Re-Imagining the Holidays: 6 Ways to Resist Overabundance and Create Gratitude, by Sara Wiseman
(Article originally published in The Llewellyn Journal.)
Are you dreading it, already?
You know…the whole shopping-gifting-cooking-cleaning-eating-drinking socializing-relatives-traveling season just ahead?
From Thanksgiving to New Year's, many of us get trapped in a cycle of overabundance—the state of having too much. As in: more than we can use. More than we can process. The cup not just full, but overflowing.
It's gotten worse in recent years, starting with Christmas decorations that go on display at Halloween to the frenzy of Black Friday. We've become a culture of excess and a society of waste, moving from the next new thing to the next…without ever taking the time to enjoy any of it. We have so much, and it's arriving so fast that we can't use or even experience it all.
This overabundance—having more than we really need—creates stress, lowers vibration, and zaps energy from mind, body and spirit.
Now, I'm all for abundance! I'm certainly not one to pass up on anything that brings pleasure or beauty or connection to my life. But when we become trapped in the cycle of overabundance—the endless circle of want, get, want, get—our lives fall out of balance.
Six Ways Overabundance Causes Holiday Stress
During the holidays, overabundance shows up in different forms. It's not just eating rich foods or excessive gifts, as you'd expect, but less obvious ways as well, including: too much socializing, complex family relationships, rigid tradition, and low vibration group thought.
Here are six areas where overabundance can create stress in your life:
- Overabundance of Food
Rich, sweet, fatty holiday food lowers your physical vibration, which affects mind and spirit, too. If you work in an office or with a group of people, it's hard to escape the sweets in the break room! Alcohol from frequent social events adds to this mix. Don't worry about weight gain—instead, be focused on the energetic signature of the food you eat. Is it processed? Will it make you feel good? Does your body really want it? Pay attention, and don't let the season of indulgence lower your vibration.
- Overabundance of Gifts
The cycle of shopping, buying, wrapping, giving, and receiving can be very stressful, even if budget is not a concern. The sheer energetic reality of involving ourselves with objects, or "stuff," can be overwhelming, especially when we understand that every object has its own frequency, vibration, or energetic signature depending on where it came from, how it was made, who made it, and so forth…this is a lot of new energy to add to your reality!Consider your energy as you decide how or if you will give and receive gifts this year. Consider your energy if you decide to do without, do less, or give experiences or to charity instead. Once you break the gift cycle, you will be surprised how free you feel.
- Overabundance of Socializing
Office parties, school events, the annual party you've gone to every year for ten years…All of this has a certain clamor of "must attend" attached to it, when in reality, you can change plans, opt out, or do something different. Don't rely on what you've always done—you're a new person now, and you may want to try something different. Reassess every year.Introverts especially may need a lot of private time during this season; give yourself the gift of quiet and solitude.
- Overabundance of Family Relationships
There's that saying: you can't go home again. And yet every holiday season, most of us continue to swim up river to our birthing place. Many times, the wounds, past hurts, and misunderstandings are still there. And because we're so busy during the holidays, we don't have time to work on our relationships with our family members. Understand that family karma is complex, and the stress of the holidays makes it more so. Be gentle with yourself and others. Have an exit strategy if things go awry. If it's just too much, opt out and try again another time.
- Overabundance of Tradition
Just because you've always done it a certain way doesn't mean you have to do it that way now. This might include: going to a certain event, party, gathering, or church service; wearing certain clothes; decorating a certain way; eating certain foods; being with certain people; and so on. Break free from the rigid traditions your family has "always done" and see what else the Universe might have up its sleeve for you and yours!
- Overabundance of Group Thought
Understand the power of group thought or collective soul to affect your mood. We've all seen what fear-based beliefs can do to collective thought: hate, violence, financial ruin, and war are all products of low-vibration thinking. During the holidays, mindless consumption is the culprit: everyone is stressing out on want, get, want, get. This creates enormous stress, and when this is done in the collective, everyone feels it. During this time, connect to your own higher self, God/One/All/Divine/Source, frequently and deeply. Use Thanksgiving and Solstice as markers for the season—times when you can easily dip into gratitude and joy.
