Three Steps for a Stress-Free Holiday Lift

Christmas lights at Antigua Guatemala’s Central Park

How does it get to be the holiday season so quickly each year? It seems as we travel through our life’s journey the changes of the seasons appear with a pace that is often challenging to keep up with.

There is an energy that comes forward every December that is frenzied and inescapable. Whether you are in your home country or traveling, there is an unavoidable momentum that invites you to shop, spend money, think about family and feel specific emotions. In fact the holidays often serve up a chaotic blend of excitement, desire, sentimentalism, guilt and other demands. An extraordinary recipe for stress! While we want to enjoy the season we are often confronting emotions that are contrary to our expectations.

In Guatemala, our housekeeper has been talking about her need to start preparing for Christmas since late September. The traditions here are all-encompassing and worthy of taking in. From processions and decorations to the lovely glow of the twinkle lights in the Parque Central in La Antigua Guatemala, Christmas takes on a special meaning. It is time for families and friends, warm spiced fruit punch and gatherings.

Given the festivities, why would one need to cope with all this scenic harmony? Simply put: It is stressful to meet all of the expectations and demands that come during December.

Holidays are a time of giving gifts…to everyone you know! Our first few years in Guatemala we felt the pressure of being careful to avoid unintentionally forgetting someone during the holiday season. This simple remembrance is often a baked treat or food basket. Easy enough…but did you remember all the people you interact with regularly? Was my gift appropriate? Concern over making a mistake with the list of recipients or the value of the gift given can reduce the joy.

We laugh now as we recognize our self-imposed “stress” over offering sincere appreciation to others.
What we have learned is that it only takes three simple steps to support yourself through the demands of the season. Once we embraced these steps the holiday season became special and filled with the joy that is present for those choosing to embrace it.

So what are those three magical steps?

Let go of all expectation.
Simply allow yourself to smile and witness everything that is happening around you without drowning in it. By detaching with a smile you see the bigger pictures and avoid undue pressure. Increase your daily stress-reduction activities, such as walking, stretching or meditative time on a park bench. Releasing expectation is an act of trust; everything has a way of working out…right?

Plan your time vs. letting your time plan you.
Recognize your own limitations and set loving boundaries that support your joy and pace. This intentional attitude gives you more available time. Create a schedule for shopping with a few extra gift baskets tucked away in your closet. Planning ahead reduces stress!

Take time to appreciate the beauty that is around you.
This is easy to do here in Guatemala where decorating for the holidays is an art form unto itself. Detach and delight in the children walking in a procession, the cacophony of twinkle lights and the countless people who offer a brighter than usual hello. Enjoy the smiles of those who are in the spirit of the holiday as gratitude enters your daily routine.

What is the greatest gift of all? Realizing these three simple steps are valuable for more than just the holidays. The chaos and beauty of the season is training. If we gift ourselves with the ability to integrate these steps into our year-round life experience then we recognize that peace and goodwill originate in our own hearts.

This holiday season we offer our gratitude and stress-free wishes to all who are reading this article and especially to John and Terry for keeping the Revue Magazine such a valuable resource for so many years.

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