full of stuff I had gathered up.  I’d been standing in line for more than an hour listening to people.  I searched for joy in their faces and hearts and couldn’t find any.  Eventually, I looked within and realized this was not bringing me any joy either.  I know I had a long list of people in my hand and I’d only crossed off maybe 1/4th of them.   The stress and drama became enough for me.  The anguish and frantic pursuit of consuming because “we’re supposed to” was something I personally just couldn’t do any longer.  And at the top of my list, the debting…  I just couldn’t bring myself to participate in it for another moment.

I left the cart in the aisle and walked out.  I’ve never been back.

I believe I made an announcement of sorts to all my friends and family that I would be participating in joy and meaning and not participating in drama or debting any longer.   I made cool stuff, like for more than 2 decades I shared my favorite music and books from the previous year or I might not give anything at all other than show up peaceful,  joyful and ready to be in the present experience as fully as I could.

This has served me immensely.  I love the holidays.  I find no stress in them what-so-ever.  I’m genuinely thrilled to see family and watch people exchange gifts of meaning, realness and love.  When the material stuff happens also, I have no judgment.  If I find something I think you will love I buy it and give it to you as long as the experience is joy-filled and obligation free.   I’ll even give you your gift in front of other people I love equally but bought nothing for and I feel zero guilt.  I notice, they couldn’t care less either, have no ill-will or hurt feelings.  I let go of all the rules and stress and found that I could instead be surrounded by love and authentic exchanges of all kinds.

I know it’s hard to break the cycle.  I get that we have deep tradition and ritual.  Maybe my approach is extreme. Find your own way, whatever works for you…. just make a commitment to live in joy and align your activities with that goal.  You’ll find, your own joy is the best gift you could give your friends and family.  

Check this out to get started:

Self-Care for the holidays: 4 ways to stay in balance

For many of us, the “most wonderful time of the year” can also be stressful. As the holiday to-do list gets longer, taking care of ourselves falls farther to the bottom. It’s ironic, because the holidays also provide some of the biggest pitfalls for self-care: rich food, alcohol, tension around spending money and uncomfortable family relationships, to name just a few. But you can keep your balance, if you make the effort to carve out time for getting back in touch with yourself and what you need. Here are four practices for staying centered during the holiday season.

Tune in to your body. In the midst of the busyness and outward pull of the holidays, it’s easy to lose touch with your regular routines of exercise, sleep and healthy eating. One way to stay grounded is to cultivate awareness of your physical sensations and needs. “The path of self-care often begins with the simple question: Am I getting enough rest and nourishment?” says Randal Williams, a Kripalu Yoga teacher and outdoor guide. “Repeating this question can increase your sensitivity to the needs of the body, drawing you into the exploration of what you might need to do differently.”

Practice mindfulness. Learning to slow down and appreciate each moment, rather than rushing through one task after the next, is a game changer. When you take the time to notice your experience instead of getting caught up in thoughts of the past or worries about the future, you’re essentially recharging your spiritual and emotional batteries. “When your mind strays and you notice it, you have actually just come out of a thought, and you can recognize that sense of presence and wakefulness,” says Cyndi Lee, creator of Om Yoga. “Let your mind rest in that space.” Mindfulness practice supports you in looking at the world with fresh eyes — seeing “the miraculous in the common,” as Ralph Waldo Emerson put it.

Ask for help if you need it. Don’t try to be a superhero. It’s actually a gift to others to allow them to shoulder some of the burden. “Give yourself permission to ask for and receive help, whether it’s with cooking, socializing or hosting family,” says Renée Peterson Trudeau, a life balance coach and author of Nurturing the Soul of Your Family: 10 Ways to Reconnect and Find Peace in Everyday Life. “Be willing to let go of tradition for the sake of enhanced emotional well-being. What are three things on your plate right now that you could delegate or outsource?”

Seek authentic connection. The holidays are known for catalyzing tension between family members, often because our expectations of each other and of our time together are unnaturally high this time of year. To develop compassion and understanding, we can draw from the therapeutic technique known as mentalization. Dr. Michel Mennesson, a psychiatrist at Newport Academy, describes mentalization as “an imaginative process in which you explore another person’s point of view.” Try to visualize where your loved one is coming from and how what they’re experiencing might be impacting their behavior, rather than taking their actions as a personal attack on you. That shift might be the best gift you can give them — and yourself — this holiday season.

~Jamison Monroe, via Huffington Post

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