Both actually. Ever notice that we tend to swing between the extreme feelings of joy, celebration and anxious dread? The expectations we have for ourselves and the holidays are often out of balance with reality. For example, do you think that this year you will finally have the patience to enjoy Aunt Jimi’s 12th version of the family history while you finish the final prep for Christmas dinner? Is this a realistic expectation?

Our culture promotes the untenable position of being loving, generous and kind while simultaneously speed shopping for the perfect present, preparing flawless presentations for entertaining and gracefully welcoming family members, some of whom you might have had problems with for many years. Sound stressful? It is and every year you think about doing it differently. Some years are better than others.

We know what to do, we’ve heard all the tips and tricks. We just forget to use them along the way.  So, let’s start early and keep it going.  We all know that deep breathing is a stress reducer and body calmer.  Let’s use this innate resource now.  One or two breaths are not enough to achieve a physiological shift in body stress.  Try five or six really deep breaths, holding it at the top for 3 seconds then exhaling fully.  Your mind will slow down so you can think more clearly while your body looses its held tensions.  Now maybe we can see our situation differently.

Sure, no one ever wrote the best seller “The Joys of Being Stuck in Gridlock Traffic at the Mall”.  But, if you are stuck in traffic, that is the time to turn your mental attention to the many things for which you are actually grateful.  In the time it takes the red light to turn green you can mentally review the riches and rewards in your life.  As you do this, notice your body begins to relax and your mood softens.  Maybe your in-laws are not your favorites, but you do deeply love your spouse.  Focus on that which is positive, not the annoying.

As you put this into practice you’ll notice it gets easier to mentally and emotionally shift gears.  Keep your perspective by focusing on the big picture.  Ask yourself, ” How do I want this holiday to turn out?  What is most important to me and my family?”  Bring your attention and action toward those things and you are much better equipped to meet the demands of the season with grace and aplomb.

May the best of you show up this season!