- Overabundance of Food
The Joy of Doing it Differently: Releasing Worn Out Traditions, Creating New Experiences
For years, I traveled north for Christmas—packed up my partner, kids, dog, and a car full of gift-wrapped presents and hustled the I-5 corridor from Portland to Seattle.
The trip was no over-the-river-and-through-the-woods…everything about it was stressful! Traffic on Christmas Eve was difficult, at best. We were cooped up and restless in my mom's tiny one-bedroom condo. And we were stuck in the city, instead of out in the nature we loved. And yet, I gritted my teeth and did this trip for twenty-nine years because it was my family tradition.
Until last year, the Universe stepped in and simply said, "no."
Early that fall, I'd had two (successful) surgeries for cancer. But I was still in recovery, and by the time the holidays rolled around, the Universe started informing me, at first gently and then persistently, that I wasn't up for the trip.
What? Not go to Seattle? Not do the family trip? Really? Yet every time I asked for guidance, the answer came back loud and clear: No. Not this time. And so, after a very long family discussion, we opted out.
For the first time ever, we stayed home in Oregon for the holidays. We cooked a little food, and opened a few of gifts—inexpensive, silly things. We decorated our tree. We slept in late, and took long winter walks in the woods, and at night we bundled up in blankets on the porch and watched the winter stars move across the sky.
It was low-key, it was real, it was absolutely us…and it was one of the best Christmases ever.
Since then, I've let go of all the old ideas about how the holidays "should" be, and begun to recreate them as truly authentic celebrations—genuine expressions of gratitude for this amazing human journey. I've recognized the holidays for what they really are: holy days, outside of any religion, that ask us to go quiet and still as we give thanks for our lives. A beautiful time, filled with deep appreciation and joy.
I'll admit, it wasn't easy. It took a very active releasing of the cycle of overabundance in all its forms—food, gifts, socializing, family, tradition, and group thought—to allow this lovely clarity to shine forth.
In fact, stepping into this way of living authentically can be quite difficult at first—it may require letting go of tradition, from what the mainstream dictates. It might mean something as big as deciding not to visit home during the busy season. Or, it could be as simple as choosing to not indulge in holiday foods, so your body—and you—feel better. Or maybe giving only a few, inexpensive gifts. These decisions are yours to make.
When you allow yourself the freedom to create your holiday your way—not the one dictated by mainstream society, or handed down from your ancestors, but yours alone—everything about the season shifts.
Gratitude, which might have seemed the furthest thing from your mind in that cycle of "must dos" and mainstream stress, becomes alive in you again.
Most importantly, you begin to understand that overabundance isn't actually what you need—after all, you don't really require a cup that's overflowing. You just need a cup that's full.
Ten Ways to Jump-Start a Holiday Filled with Gratitude
- Travel outside of peak season, if you travel at all. Booking a flight Christmas Day instead of Christmas Eve is an entirely different experience.
- Limit gifts to small, inexpensive tokens. Or gift "experiences" instead.
- Make a bucket list of what you really love about the holidays: walking in the snow, sleeping in, watching Frosty the Snowman. Do these, and let the rest go.
- Graciously decline invites that no longer fit. A simple, "I'm sorry, we can't make it" is all you need.
- Sleep, rest, be still. It is winter, after all.
- Play cards, catch, dolls…connect with younger ones and your younger self.
- Revisit the holidays as holy days. Go to church, if that feels right, or a spiritual service in your community. Celebrate the Winter Solstice as an end of darkness and arrival of light.
- Give hugs, the best gift of all!
- Get emotional, feel it all, and celebrate, in your heart. Life is a miracle.
Article originally published in The Llewellyn Journal. Copyright Llewellyn Worldwide, 2013. All rights reserved.