Linda Lewis Griffith

8 ways to have a stress-free holiday season

Giving to others fosters humility and remind us of our place in the larger community, retired San Luis Obispo therapist Linda Lewis Griffith says.
Giving to others fosters humility and remind us of our place in the larger community, retired San Luis Obispo therapist Linda Lewis Griffith says. Lexington Herald-Leader/MCT

What do I want this holiday season? To experience more Zen.

I’d like to go about the business of Christmas while remaining calm and attentive to my surroundings. I want to accept everything that comes my way the joyful as well as the irksome. I’d like to express love and kindness toward everyone I meet.

That’s a high bar on a good day. No matter how hard I try, something always seems to dampen my meditative mellow. Add the stressors inherent in the holidays, and the task grows to mythic proportions.

I’m certainly not a Zen master. Nor can I even claim to be a Buddhist. But there’s still plenty I can do to nurture peace this time of year.

Do one thing at a time. Sure, we’ve all got voluminous to-do lists. But multi-tasking immediately ramps up anxiety and destroys all ability to focus — opening the door for careless errors. It’s much more Zen-like to focus on one task and see it through until completion.

Perform each task slowly and deliberately. Stop rushing. Allot every chore the amount of time necessary to complete it.

Do less. Buying loads of gifts or decorating every inch of your home doesn’t necessarily make you happy. What will improve the season is staying calm and spending time with people you love.

Insert space between activities. Avoid the temptation to stack chores like cordwood. Instead, make each one a separate entity. Finish a task, acknowledge it’s complete, then take a break. You’ll feel less stress.

Smile often. It’s easy to get Scrooge-y in December. But rather than saying “Bah! Humbug!” try putting a smile on your face. Smiling releases endorphins that increase your sense of well-being while decreasing pain and stress. It’s also contagious and makes others equally cheery.

Be quiet each day. You might meditate for 20 minutes, read inspirational words, pray or simply reflect on your many blessings. If you notice your thoughts are scattered, don’t try to change them. Merely recognize the inner chatter and return to being calm.

Give to others. There are a sleigh-full of ways to be of service to others — such as caring for aging parents, donating clothing and putting money in the Salvation Army kettle outside the grocery store where you shop. Selfless actions foster humility and remind us of our place in the larger community.

Find joy in everyday activities. Seemingly mundane chores provide an opportunity to quiet our minds and detach from holiday chaos. Just remember to breathe, relax and be Zen-like.

Linda Lewis Griffith is a retired marriage, family and child therapist who lives in San Luis Obispo. Reach her at lindalewisgriffith@sbcglobal.net.
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