Holiday Survival Guide

5 Ways to Cultivate Greater Joy & Ease Over the Holidays


This week kicks off the holiday season, a time of celebration, joy and togetherness. It can also be a time of stress, sadness, and frustration, as old habits, family tensions, and unresolved feelings often arise. Here are some tips for the holidays to help you spend more time with joy and gratitude, and less time stuck in all those other (totally natural) feelings that are often felt this time of year.


1. Set An Intention to Help You Stay Grounded

As you prepare food, buy gifts, and make plans, don’t forget to set an intention this holiday season. Setting an intention is a powerful way to stay grounded during the holidays. Before you welcome guests, head to the airport, enter someone’s home, or sit down at the Thanksgiving table, set an intention to help you stay connected to and focused on what matters most to you. Pick a word or phrase and repeat it to yourself often to remember how you want to show up and what you want to focus on. Some helpful intentions to repeat to yourself over the holidays are:

  • Be curious
  • Be patient
  • Be kind
  • Be flexible
  • Relax and have fun (literally let go of tension in your body and open your heart to fun and joy — let your body lead the way)
  • Everyone is doing the best that they can (give people the benefit of the doubt, and remember people are doing the best that they can)
  • Look for the good (good food, kind gestures, people who love you, the sunshine, your breath  — it’s all there, try to see it and focus on it)
  • Feel the feelings, drop the story (don’t beat yourself up for feeling whatever you are feeling, give yourself a break for any feelings that arise, honor those feelings, let them be felt, and breathe through them so you can let them move through you)


2. Say It Out Loud — I am grateful for . . .

Feeling appreciation for all that you have is a wonderful way to focus your attention. What brings you joy? What are you grateful for? Feeling grateful is easy during good times, and essential during challenging times. Research shows that we have the most to gain from gratitude practice during our most difficult life circumstances. When we purposefully turn our attention toward what we do have, instead of what we don’t, we can find joy, wholeness, and abundance, even when things are not as we had hoped they would be. As author Melodie Beattie writes, “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more.” So, this Thanksgiving, notice and even say out loud what you are grateful for. Nothing is too big or too small. A fun Thanksgiving activity is to go around the table and ask everyone to say one thing they are grateful for. It’s a wonderful tradition and a perfect way to share joy and feel the power of gratitude!


3. Give Yourself a Break and Set Boundaries

The holidays can be A LOT — family, travel, pressure to be happy — this can all feel overwhelming. So, know that it is OK to not feel happy and joyful. Don’t add shame, guilt, or anger to your feelings by beating yourself up for feeling whatever you are feeling. Instead, let it all be felt, honor it, and find ways to give yourself a break. Take time for yourself and know how you can relieve tension or stress by taking care of yourself – take a walk, exercise, meditate, or sleep in. It is so important to “put your own oxygen mask on first” so you can show up for others in a way that you would like. Know what boundaries you have to set and set those limits, like when it is time to leave or what topics you prefer not to discuss. It’s OK to set those boundaries and honor your own limits and preferences. Just as we all like to spread good cheer and kindness this time of year, don’t forget yourself. You deserve a break and self-compassion! Remember to be kind to yourself and give yourself what you need too.


4. Good Enough

Holidays are often full of memories and expectations. We set the bar impossibly high for ourselves in terms of how we want things to be or how we want to be. Then, we get upset, angry or disappointed when things (or we) don’t live up to our expectations. So, adopt the phrase, “Good enough.” Give yourself a break. A messy house, a less than perfect pie, a moment of impatience — it’s all good enough. Catch yourself when you are apologizing and stop right there. Remember it is good enough.


5. Be Where Your Feet Are

The best gift you can give yourself and those around you is your presence. There is magic in presence. The more you pull your attention into the present moment with a kind, non-judgmental, openhearted awareness, you can steer clear of all those stories you tell yourself about what is or what is not happening right now, avoid time travel into the past which is often full of regrets or frustrations, and stop lingering in the future which is full of worry. A good mantra is be (in body and mind) where your feet are!

Remember that the only place you ever are is here, in this moment. And, this moment is always changing — the beautiful moments and the difficult ones will pass. Knowing that everything changes helps us to cherish the wonderful moments and move through the difficult ones with greater grace and ease.


by Cheryl Vigder Brause