With less than a week until Christmas day, it's tough not to get caught up in the rush of the holiday season. Most people have tons of extra items to cross off their to-do lists and even more obligations and events than usual. It's always a fun to take part in the holiday festivities, but it can also be stressful too. This last hurrah before the holiday is often the time many of us dread though, in actuality, it's the time we've been building up to for the past month (if not longer!). How are we to stay present during a time that seems so stressful? How are we to make the most of this last rush of holiday spirit (or holiday stress) before another Christmas day has come and gone?
Yesterday I found myself in Target feeling as if I were being swarmed by an army of people. Everyone was rushing past me in a haste and the air was charged with a hurryhurryhurry energy. And don't get me started on the parking lot, which was more frustrating than a twisted tangle of Christmas lights! There was a moment when I literally stopped in the middle of an aisle to let others scurry past when I realized that this store -- this holiday chaos -- was the last place I wanted to be. I realized that this was one of those times that I didn't want to be present, that I wanted to be anywhere other than the moment I was in. Later, as I thought back on that moment -- the shopping carts pushing past one another, the furious pace, and the frustrated sighs of nearby shoppers -- in the calm comfort of my own home, I realized that I had a choice in that moment. I have a choice in every moment.
Rather than practically running out of the store and darting home to the comfort of calm, I could have stayed in that moment -- chaotic as it was -- and embraced it. I could have focused not on the negative things happening in that moment, but on the good things that were happening: the person who let someone with fewer items go ahead of her in a long line; the cheery Christmas carols pouring out of the speakers and causing a little old man to bob his head to the music while pushing along his cart; the sweet sight of a little girl staring in awe at a display of glittering ornaments; the laughter from a mother after her son said seriously, "But, Mom, I saw a commercial and it said we should ask for this toy for Christmas!"
There were many things about those moments I spent in Target that were good, but I didn't see them amid my frustration and flustration (yep, just made that word up!). And isn't that often how it seems to be during the hectic holiday season? Aren't there often good moments -- really sweet, special moments -- that we fail to recognize because they are overwhelmed by the craziness of the world around us? I know I'm not the only one who's experienced this feeling this year and I know I'm not the only one who will probably experience it again before the year is through. However, I want to make an effort to be more present during what's left of the holiday season. I want to focus on the "happy" in my holidays -- and here's how I plan to do it:
Four Ways to Focus on the Festive
1. Focus on the five senses. This is a tactic I use when I'm trying to fall asleep and can't, but I think it could also work when striving to preserve the festiveness of the holiday season. Whenever I find myself stressed or wanting to be somewhere that I'm not, I'm going to take a deep breath and focus on my five senses. Thinking about what I can hear, see, taste, touch, and smell will help to bring me back to the moment and remind me of the good things happening all around me.
2. Redirect negative attention. Just like in Target, there are bound to be some moments where my thoughts start to wander into negative territory. However, it's up to me to stop this from happening. As soon as I become aware of a negative thought (and I must stay aware of my thinking!), I'm going to redirect it in a more positive direction. For every negative thing I think, I'll strive to counterattack it with a positive thought.
3. Create good energy. Though others around me may be stressed and frazzled by the hectic holiday season, I have a choice about the type of energy I put out. I can either feed off of the stressed out energy of others or I can choose to put out good energy of my own. This means staying calm, keeping my bitch face in check, and withholding any (and all!) negative judgments. If I create good, good will come back to me.
4. Start off on the right foot. I have to admit something to you: I didn't go into Target with a positive attitude. I had a feeling it would be too crowded and people would be frantic so I started off my shopping trip on the wrong foot by thinking negatively. One of the best ways to focus on the present and stay festive is to not go into any situation (no matter what!) with a negative attitude. Starting off on the right foot will give even the most stressful situation a chance to be a positive experience.
If I'd tried these four tactics in Target, I'm certain I would have been able to enjoy my time there (or at least make it through without wanting to run from the place!). It's tempting to get caught up in the energy of others -- especially when so many people are fueled by the same so-much-to-do panicky vibe. Even though nothing on my list was imperative and I wasn't under any stress at all, I felt unusually stressed just being around stressed people. Despite the energy I was picking up on from others, I still had a choice to be positive in that moment. Even though I'd call my dashing from Target a fail in the "staying present" department, I'm not going to give up on being present this holiday season. Stress or not, I'm going to use the four tactics above to stay focused on the festive!