Ways to Be More Present for the Holidays 

Shandra Martinez

| 4 min read

Happy African American father carrying his son on shoulders and helping him to put star on top of Christmas tree.
For a lot of people, the holidays can feel like a marathon and then a sprint, all layered into the last month of the year. Planning, shopping and responsibilities around this festive time can start weeks before the actual holiday. Then comes the clock-ticking headlong rush many of us experience as we make everything as perfect as we can when the big celebrations approach. But if we are not careful, it’s easy to get so swept along in this surge of wrapping, buying and trying to cross every item off our lists that we forget to be a part of what we are working hard to create. Here are some tips for being more present for the holidays this year.
A big part of stepping back and truly being part of your holidays is taking a little more control of your schedule. This includes not only how we shop, but all the events, kids’ activities, family and work gatherings that fill our calendars during December. Trying to squeeze every last thing in is not only exhausting for some people, but it can really spike stress levels. Nearly 40% of people surveyed reported that their stress level increases during the holidays, according to the American Psychological Association. Some of this can be feelings of financial stress, but it’s also clear that many people are just trying to cram too much into what’s meant to be a joyful season. Add into that the societal pressure to be happy during the holidays, and you’ve got a recipe for anxiety, mental health experts say.
Some ways to be mindful and present:
Narrow your obligations. Close family and friends should be your go-to group during the holidays. Winnow your events and activities to the things you really enjoy, and the ones with people who are important to you. Just because you’ve been invited to a neighborhood event does not mean you’re obliged to attend. If your company asks everyone to sign onto a remote video social hour, consider logging in to wish everyone happy holidays, then quietly sign off. Time you spend on things you don’t enjoy takes away precious hours from doing things with your family, or for yourself.
Condense your shopping. Making your holiday shopping more efficient frees up more time for you to enjoy the season. Long lines, traffic backups and winter weather combine to make holiday shopping seem endless when you are hunting for a long list of specific gifts. If you are an online shopper, make your selection easier by having them gift-boxed by the store and sent directly to the people on your list. If you shop local, make a list and get everything you need in one trip. Resist the urge to go back for “just one more perfect gift.” The person you love won’t notice.
Push snooze on social media: Having 35 pictures of your kids opening gifts may sound adorable, but your children are seeing you with a camera or phone in front of your face – not your own expression. If you need to take a few photos to send to relatives, be mindful of when to put down your devices. Join the holiday board game at the kitchen table. Sit on the couch and watch a movie with your family. Have conversations, and leave the scrolling for after the holidays.
Be present for yourself. Being more mindful during the holidays also means focusing more on yourself and your immediate family. It’s not selfish. It’s self-care at a time when schedules can easily get overwhelmed. By narrowing your to-do list and taking things off your calendar, you are creating spaces for yourself. Some ways to fill those hours and be present include:
  • Going for after-dinner walks to see holiday lights in your town.
  • Donning Santa hats and driving your kids to check out your town’s best yard decorations.
  • Making a massage or quick spa appointment for yourself.
  • Setting aside time to read at a coffee shop.
  • Inviting a close friend over for lunch or tea.
Photo credit: Getty Images

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