Give Yourself the Gift of Presence This Holiday Season

By Denise Hellekson, Clinical Associate, The Village Business Institute

Well, Thanksgiving is over, Black Friday has come and gone, and the beginning of the holiday season is upon us. I love the holiday season. Bing, Andy and Nat serenading me with the Christmas songs that shape my memories. Christmas decorations adding a warm glow to the cold, dark December nights. Holiday movies like old friends reminding me of the magic and miracles and goodness of the season. Gathering with friends and family to bake cookies, decorate the tree, and celebrate with those I love. What’s not to love?

But I can become overwhelmed with the lists of things to be done before December 24. I have been known to become a servant to the almighty “To Do” list in an effort to buy the perfect gifts, and fulfill the commitments that come with the season. At the height of trying to do all things/be all places/for all those I care about, I can remember flopping onto the couch one Christmas Day to catch my breath. I finally had time to sit down and take in the moment, only to discover 90% of it had already passed. The presents had been opened, the feast eaten, boxes and paper strewn everywhere. By the time I was fully present to Christmas, it was almost gone. In my quest to conquer my many lists, I’d lost sight of the reason behind all the activity. I was so caught up in getting to the finish line that I missed out on the experiences that make the season so special.

Since that time, I’ve been working on giving myself the gift of being more present to the season. It’s a work in progress, but here are some simple, quick, low demand tips to help set the stage for a happier, more present holiday experience.

  1. Before you start making your “To Do” list, which is all about the “what” of the holiday season, define for yourself the purpose and overall goal, which gets to the “why.” Set your intention for the Holiday season. How do you want to feel? What do you want to experience? What do you want to remember? Identifying your “why” not only helps you determine what you really need to include on your list, but it also takes it from an obligation to a choice. Your list becomes a tool to help you get to your overall goal, rather than a task master that controls your days and eats away at your peace of mind.Some other questions to ask yourself as you’re planning your day—What kind of a day do you want to have? How can you bring a sense of fun and enjoyment to the day? What do you need to NOT DO in order to have a good day?
  2. When you wake up in the morning, instead of flying out of bed playing “beat the clock,” set your alarm for 5-10 minutes earlier and start the day with “Thank you.” Make a mental list of the things you are grateful for and the things you are looking forward to. Set your intention to have a good day–“I have all the time I need to do the things I need to today,” “I am calm and relaxed and looking forward to a great day,” “I am present and open to the goodness of the season.”) “Thank you” can be a great way to end the day as well, and helps you to fall asleep remembering the successes and unexpected joys of the day.
  3. Be selective. What do you need to cut back on in order to appreciate and enjoy the engagements that matter to you? Is it really about doing it all, or doing what matters most to you and your family? Give yourself permission to be selective, to slow it down a little and to choose. Maybe taking an evening to slip into your pj’s, read the Christmas Carol, and enjoy your tree will be the perfect gift to yourself instead of rushing out to another engagement when you are tired and worn and your nerves are wearing thin. You get to decide; choose wisely!
  4. As you go about your day, take time to stop, breathe, and take in the sights, smells, and sounds around you. Ask yourself, “What am I feeling right now? What do I need to do to take care of myself?”
  5. Recharge your battery! Eat food that gives you the nutrition you need to stay energized. Pack healthy snacks to graze on throughout the day. Get adequate sleep.
  6. Spread a little cheer throughout the day. A lot of stressed people are running around this time of year. You can either be the catalyst that snaps their last nerve, or the balm that offers kindness and connection in a busy world. It doesn’t take much; a friendly smile, a little patience, common courtesies like holding a door open, or saying thank you; simple gestures that can extend the hand of friendship to those around us.

By being more present, we not only have the opportunity to embrace the season more fully for ourselves, but we are also more available to share the gift of our presence with others.

Wishing you simple pleasures, happy moments with those you love, and a heart filled with the goodness of the season.

About the blogger
Denise Hellekson provides EAP counseling, training, consulting, and crisis response services for The Village Business Institute. She has a master’s degree in Community and Rehabilitation Counseling from St. Cloud State University; and is a Licensed Independent Social Worker and a Qualified Neutral under Rule 114 of the Minnesota General Rules of Practice (Mediator). Hellekson has many years of experience in counseling, advocacy, and consulting services.

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