It’s no secret that holiday cheer comes with its own stress, both the good kind – eustress such as having anxiety about pleasing guests, or the more difficult – distress, like experiencing a sober holiday for the first time since childhood and wondering who you’ll hang out with, or maybe you’re remembering those whom you’ve loved and lost. Over the years I’ve found myself taking different approaches; hiding out, pushing through, or simply letting circumstance wash me over. But with a little persistence and some trial and error, I’ve found that what works best for me is being present and taking action. I outline my goals by asking a few questions: What is the reality of the situation? How might I be impacted by my actions or the actions of others? How will the people I care about be affected? A wise person recently shared her insight about exploring this as a teenager: “over time I grew to understand that if I kept putting myself in uncomfortable situations, always trying to fit in, then my best light was not shining through.” A simple enough lesson it seems, but one that we might have to learn over again through the years. At a time of year when all kinds of surprises can be thrown at you, you might find it helpful to have a plan in place; some sort of map to navigate your way back to homeostasis. So whether you’re struggling with eustress or distress, here is my list of random thoughts and actions to help you regain a sense of balance (in no particular order):
cutout paper snowflakes • Say Thank You • thank someone for the way they’ve helped you this year • say thank you when someone gives you a gift or a compliment and check in with your heart to see how it feels to honor what was given • light a candle in memory of someone you loved • forgive someone for their faults • make sugar cookies and decorate them like a professional • make sugar cookies and decorate them like a child • taste every ingredient separately while you’re cooking and baking • forgive yourself • take a hot bath • give yourself permission to dress up • give yourself permission to dress down • sing loudly as you drive between visits • volunteer in a soup kitchen • introduce yourself to a stranger • volunteer to deliver toys • give someone new a gift who isn’t expecting it • give a gift to yourself • set a goal for no expectations • step outside for some fresh air • spend time listening to someone amusing who is two generations younger than you • if you still can, spend time listening to someone amusing who is two generations older than you • be curious • be a beginner • create a haiku about someone or something that grabs your attention • check in and notice discomfort • challenge unsettling thoughts, are they really true? can there be another explanation? • take time to pause and breathe • practice self-compassion • marvel at seeing your breath in the cold air • make origami cranes from colorful magazine pages and place them strategically among your holiday lights • open the blinds to let in some light • check in and notice what feels good or neutral • try to catch snowflakes on your tongue • build a miniature snowman • drink seltzer from a fancy glass garnished with fruit or candy • make a snow cone from fresh snow • make luminaries • allow yourself to be vulnerable with someone you like • share memories with loved ones • decorate a box and fill it with memories, photographs and letters • make a snow angel • break out the record player and listen to vinyl • light incense • purposefully take time to do nothing • initiate a playful snowball fight • see what happens when you step outside of your comfort zone • make potpourri • pay it forward • allow yourself to not reciprocate and explore what that is like • mindfully plan a mistake to alleviate yourself of perfection • write in stream of consciousness in your journal • draw a quick sketch • add glitter • take time to watch a favorite movie • read poetry • look up to see where you’re walking • admire the moon and stars • notice the pattern that frost makes • thank the universe • think outside of the box
There’s no shortage of ways to use your creativity even during times of stress; sometimes we just need reminders to take action.
Copyright 2016 © Rachel Braun, All rights reserved.
Rachel Braun, ATR-BC Art Therapist Philadelphia, PA
Specializing in art therapy groups for women who experience depression, anxiety and eating disorders.