Art of Life/Donna Parker

Donna Parker

Stress Less over the Holidays

The holiday season is upon us, bringing its unique combination of fun, joy, stress, excitement and downright craziness into your life for the next few weeks. It can be the best time of the year and in some ways it can be the worst. The daily forces that make our lives less than peaceful are magnified during the holidays.

Holiday bustle is a nice way of referring to added stress, family conflicts, overeating, and enduring winter’s blast. Although, you cannot control everything that happens during this busy season, you can control more of it than you might think. You can radiate peace and bring in the joy and grace that the holidays are all about. The key to the practical approach is to remain open and mindful of your personal attitude. Here are four ways to accomplish this:

Remain Centered - The natural state of the mind is calm, quiet, and undisturbed. This fact gets lost under stress and forgotten when there is constant activity during the day. Do not wait until you feel frazzled to regain your center. Make it a habit during the holidays, anytime you feel distracted or less than calm, to find your center again. To do this, simply sit quietly by yourself with your eyes closed. Take a few deep breaths, then place your attention in the heart area of your chest. Breathe naturally and let your attention rest on your heart. If your attention wanders, gently bring it back to your heart. Do this exercise for 5 to 10 minutes and repeating if needed during the day.


Take Some Bliss Time Every Day - There is joy and bliss at the core of your awareness, but it is covered over by constant mental activity. Before you can follow your bliss, you must find it first. To find it, you will need to trigger or spark your memories. Bliss is easily triggered or sparked through memory. Sit quietly by yourself and take a few deep breaths. Recall something in your life that has brought you joy. You might use a visual image, or use music you enjoy as the trigger. Once, you have your memory, direct your attention to your heart. Feel the bliss as a sensation in your heart — it could feel happy, smiling, vibrant, warm, loving, a glowing of white light, or any combination of these qualities. Do not worry about how strong the sensation is. Even if it is just a glimmer, rest with it for five minutes. With practice, your bliss moment will become more natural and stronger. Just begin where you are; it will be the right place for you.

Put Aside Expectations - One of our primary causes of unhappiness is defeated expectations. Children expect to be happier during the holidays, and this expectation is not only powerful but also a source of bliss for them. As adults, our holiday expectations have often been defeated and we enter the holidays expecting a repetition of old negative experiences. Sometimes, the mere sight of a difficult family relation brings to mind all the misery of past holidays. Stop and remind yourself to not allow your old memories to control you. Pause, take a moment to close your eyes, and say to this phantom from the past, “I no longer need you.” Ask the image or thought to fade, and wait for a moment until it does. This is one of the easiest and most practical ways to bring your mind back to the present moment, which is the only time that is real.

Do Not Get Put Back in the Box - Upon seeing a friend or loved one, you may automatically fall back on a default mindset. No one likes being put back in the same old box. Avoid this from happening to you, by observing the following Do’s: and Don’ts:


• Give everyone a break — have the intention to let each encounter be fresh

• Make sure you are centered.

• Leave the room when stressful situations arise.

• Realize that everyone has a story, everyone believes in their story, and all stories are equal. This maxim will help you when someone else disagrees with you or comes from a place you find hard to handle.

• Intend to be a source of peace and happiness for yourself.

• Let everyone feel that they are being heard by you.


• Bring up the past.

• Use the holidays to wrestle with relationship or family issues.

• Deliberately be a source or trigger of stress, by not finding fault, reminding people of old bad memories, or joining in arguments.

• Pick sides.

• Play favorites.

Finally, and most importantly, see people for who they are now. Do not put others in a box, even in jest. People might smile, but everyone hates being seen only in terms of the past.

If you look upon the holiday season as a time to evolve personally, your attitude will bring out the best aspect of your desire for peace, harmony, love, and bliss. When you seek these qualities inside yourself, you will radiate peace in every situation you find yourself in. Peace on earth is achieved one person at a time, and the only person whose peace falls on your shoulders is you.

You can use colored pencils over the holidays to color the attached deer photo. Enjoy!

Donna Parker Graphics