This blog post is written by Sheryllyn Dougherty, senior student at Sukhasiddhi.
Do holidays bring as much stress as joy? Here are four simple steps to managing holiday overload when it starts to create worry and anxiety, during the holidays or any time.
Last week I was walking down the sidewalk in a busy Holiday shopping district and suddenly my mind went quite mad. I was hosting an early Holiday dinner on December 8th and the beloved relatives were on their way.
The questions were looming.
—Did I remember Aunt Sandi’s food allergy when I ordered the smoked turkey for dinner? Did I remember a Hanukkah gift for my son-in-law, Max? What about discussions about politics??? Two family members are clean and sober—should the other guests be discouraged from drinking at the dinner? Some folks are gluten-free, some daily intolerant, and some just plain picky. The guest bedroom is too small for my 6’4” tall brother-in-law, the towels are not fluffy enough—and wasn’t someone allergic to fabric softener? What to do?
My mind had run amok, my friends. At that moment, my mind was in holiday overwhelm. Like Emperor Franz Josephs complaint to the genius Mozart that he used “too many notes”, my wonderful genius mind had too many thoughts and competing ideas and fears.
I had forgotten who I really was and couldn’t see what was really going on. In that moment, I fully believed in the crazy state of ‘Holiday Overload’ I was experiencing and I could see no end in sight.
To regain my sanity I needed to direct my mind to move toward its natural state, clarity/ emptiness. To do that I took the following four steps:
1. STOP. I stopped right in the middle of the sidewalk. My rushing motion was not helping my frantic state-of-mind. In that moment, just like that, I stepped out of the fray.
2. SIT. I found a bench and sat myself down. Believe me, the cold metal of the seat caught my attention right away!
3. BREATHE. When I sat down, I felt my breath high in my chest, almost like I was having a panic attack. I remembered the basic meditation instructions I first heard some 30 years ago—Attach my awareness to my breath. Follow the simple experience of inhalation and exhalation. When your mind wanders or is distracted, gently bring it back to the object of concentration—the breath.
4. MEDITATE. Remember this! When in doubt, meditate. With my eyes wide open, I sat on the icy seat, breathed quietly, following the rhythm of my respiration. When fears arose, I breathed through them. When thoughts popped up I gently noticed them and let them go to their own place. When my body felt cold and uncomfortable, I let the feelings be and relaxed.
Within five minutes of this simple meditation I started to feel like I had arrived back in my body. After 10 minutes, I began to remember who and what I really was. I knew then that I was not the busyness, the craziness, and the perfectionism that I was acting out in this time of Holiday stress.
I had started to make my way home.