A Christmas Without Stress ( Reprint )
Paul Beckow M.Sc.
The holidays are upon us, the count down is on. You’re feeling a little stressed already. Can you notice it? Oh yes, there is excitement in the air, but do you notice you are gearing up, there’s a tension setting in, like you are just beginning a mad race, to some finish-line somewhere.
If you’re beginning to feel a little stressed you’re not alone. The Canadian Mental Health Association identifies Christmas as the most stress-filled time of the entire year. They report millions of people experience and suffer, often quietly, from overwhelming stress and tension through the Christmas Holiday.
Now isn’t that strange? If there ever was a time to really relax, to take in and enjoy – this is it. Christmas is the shared sprit of community and celebration, time-off work, the gathering of family, gifts and giving, wonderful foods, bright colourful lights, beautiful music, the wide eyes, play and excitement of children all around.
With all the wonderful activities and traditions at Christmas just how can we possibly get it messed up?
We lose ourselves in all the busy-ness - in the obligations, the plans, the excesses, worries, the heightened expectations, the doingness.
Christmas becomes ONE BIG “to do” list. TO DO: The lights, the tree, the presents, the cards, the relatives, the decorations, the clean house, the baking. “Someone must “ - wash the dog, get the pointsettas, make Aunt Ruth’s favourite dessert…
So when all is done and January is here we look back and notice we were hardly even “present to” Christmas. We didn’t have Christmas - we “survived” Christmas!
I have an idea. Instead of Christmas driving us from pillar to post, what about quieting ourselves and letting Christmas come to us? Instead of surviving Christmas this year, what about “receiving” Christmas, letting Christmas gently take us?
To experience, or be present to, Christmas, invites us to give up the inflated expectations, the race, the frenzy to have to do it all. – and see if we can be still for a moment.
Take a deep breath and relax. Christmas will be fine if you don’t get those cards out on time or Aunt Ruth’s dessert isn’t on the Christmas table. It will be just fine. Relax.
In fact, right now. See if you can be still.. Just quiet yourself for a moment. Can you? Right now. Or are you “too busy” and off into the next moment, the next thing to do. “O no, not now… I have to…”
To quote John Lennon: “Life is what happens to us when we’re busy making other plans”
But I do mean, stop, be still … right now… Notice the stillness?
Honestly, what is the use of celebrating together if we totally lose ourselves, our ease, our selves, in doing so?
It is my view, there is a magical spirit of the holiday wanting to touch us all. This spirit has nothing to do with “doing things.” It is found neither in “doing” nor in “things”.
It is found in listening for, or tuning into a small and quiet place within, connecting with that.
It is found when we listen openly, and discover for ourselves - what does this time of year, this holiday mean to you? Is it Peace? Family? Love? Joy? Celebration? Giving? Gratitude?
What is it for you? Listen very quietly for the reply. Listen from your heart.
What was your answer? Did it touch and inspire you? If so write it on a piece of paper and tape it on the mirror.
Now I have a challenge for you. Don’t count on fulfilling the plans and activities to give this experience to you over Christmas. It won’t. Instead, you bring that to Christmas. If your answer was “Peace”, then bring “Peace” to the things you do. If its “gratitude” bring that to each moment of your holiday.
Don’t hope to get it out of Christmas, sometime, somewhere. Bring it to your Christmas.
Bring it to the car trip for the Christmas tree, to your wrapping presents, to the family gathering. Bring it to the shopping line-up you’re waiting in or the parking ticket you just got on your windshield. Bring it to putting up those tangled Xmas tree lights. Bring it to all you do.
In this way we take care of ourselves. We are not lost in a mad race to some imagined finish line, but we are right here, right now, and open - to the real Christmas present.
Then may our holiday be joyful and stress-free.
Paul Beckow is a West Shore marriage counsellor with more than 20 years experience. He can be contacted at 250 721 2477 or through his website: www.paulbeckow.com
For personal or couple counselling, for more information, or to register for a course - please contact Paul Beckow at The Victoria Family Institute.