As soon as autumn comes, people’s thoughts begin to shift to the holidays, and sometimes those thoughts are accompanied by difficult feelings such as depression, frustration, and anxiety. For some, the holidays conjure up unpleasant associations, such as the first event without Grandma there, or prickly family get-togethers. Then there are financial worries, the pressure to come up with gift ideas, dealing with school kids on vacation, too many social obligations, and the list goes on.
This is my time of year because Attitude Reconstruction is all about creating joy, love, and peace. You see, my viewpoint is based on a theory that we all possess six emotions. Emotions are pure physical sensations in the body. Think about the word “emotion,” it’s E + motion = energy in motion.
These six emotions exist in three opposing pairs – sadness and joy, anger and love, and fear and peace. Each of the pair’s bodily sensation feels distinctly different. With sadness, we feel down and blue, where with joy we feel light and up. When we feel anger we feel hot and want to strike out and destroy something, and when we feel love, we want to draw people and things in, embracing them. And when we feel fear, our body temperature is cold, anxious, jittery, and shaky. When we feel peace we feel calm and relaxed.
Attitude Reconstruction contends we can create the emotions of joy, love, and peace by using our thoughts, words, and actions. We don’t have to wait around and hope to experience these sensations.
Before we go through how you can build the three holiday emotions, I want to suggest you remember the “message” — “This time of year is about joy, love, and peace.” Whenever you find yourself feeling frantic, annoyed, or upset, remind yourself that the holidays are about feeling joy, love, and peace.
Here are some simple and practical ways to make your holiday saner this year.
Replacing fear with peace:
Get organized to reduce stress, aka, fear and increase peace. Start by making a list of everything that needs to be done so you minimize feeling that anxious sensation and the feeling that there’s just too much to do and not enough time. This could include card writing, party organizing, shopping, cooking, work deadlines, travel/lodging arrangements, and family/friend communications. Once you have things written down, you can make a big calendar and fit it all in. Get specific, designating time for social events, gift-buying, preparing for food and visitors, and quality time with loved ones. Also set a realistic budget and stick to it.
Keep your attention on the holiday events, shiver that fear out of your body like a dog at the vet, when you’re feeling overwhelmed and rushed. Remind yourself repeatedly “One thing at a time. Everything will be all right.” If you do, you’ll will definitely feel more peace and be more present.
Holiday cards can be burdensome and time-consuming. For some people, they’re such an energy drain that they become a hated chore. If this describes your relationship to creating, personalizing, and mailing holiday cards, consider specific ways to make it easier. Try cutting down the people on your list. Or create a newsletter and insert it in a card. Or simply break the task into smaller, more doable components; for example, commit to sending out 10 cards every three days until you’ve finished. For each person you send a card to, pause, think of something you appreciate about them and convey that! That will surely fuel love.
Replacing anger with love:
The way to create more love is to give up your self-centered, critical, nagging, sarcastic, finger-pointing expectations and judgments. Accept that people and situations are the way they are, not the way you want them to be. Repeat this phrase when going to a party, or participating in family holiday traditions. Refrain from being negative and verbalize the good.
Give appreciations. Give praise. Give gestures that demonstrate caring and sharing. Ask “How can I help?” or “What can I do?” and then comply without argument.
Sometimes in the frenzy to buy gifts, we forget that giving is a way to show love for another person. When you start to get tangled up in buying anxiety, ask yourself, What can I do that will show my love for this person? What will make them feel happy? Perhaps it’s a month’s moratorium on sarcasm, a special night out, setting aside time to just listen to your partner without interrupting, a hand-drawn card with a message, a personalized poem, or a list or a short video with 10 reasons you appreciate this person.
Replace sadness with joy:
Joy comes when we honor ourselves, rather than go along because we “should” or that it’s expected. This means let your heart be your guide. Accomplishing this requires listening within, to that still, silent voice, and aligning your behavior with your heart’s wisdom.
Prioritize your “yeses” because often we go on auto-pilot at holiday time with party invitations–and then beat ourselves up for overeating and overindulging. Too many holiday events cause burnout, so pace yourself. Strive for balance. Strive for joy, love, and peace. See how saying “yes” really feels before you actually accept an invitation. Weigh the outlay of time and energy before agreeing to host or organize a house party, office party, book club party, or any other holiday event. Only agree if you really want to do it and have someone to help.
Be good to yourself. Think of the holidays like an athlete in training. Pace yourself in terms of eating out and partying. Make sure you get lots of sleep. Make room for alone time to replenish your energy–even if it’s just a short walk around the block. Think about how bad you would feel come January 1 if you gained 7 pounds. This holiday season, do it differently–avoid regrets. Feel more joy.
Don’t bury your emotions. Handle your emotions physically and constructively. If you feel sadness, maybe perhaps because this is the first year a loved one will not be in attendance, allow yourself a good cry. If you know you’ll feel angry at the antics of Uncle Jim, pound or stomp out the anger when you’re in a safe, private place. And if you feel scared because you think you have too much to do and not enough time or you’re bringing someone new home with you, allow yourself to shake and shiver before knocking on the door.
Frequently remind yourself of the goal “I want to feel joy, love, and peace” and then just do things to take you there.
Remember when you are acting in new ways, you are acting contrary to your old habits because you want to feel good, not because some outside force is placing restrictions or demands on you.