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    Kol Drake

    It is officially the holiday season circa 2018!
    Sadly, there can be so much pressure during this ‘festive time’ that the joy, magic, and meaning of the season is lost or replaced by stress, depression, and general down-in-the-dumpiness.

    I mean, after a day of gorging on turkey, stuffing and smashed potatos, I am huffing and puffing up and down the basement stairs as I manhandle the 20+ storage containers of Christmas decorations and lights. It is my mom’s favorite ‘season’ and she goes all out normally. After a stroke a couple years ago, she is not able to *do* all the decortating and trimming so… it is all on me these days. (I am more of a Halloween guy but… )

    So, the year is winding down while our stress is winding up as Christmas approaches at light speed. Shopping is a madhouse and the thought of ‘going out and fighting the crowds’ makes one want to hide in the blanket fort until Spring.

    It *IS* possible to not only survive the holiday season, but to actually enjoy this time and connect to your particular observance in a deeper and more profound way. It just takes a bit of ‘mindfulness’ and good old Jedi practices.

    1) Demands on Time
    After Thanksgiving, those of us in the United States often find our schedules filling up quickly with ‘end of the year’ work and last minute shopping and personal holiday parties. These back-to-back parties start to feel overwhelming as we try to juggle them with all of our other commitments. Also, creating the holiday experience we desire for our loved ones and ourselves takes planning. It often starts to feel like we are running around in circles searching empty store shelves and searching for missing ingredients for those ‘family recipes, buying and wrapping gifts, inviting guests, hosting, traveling, cooking, cleaning, buying trees (or menorahs!), decorating, etc.

    Antidote: Treat yourself! You do not need to say yes to everything. Giving and giving without stopping is not an altruistic notion. It is important to be mindful of when we might need refuelling and to allow that to happen. Self-care can mean many things, but it can be as simple as a night to ourselves that includes a bath and a good meal (cooked by someone else!) or NOT going to another work/pal’s party.

    2) Loneliness During the Holidays
    Finding ‘the right gift’ can create an immense amount of pressure. Instead of a joyful endeavor, gift giving becomes a chore, and we often become resentful and unloved if we do not receive something equally meaningful in return. Pressure can also spring up due to the longing to spend the holidays with those we love, and those we desire to love. For many, this may create feelings of loneliness. These ‘darker days of Winter’ can bring on darker thoughts if we allow them in.

    Antidote: Be mindful of the positives in your life rather than the negatives. There may be more downs than ups — but, by Yoda, embrace those ‘up’ times. Acknowledge that good DOES happen in your life… and will again.

    Consider donating your time to help those less fortunate. The holidays are a particularly poignant time to practice the art of compassion — to think of others needs before our own. There is great opportunity to give to and connect with those who do not have as many resources as we do. Giving does not have to be monetary or a physical gift. Giving comes in many forms, including smiles, time, and emotional support.

    3) Expectations of Perfection
    Man, we load ourselves down with the expectations we put upon ourselves to get it just “right.” Things have to look, taste, feel, and be a certain way. We start to get into this mind space where everything has to be perfect, which of course, is impossible. By forcing ‘perfection’ we are setting ourselves up for insta-failure for not reaching THE GOAL; feeling less joyful; experiencing a lot of disappointment.

    Antidote: Stop. Breathe. Be mindful of the meaning of the holidays. Hard enough to stop and smell the roses ANYTIME during the year but, it can be way too easy to get caught up in the commercial version of what the holiday season means today. Taking the time to mindfully reflect on what matters — whether it be our religion or tradition or even the healing power of The Force — helps us to keep our perspective as the year draws to a close. It is how we deal with our thoughts that determines our well-being. Attitude. It does NOT have to be EXACTLY ‘like’ mom (or dad or aunt tess) made it.

    4) The Indulge/Guilt Cycle
    Holidays typically means FOOD and DRINK. Wellness and Health are NOT high on the “to do” list during this time of year. Overindulging tends to set ourselves up for feelings of guilt and self-deprecation.

    Antidote: Take time to enjoy all the flavors of the holiday season. Heck, jump back to item #2 and take a truck load of food and drink to share with those who might not be able to feed a multitude (or their immediate family) for the holidays. Sharing is never a bad thing.

    A balanced Jedi life depends on moderation, and this particularly applies when we are inundated with mass quantities of food and drink. By eating mindfully, we can keep our minds, bodies, and brains healthy without the self-defeating thoughts of “we are so bad” “we are so fat,” etc.

    5) Stress and Family Anxiety
    Ah, family. Family stress shows up in many ways. This has taken on a new tone this year thanks to the political environment lately. “Red” “Blue” or “Purple” or “Undecided” — they are still family. And, it is always harder ‘hanging’ with family because we carry around all the ‘hot buttons’ we have grown up with; hold fast to; KNOW will tick off that one person who you can barely stand to be in the same room with when it is NOT a ‘family holiday’. Yule logs should be the only fire we should be fueling.

    Remember, most of the stress and anxiety around family is often what we create ourselves — we let it build up in our own heads. Unpleasant past experiences mixed with the upcoming expectations of family fireworks — we start to worry about EVERYTHING. While there might actually be very real difficulties surrounding the interpersonal dynamics of our family, we sometimes get caught up in tossing gasoline onto that family fire.

    Antidote: Be mindful and grateful. Take the time to step back and bear witness to all that you have, to count your blessings, as they say. Gratitude goes a long way when it comes to overall wellness. During this time of year, a sense of gratitude can easily fall by the wayside as indulgence and the idea of “more” and “merrier” are front and center.

    You may barely be able to stand your family. Remember, there are millions who have none… and wish every day they had someone to share their life with. “Good” or “Bad” — be mindful of all your relationships and count your blessings.

    And that is it.
    Sort of. There are way more than 5 ‘ways’ to help keep the holidays a fun time.

    Be mindful… so you can enjoy this time of festives… and still keep the Jedi balance in your life.

    Holiday Happiness, we wish you!


    LOL, I have that Yoda sweatshirt!! But, you are correct, this is a lovely season, BUT, it can go South quickly. I hope everyone enjoys the season.


    I would also say, if you know someone is a lone during this season, try to bring some cheer into their life. You might be surprise at the results.

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