Scintillating ballets of ardently choreographed magic, crackling, popping, and flickering into her edgy preoccupation; sooty specters wafting fragrantly toward the harvest moos prenatal party, celebrating the fluffy, flaky ice queens’ eminent deliveries; radiating warmth caressing, and then fervently entering her growing awareness; from its iron-grated stage and red brick playhouse; gently eased the pulsating rhythms of her hamster wheeling mind out of its disquieting dolor and dollar signs. “WOW!!! What an amazing fire!” she exclaimed ecstatically, glancing up from her MacBook at the blaze she had kindled nearly an hour before. She then began noticing Sarah McLachlan’s soothing rendition of White Christmas, the festive fragrances of her flickering spruce and cinnamon bell jars, the firelight dancing across her half-filled goblet of pinot, and the peace that was emerging all around her. She marveled at the beauty, and how lost she had become.
While the holidays, those mysteriously familiar visitors whose fluorescent footprints already trail across our mindscapes, calendars, and department stores; draw nearer, so do the conditioned expectations, emotions, and routines burdening their baggage. . As we welcome, or brace ourselves, for whatever they may bring us; there are things that we can do to boost our happiness, hope, and peace.
Our Choice of Greetings
Whatever our usual routines, the holidays add to their time, tasks, temptations, tab, and tensity. Whether we greet these yearly observances with peaceful acceptance, practical preparation, and joyful enthusiasm; or rancorous resistance, unrealistic expectations, and pressurized perturbations; is up to us.
Advanced Seasonal Training
Our material world experiences can be understood as life lessons in the curriculum for the soul. Its primary subject areas include self awareness, self acceptance, self control, inner healing, finding happiness, and attaining higher consciousness (like math, science, reading, writing, literature, and the arts of pedagogic academia). Its core courses include family, school, friendships, intimate partner relationships, loss, injuries, disabilities, conflict, suffering, careers, hobbies, causes, commitments, spirituality, and self care. Some life lessons offer advanced or in vivo learning opportunities. As with canine obedience training, within which we continuously increase the difficulty level by introducing more distractions, challenges, and temptations; our seasonal celebrations may similarly provide precocious potentials for personal growth. If we can maintain our mindful awareness, acceptance, and balance when faced with intrusive others, haunting memories, and frequent triggers; then we will be one step closer to the transcendence of our egoic stagecraft. “it happens when you develop the ego-strength to withstand exposure to other people without letting that exposure affect the core of your decision-making process.”
Mele Kalikimaka: Taking a Time Out
When Uncle Koa screams explosively at the quarterback, startling Grandma and making baby Malu cry; when Auntie Lani shrieks at Koa’s bellows, f-ing this and f-ing that, oh my oh my; when Mom gets drunk, and Dad gets drunk, then Cousin Giggles, says your a slut, your pink hair sucks, your fat ass jiggles; like Santa’s belly, so plump and pretty, you want to kill her; reach for a drink, begin to think, walk out and spill your; guts to your sis, you moan and piss, she understands you; get in your car, drive to the bar, at home with Laulau; the family dog, check out your blog, and take a time out; back on your Mac, black sand out back, no doubt about it.
Stress and the Brain
Helping us sustain life during a time of crisis was the only intended purpose of negative emotions. Such misanthropic moods, like anxiety and depression; alert our brain to danger, narrowing the mind and limiting our options to only those that will help us survive, while focusing our attention on making it happen. They block out all other possibilities and courses of action. How often are we actually faced with life threatening situations, and yet how often do we experience negative emotions such as the anger, fear, sadness, or stress that can accompany anxiety and depression?
Imagine that you get into a doozy of an argument with your partner, that you are blinded by rage, and all you can think about is what you can do to hurt them back. Or imagine that you are in dire financial straits, on the verge of another bankruptcy, and the only thing on your mind is running away. Or that your job stress is so great you dread going to work, avoid it whenever possible, and feel so paralyzed by fear when you are there that you are unable to function.
Negative emotions trigger the instinctual responses of fight, flight, or freeze, creating the illusion that a life-threatening situation is occurring. Although clearly unpleasant—and although they could lead to, or result from, anxiety or depression—do any of these examples truly represent a threat to your life? The negative emotions generated by such situations limit our options and focus our thoughts on survival in the absence of a real threat—by doing so they may create an actual crisis.
Negative emotions typically last 3-5 minutes unless kept alive by repetitive thought. Usually, when fighting for our lives, we have either pummeled our attacker or raced to safety within this brief period. Again, such emotions were only intended to occur when we are under threat, and then resolve when the threat is gone. Therefore, when experiencing negative emotions such as anxiety or depression, one way to reset the brain from Survival Mode (stress response) back to Safe Mode (relaxation response) is to do some vigorous exercise for 3-5 minutes (e.g. running on a trampoline), and then focus on one of these 25 curative considerations. The exercise will mimic fighting or running away from the illusory threat (fight or flight), and then a focus on one of these positive activities will show the brain that we are safe and well; restoring balance, health, and happiness.
