Hope for the Holidays

Are You Feeling Stressed Out?

The stress of these times is unprecedented for just about everyone I know, including me! You too?

Nine months so far and still going strong, the Coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc all over the place for most people. Our individual and family lives, our rhythms and routines within our communities and beyond, and the world all around us have all been up-ended. Whatever we were dealing with before the pandemic seems even harder now. And on top of it all, here come the holidays.

“We practice social distancing so that when we return to the table, no one is missing.” 

The summer months made it easier to visit with our friends and families. But now, the added isolation of winter is looming. As long as we cannot gather safely, how shall we handle the holidays? Feelings can often cloud good decision-making. 

Feelings are not good or bad, right or wrong.

Feelings are hard-wired into our brains to give us information. If you boil down the countless words we use to describe them, they’re really pretty basic: happy, sad, mad, scared. Once you simplify what you’re feeling, it becomes a little easier to know what you need. But to do that, you have to take a moment to slow down, settle down, and just breathe. 

Don’t just do something, stand there.

We are trained from an early age to DO rather than to BE. And while there is nothing wrong with doing, the truth is that we will be more effective with whatever course of action we choose if we act from a place of clarity. All that’s called for is some inner calm. And to get there, all that’s required is the breath.

Just breathe.

Try this: stop whatever you’re doing right now and imagine a balloon, uninflated, lying flat upon your table. Pretend, for just a moment, that you are the balloon, Now, fill it up with air (by breathing in slowly through your nose). When it’s full, hold your breath momentarily. And then, let all the air out of it (by breathing out slowly through your mouth). Squeeze all of the air out of the balloon. And then do it again once or twice.

“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” Thich Naht Hanh 

As you do this, allow thoughts and feelings to pass through your mind. Resist the temptation to follow them and instead keep returning your focus to your breath, to the rhythm and the sensation of it, just as it is, with no need and no effort to change it. After a moment or two, see if you notice a shift in your state of mind. 

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

As you soften your resistance to difficult feelings, see if you can notice a tiny bit of inner spaciousness that wasn’t there before.  From this place, consider your options for creatively navigating the holidays. Expand your sense of possibilities for connecting and celebrating with loved ones near and far. Remind yourself that you can walk through this season one breath, one step, and one day at a time. Remember that better days lie ahead.

Achieving emotional wellbeing feels even more out of reach than ever. But there is a way to do it, even in these times. If you’d like to learn how, I’d like to help you.

Click here for information about my newest offering. Feel free to reach out of you have any questions!