Christmas Day Survival Guide

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Christmas is my favorite holiday, but let’s be honest: it can be hard.

It’s a loaded day, heavy with expectations. It may be spent around people who know our oldest stories yet are also part of our deepest wounds. It’s one of the days when I like to say something the journalist Connie Schultz wrote, “For those for whom this holiday is difficult, I hope today lands gently.”

Even when we are happy to be with our loved ones and enjoying good memories, expectations of perfection on this one specific day following weeks of extra busyness can really set us up for a fall. I have a few suggestions to pass on (read: remind myself of) to help one get through Christmas, and if you use them, it is 100% guaranteed* you will have a wonderful day.

1.    *How ridiculous. Maybe about 3% guaranteed. My first suggestion is to accordingly lower expectations. Don’t ask much from the day. My expectations for tomorrow are to have a cup of coffee and go for a walk. Anything else that does or doesn’t happen, I’m going to give it a pass for the day. (If it rains tomorrow, walk may be substituted for a few downward dogs.)

2.    Extend these lower expectations to others. Don’t expect them to be nicer, more like you politically, or changed in any way because it’s Christmas. In fact, if anything, some of us – we know who we are – become less nice versions of our selves during these special days.

3.    Be gentle with your self. Give your self lots of room to breathe. If you find your self berating, criticizing, take a moment to think of you as your own child. Draw your self in with compassion. As with children, it’s likely that you need a nap, something healthy to eat, or a quiet time out.

4.    Go outside at some point. If possible, go for a walk, even if it is just 5 minutes around the block.

5.    Wear comfortable clothes. Really, this is most of the battle.

6.    Breathe with me. Big breath in, big breath out. Big breath in, big breath out. Repeat as necessary. Sometimes I also remind my self of something I once heard an instructor say in the middle of yoga class: “Breathe in. Take as much as you need.” When there is not enough food, enough wine, enough presents, enough anything to make us feel less scared, less sad, less hopeless, we can take just as much air as we need. We will not run out. There will be enough.

7.    Know that I pray for each of you:
May you be well. May you be happy. May you be free from mental suffering and distress. May you be free from physical suffering and pain. May you live with ease.

Merry Christmas!

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