Odd Hints and Even Humor
In addition to the above prescriptions, here are some fun and practical ways to mitigate holiday stress:
1. Mindfulness:Pay attention to what is happening around you right now. From these things, choose to focus on those that make you feel good. Make happiness your universe; make the universe your happiness; make both you and the universe happier.
2. Amusement: It was Christmas Eve. A woman came home to her husband after a day of busy shopping. Later on that night when she was getting undressed for bed, he noticed a mark on the inside of her leg. “What is that?” he asked. She said, “I visited the tattoo parlor today. On the inside of one leg I had them tattoo ‘Merry Christmas,’ and on the inside of the other one they tattooed ‘Happy New Year.'” Perplexed, he asked, “Why did you do that?” “Well,” she replied, “now you can’t complain that there’s never anything to eat between Christmas and New Years!”
3. Giving: Responsible giving generates physical, emotional, and spiritual well being. If you are low on cash, then don’t spend it. This would only create additional stress. Consider crafts, cookies, or gifts of service as creative alternatives. Offer to provide child care for your stressed out friend and his wife so they can enjoy a special date night. Replace those tank-to-bowl seals on Grandma’s hall toilet so she does not have to pay a plumber..
4. Banter: A guy bought his wife a beautiful diamond ring for Christmas After hearing about this extravagant gift, a friend of his said, “I thought she wanted one of those sporty four-wheel-drive vehicles.”
“She did,” he replied. “But where was I going to find a fake Jeep?”
5. Adjusting Expectations: Set your expectations to the truth of your life. Make the holidays managable, attainable, and meaningful. They will never be perfect, but they can be beautiful. Focus on what you do have, rather than what you do not have. Acceptance is the reason for the season.
6. Buffoonery: Two young boys were spending the night at their grandparents. At bedtime, the two boys knelt beside their beds to say their prayers when the youngest one began praying at the top of his lungs.
“I PRAY FOR A NEW BICYCLE… I PRAY FOR A NEW XBox… I PRAY FOR A NEW iPhone…”
His older brother leaned over and nudged the younger brother and said, “Why are you shouting your prayers? God isn’t deaf.” To which the little brother replied, “No, but Gramma is!”
7. Forgiveness: Forgive yourself, and those you are holding grudges against. This will improve your mood, broaden your perspective, and brighten your experience. It also makes a memorable holiday gift.
8. Clowning: Q: What happened to the man who stole an Advent Calendar?
A: He got 25 days!
9. Balance Priorities: Remember what is truly important, and invest your time accordingly. For instance, focus on your immediate family, forget about trying to impress extended family, friends, or your boss. Keep first things first in your life.
10. Comedy: Q: What did the snowflake say to the fallen leaf?
A: You are so last season.
11. Stress Triggers: Increase your awareness of those people, places, or things that bring on stress during the holidays, and seek to minimize or remove them. If the maddening crowds, long lines, and parking nightmares overwhelm you, then consider doing all your shopping on line. If joining your extended family for another fateful festivity (as in the Time Out example above) creates dread or panic, then don’t go. Give yourself permission to start a new tradition.
12. Comicality: Q: What kind of motorbike does Santa ride?
A: A Holly Davidson!
13. Saying No: When you need to, just say no. Unresolved core personality issues may make us vulnerable to thoughts, words, and actions that are in conflict with our beliefs, priorities, and responsibilities. Such moldy baggage might include fears of failure, rejection, or abandonment; feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, or worthlessness; sensitivities to unfairness, victimization, or loss of control. Like prismatic ghosts, these remnants of unfinished business float around in our minds; coloring our perceptions, haunting our happiness, and terrorizing our lives. For example, if a parent left you as a child; through adoption, divorce, or dying; you may have grown up with sensitivities to abandonment, inadequacy, victimization, and loss of control. These sensitivities are your unresolved core personality issues. This set of issues could predispose you to feeling responsible for the feelings of others when you are not, never wanting to disappoint or hurt anyone else no matter how it affects you or your family, always saying “yes” when you want to say “no,” trying to prove yourself, being a know-it-all, being hyper-sensitive to perceived unfairness, and feeling like you are being controlled if you are not completely in control. Give yourself the gift of saying no during the holidays.
14. Drollery: Q: Who is Santa’s favorite singer?
A: Elf-is Presley!
15. Creating New Traditions: Whatever your spiritual affiliation, cultural heritage, or holiday rituals; give yourself permission to create new traditions that fit you and your immediate family. This is your right and responsibility. It is nothing to feel guilty about. It is something to celebrate.
16. Facetiousness: Q: Did Rudolph go to school?
A: No. He was Elf-taught!
