Unless people address you as your Holiness, the Dalai Lama, chances are you're dealing with a snowstorm of less than joyous holiday feelings. From gifts to obligatory family duties to emotional baggage, you're forced to celebrate when inside you're filled with sadness and dread. "Most of us have mixed feelings about the winter holidays," says Susan Apollon, intuitive psychologist & author of Touched by the Extraordinary: An Intuitive Psychologist Shares Insights, Lessons, and True Stories of Spirit and Love to Transform and Heal the Soul (Matters of the Soul, 2005). "On one hand, we look forward to the festive atmosphere and the spiritual rituals. On the other, we dread the stress and expense, not to mention the unresolved grief that manifests this time of year. And running through it all is the sense that the holidays should look and feel a certain way."
Even if they're not greeting card perfect, Apollon maintains that the hols can actually be rewarding in their own very real way. The key? Learn to manage your expections and live in the moment. Here are her tips for having a fun - or at the very least, tolerable - holiday season:
FORGIVE YOURSELF (& YOUR FEELINGS) Before you can make peace with mom or whomever makes you crazy, you first have to love yourself and resolve those inevitable deep-seated feelings of guilt and pain that tend to surface this time of the year. "We must all learn to accept the fact that right now we are exactly where we are supposed to be on our spiritual journey. That doesn't mean you should stop striving to improve the aspects you know need work, but it does mean realizing you are human. Allow yourself time to relax, to rest, and even to cry if you need to. By simply allowing yourself to feel the way you feel, the emotional load on your back will lighten."
NOW FORGIVE OTHERS (You knew this was coming.) If you're still holding a grudge against the cousin that excluded you from her wedding invite list, then you'll dread seeing her at the big family holiday gathering; if you experience bad feelings whenever you think of this slight, you need to forgive her. "It is vitally important that you learn to forgive the people who have wronged you," says Apollon. "Remember that everyone on earth is walking their own path and is trying to do the best they can. The strongest choice you could possibly make is to let go of any unresolved anger and choose to forgive them. It is not easy, but it is deeply rewarding. The choices you make have different energetic vibrations, and forgiveness and love carry with them the highest resonance. When you don't forgive, you deny yourself a higher energetic payoff."
CONTROL WHAT'S IN YOUR CONTROL One of the most important secrets to becoming a happier person is realizing you can control your actions & feelings. "The moment you understand that you can manage only your own feelings and thoughts, you will find power you didn't know you had. When you continue to hold someone accountable for a past grievance, you allow her to hurt you all over again. But when you choose to simply let it go, you give yourself permission to heal and you release the ghost that was holding you captive." When someone annoys you, focus on memories you shared before your rift - giving the two of you common ground. By choosing to love Aunt Eunice or anyone else who once made your blood boil, you are actually empowering yourself and saving valuable emotional energy!
DEAL WITH GRIEF If you're dealing with a death in the family, an estrangement from someone you love or a divorce, you'll feel grief at some point. Instead of denying your pain, Apollon advises Face, Embrace & Replace. "If you need to cry, cry, even if you're at a party and have to leave the room. You might even set aside an evening to get in touch with your grief. Fix the cocoa you used to drink with your mother or go through your photo albums. It's healthier to feel the sadness and loss than to detach yourself from it. It's right and normal to grieve; just don't make it the dominant part of who you are."
CELEBRATE THE SPIRIT OF THE SEASON Most of us limp through the holidays exhausted, frazzled, and broke. Instead, stay your most charming by attending only a few select events. Skip out on your in-law's drama-filled soiree in favor of a quiet evening with your family. It's your life, and you get to live it your way. "The true meaning of the season has nothing to do with presents and price tags. You can still give thoughtful gifts to your family and friends without racking up a huge, stressful credit card bill. A batch of homemade salsa or even a heartfelt letter can be more appreciated than a $100 blouse, and it also helps you feel responsible, calm, and in control of your finances."
GET HAPPY Rev up your level of good cheer by doing something that makes you smile. Indulge in a sinful dessert or sleep in sheets with a high thread count to feel pampered. Listen to your favorite holiday album, sip eggnog, or attend temple or church for some soul searching. "You can also seek happiness by committing random acts of kindness. It can be something as small as saying, 'Have a blessed day' to a stranger or donating money to a charity. The act does not matter; it's the love behind the act that counts."
STAY PRESENT Instead of dwelling on the past or the future, try focusing on the now. "You may realize that you spend very little time actually existing in the present moment! This is very unhealthy. In fact, it is the source of virtually all anxiety and depression. Your energy is far more powerful when it is there with you as much as possible." Don't let your feelings of dread, anxiety, or anger take over. You are responsible for and are in control of your thoughts, and with a little effort and practice, you will find that it's easy to be serene and even lighthearted in situations that may have once made you uncomfortable.
LOOK GOOD, FEEL GOOD Eat well so you don't get sick, and avoid overeating at parties...a surefire recipe for feeling sluggish and cranky afterward. And try to find time to exercise each day, even if it is just a ten-minute walk or some gentle stretching in the mornings. "When you take the time to look your best, you will feel your best. That means allowing enough time before the party to apply your make-up and find the perfect accessories for your new little black dress. As all women know, sometimes a new outfit is worth more than a month of therapy!"
USE THE LAW OF ATTRACTION When you wake up, decide if you want to be surrounded by bitterness, anger, and self-pity, or good cheer by the spoonful. Like attracts like, so even if you don't necessarily feel charitable or joyful, slap a smile on your face and intend to feel better; who knows, you might surprise yourself by actually feeling better. (ie. "Fake it till you make it.")
Even though the hols probably won't go off without a hitch, they can still be memorable. "This time of the year can be pretty darn great if you seek out loving feelings toward your friends and families. Happiness can come only from embracing unconditional love as often as possible. If you work toward finding the love in every situation, you will be delighted to find how much joy the holidays really can hold. Around Christmastime and Hanukkah, it is important to remember that everyone is seeking peace--this quest is universal. If you allow the season to be polluted with anxiety and sorrow, you are actively disconnecting from the exquisite peace the holidays offer. Make a real effort this season to focus on loving feelings. Follow the love you feel. It will lead you away from painful memories and fears that cloud your day-to-day existence. Find the unconditional love that has survived in your heart, and you will be amazed at the new and joyful places it will lead you."
More info on Susan Apollon at TouchedByTheExtraordinary.com.
- Lesley Scott
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