• Cary M. Hamilton

With Gratitude this 2020 Holiday Season

And now the holidays of 2020 are here. Yet again another “different” experience where flexibility and patience are needed even though they are only hanging on by a thin thread.


This is a time we can show 2020, we still have hope. We have learned the power of human connection and the price we pay when we don’t have it. We can use this end of year season to know the light is here and we can take a break a bit and be curious about the future. Reflection of the past does little, a child said 2020 seemed to go so fast because we have so little to reflect upon.


There is wisdom in these words. Reflecting on 2020 needs a focus strategy to seek out the learning, the silver linings, the opportunities gained even when they were forced upon us. With hardship and growth comes change, even renewal. Change is always happening. 2020 just forced us to all deal with a lot of different realities and hidden truths about our society of human beings. The changes that 2020 brought are all out there being problem solved and challenged now. No longer pent up and hidden. They are in the light.

There is freedom when challenges have the light shown on them because it throws us into the arena of life to make choices and decisions about our future. The light brings hope for change. The light brings the passage of time. The light brings understanding. The light brings truth. The light brings us home to one another.


Home for the holidays in 2020 is dramatically different than ever before and it doesn’t have to bring darkness. It can bring an opportunity to show that 2020 hasn’t beaten us. That we still have the light within us. It is already a combination of a wonderful and stressful time of year. Maybe this year we can make it about taking a break, and just focusing on being with one another.


Humans can feel overwhelmed by the change and increase in sensory input all around during the holidays(the lights, the music, the smells, lack of connection) particularly when we have spent much of the year already in isolation. Think about all the things you are not having to deal with like: traffic, crowds, small talk with people you don’t know, family members that cause stress.

What You Really Need:

In order to relax and enjoy this holiday season, connection with your family and permission to make some changes is needed.

  • Keep to a routine. Humans crave predictability and structure. This goes for grown-ups as well as children. Our brains and bodies like to know what is coming next. It makes transitions and new activities easier.

  • Manage your expectations. Plan ahead and decide what is important. Accept the limitations this holiday season of 2020. These limitations won’t last forever. There is room for compromise on non-crucial tasks and activities without compromising your mental health.

  • Be present. The holiday season is short and this year time is warped even more so. The easiest way to stay present right now is to be present in the moment. Check-in with your mind and body often, and practice patience with yourself. It is ok to say “No” right now.

  • Be kind to your body. Eat right, get enough sleep, drink plenty of water and engage in regular physical activity. It may seem like a challenge, but taking care of yourself during the holidays helps to keep your mind and body primed to deal with any added stress.

  • Connection. Ask your children what holiday traditions are most valuable to them, do only these ones this year. Create new traditions and let them lead the way. Be sure to focus extra time on the parts of the holiday your children most enjoy--be it tree decorating, baking cookies, wrapping presents, etc. Create and enjoy the power of family traditions as an opportunity to connect with one another and create fond memories!

  • Seek/Accept help. Flex your asking-for-help muscle and allow others to step in to assist in accomplishing tasks to help alleviate stress. Helping each other out right now benefits both the asker and the helper to feel love and connection.

  • Space to grieve. The holidays can be a hard time after a loss. It can be challenging to be with family and to be alone. Just because your loved one is not with you physically, you do not have to pretend you are ok. Holidays are a good time to share memories of your loved ones and honor their memory in special ways. Express your emotions.

  • Quality tim​e. Ask your children what holiday traditions are most valuable to them, do only these ones this year. Create new traditions and let them lead the way. Be sure to focus extra time on the parts of the holiday your children most enjoy--be it tree decorating, baking cookies, wrapping presents, etc. Create and enjoy the power of family traditions as an opportunity to connect with one another and create fond memories!

  • Play time! ​Get down on the floor and play with your children! The holidays are a great time to practice "being with" your child. Enjoy their new toys and play with them! Play is an essential part of brain development in children. Play brings “joy juice”(feel good transmitters in the brain) to all that play-children and grown ups alike!


Calm Your Body, Calm Your Mind

The need to have regulation has become a constant in 2020. Taking a minute to calm your body will help your mind follow suit. If you are able to find moments to step away from the chaos, do so. You probably already know which situations stress you out the most (interacting with certain relatives, going holiday shopping, doing festive activities with the kids), and you can alleviate some of that stress by tuning in to your body's need for calm.

Take small sensory-focused breaks before you get overstimulated, this will help prevent you from becoming overwhelmed. Make a routine of engaging in sensory breaks so you are less likely to be flooded by strong emotions.

  • Sight: Take a moment to visually take in what's around you. Focus on one thing at a time to prevent getting overwhelmed. Light a fire to watch the flames flicker, or focus your attention on the details of a specific decoration or centerpiece.

  • Sound: Put on your favorite music, or sing/hum a song that you know will shift your mood. Holiday music can feel repetitive and deter you from relaxation! Another way to cue into your hearing sense is to focus on the rain falling against the roof or windows. To step outside for a moment and listen deeply.

  • Smell: There are so many scents during the holiday season, it can be overstimulating. Spray a calming scent into the air to revitalize or relax you (eg. lemon, lavender, cinnamon, chamomile). Step outside and take a deep breath of the fresh air.

  • Touch: Wrap yourself up in your favorite blanket, wear your most comfortable clothes, take a warm bath, get a massage, or ask for a hug to activate your sense of touch.

  • Taste: Apply mindfulness to the way you eat. Focus on the temperature, the texture, the flavor of each bite. This will help you appreciate the work that went into cooking the food, and it will help you slow down during meals. Savor the moment.

The holidays are meant to be a time of joy and happiness but a lot of the time you are left feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and burnt out. Over-stimulation makes you feel tired and spent, strive to stay present in your body, and help calm your mind. Practice being mindful, focus on your senses, and take small breaks to help you achieve your expectations. Write down what you have to do, be present while you’re doing it, and spend special time with your family practicing old traditions or starting new ones. Practice moderation and don’t rely on the sugar, caffeine, and alcohol to help you get through the season. Following these tips and the ones above can help you to enjoy your holiday rather than stress your way through it!


If anything, 2020 has taught us all what to be truly grateful for this season.

Season's Tidings With Gratitude,

Cary

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