17. Family and Friends: This is a complicated, tricky, and individually specific consideration; because our relationships with others are frequently the cause of our pain. Everyone is uniquely different, has varying needs, and is exclusively impacted by contact with specific others. If being a hermit during the holidays makes you happy, then enjoy your solitude. There is no right or wrong answer here. Some are too sensitive for this world, and find contact with people far too harsh, scary, and disappointing. This, for them, is totally okay; and should be accepted. Others crave social contact. Research has shown that, for some, staying connected with others during the holidays makes them happier. From my personal and clinical experiences, I must add that involvement with people can also destroy our lives. It is important to increase our awareness of how people affect us, and assertively adjust our boundaries in support of our needs. The sensitivity of our evolving awareness, or the uniqueness of our neurology may make some people, places, and things intolerable to us. It is important to learn these things about ourselves, and to give ourselves permission to say no, let go, and let life flow.
18. Farce: Q: What carol is heard in the desert?
A: O camel ye faithful!
19. Self Care: As with your car or truck, which needs more frequent care and maintenance when you drive it more or take it off roading; your body, mind, and spirit need more when you put them through more. Rather than caring for yourself less because of your to-do lists, chaotic schedule, and unrealistic expectations; take the time to care for yourself more because you are doing more.
20. Flippancy: Q: Why did the turkey join the band?
A: Because it had the drumsticks!
21. Financial Responsibility: Remain mindful of your finances, budget accordingly, and spend within the limits of your resources.
22. Fun: Q: What is the best Christmas present in the world?
A: A broken drum, you just can’t beat it!
23. Helping Others: Helping others is a proven way to help ourselves feel better.
24. Gag: Q: What do a Christmas tree and a priest have in common?
A: Their balls are just for decoration.
25. Treats and Spirits: Try not to increase your food and alcohol intake during the holidays. Overeating causes depression, hormonal imbalances, and electrolyte disturbances. Alcohol is a depressant, and can intensify the shade of your seasonal blues.
26. Gaiety: Q: What do you call an elf who sings?
A: a wrapper!
27. Rest and Recovery: During the holidays, take the time you need to rest and recover. As mentioned in the Self Care section above, because you are doing more, you need more care and maintenance. Take naps, get a massage, say no, and remove some things from your list. Don’t wait until after the holidays to do it. Do it now.
28. Happiness: Q: Why is Christmas just like your job?
A: You do all the work and the fat guy with the suit gets all the credit.
29. Simplify: Consider your To Do list a brainstorming exercise. Now go down it and eliminate 50-75% of its items. Ask yourself “Will I die tomorrow if these things cannot be done?” Get rid of the ones you can live without.
30. High Spirits: Q: Why is Santa so jolly?
A: Because he knows where all the naughty girls live.
31. Flexibility: Remain open to the unexpected, the unusual, the different, the changing.
32. Jest: Q: Why doesn’t Santa have any kids?
A: He only comes once a year.
33. Refocus: Turn your attention away from those unrealistic expectations, hundreds you want to buy gifts for, and ego issues haunting your dreams; toward your family, your health, and good things.
34. Jesting: Q: Whats the difference between the Christmas alphabet and the ordinary alphabet?
A: The Christmas alphabet has Noel.
35. Delegate: Like Santa, enlist the aid of your elves. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
36. Jocosity: Q: What do you call people who are afraid of Santa Claus?
37. Persistence: After establishing realistic expectations, just keep swimming.
38. Jocularity: Q: Why the Christmas tree can’t stand up?
A: It doesn’t have legs.
39. Pace Yourself: Don’t try to do too much at once. Break it all down into managable chunks.
40. Joke: What do you call an obnoxious reindeer? RUDEolph..
41. Protect Yourself: Insulate yourself and your immediate family from unnecessary intrusion, disruption, and stress. Use this as a time to clarify boundaries, set limits, and practice saying no.
42. Joking: Q: Why was Santa’s little helper depressed?
A: Because he had low elf esteem.
43. Writing: Whatever its focus, research has demonstrated that writing decreases stress and improves our mood. Journaling, blogging, and crafting poetry will make us happier.
44. Joyfulness: What do you call a can wearing a Christmas hat?
A Merry Can (American)
45. Elevate: Broaden your perspective through gratitude, giving, helping others, and meditation. This will make you a healthier, happier you.
46. Kidding: Q: What’s the difference between snowmen and snowladies?
47. Remain Peaceful: Calmness makes it easier to deal with challenging situations. Try not to engage emotionally, conversationally, or physically with stress-producing people, places, or things. Breathe deeply, hold on to the truth of your life, and let the potential stressors pass over you like a wave. Keep on smiling.
48. Levity: Q: What nationality is Santa Claus?
A: North Polish.
49. Love and Laugh: Remember to shower the people you cherish with love, light, and laughter. It helps us keep things in perspective and makes us happy.
50. Wit: Last year, I asked Santa for the sexiest person ever for Christmas. I woke up in a box.
Photo Credit: Jeanne