This week, let’s look at ways that rituals can help us maintain peace and minimize stress during the holidays. As humans, we naturally gravitate toward ritual, ceremony, customs, traditions and other formal ways to express our commitment to what is important to us. We recite wedding vows, shake hands when we meet someone, and give gifts at Christmas. We follow daily rituals, such as practicing personal hygiene, getting dressed, preparing ourselves (and perhaps our children for the day), making dinner in the evening, and getting ready for bed.
Rituals are a natural part of our lives, whether we realize it or not. They give us comfort and a sense of control. They help us feel connected to what’s going on around us and to each other. They create a sense of commitment to our shared history. Rituals can help us get through the holidays as well.
When we connect mindfully to the rituals we practice and cherish, we can use those rituals to keep us grounded and connected not only to others, but to ourselves during times of stress. When we feel chaotic and overwhelmed, becoming grounded helps us regain peace. The repetitive practice of a beloved ritual can be not only comforting, but also grounding and healing.
Often we overlook rituals as unnecessary wastes of time. So many times when my kids were younger I got exhausted with the bedtime ritual and wish it would be over sooner. I could think of a dozen other things being neglected by the time I spent lying in bed until a restless child settled down. But truthfully, I enjoyed it more often than not. Those moments in the dark and quiet forced me to relax and be in the now. And sometimes they were downright magical. Now, at ages 12 and 14, the bedtime routine belongs to them. I get to tuck them in, but they no longer require the books and snuggling. All that time I have now for me is in exchange for my time with them. What I wouldn’t give some nights to have those early rituals back!
Though rituals change with development, growth, and time, the adherence to ritual still brings us stability and peace. Below are six ideas for simple rituals you can incorporate into your holiday season. You don’t have to make it difficult. Simply pick what speaks to you and allow yourself to being truly and deeply in the moment. No rushing, no robotic steps to check it off the list. Relish in the time they take and the value you receive from the process. Allow them to be magical.
- Volunteer. Donate time to a soup kitchen, do some virtual work. Gain perspective on your stress from serving others.
- Do some baking. Get out the cookie cutters & rolling pin & do some baking. The end result is worth it! Enjoy your favorite recipes. Don’t skimp on your favorites, tweak them with healthy updates (or not) & indulge in the tastes of the season!
- Enjoy some holiday sightseeing. Look at the lights & decorations through the eyes of a child, with wonderment & excitement!
- Get creative. A new project may seem daunting, but tapping into your creative outlet can actually reduce stress & increase joy. Make a few gifts, or design your own cards. Maybe paint a room in your house. Whatever stirs your creative juices!
- Sing holiday songs. Immerse yourself in the sounds of the season & be sure to sing along. Let the music soothe away your stress (great voice not required)!
- Journal. Write down your thoughts, experiences, creative musings. Release it onto paper then burn it if you need to!
What rituals do you enjoy this time of year? Do you see them as burdens, additional tasks on the to-do list? Or do you see them as joyful, soothing ways to stay connected to yourself and the meaning of the season? Head over to my Facebook group and join the conversation!
And remember in these last weeks before Christmas to take time to deeply experience & enjoy whatever holiday rituals & traditions are meaningful to you.