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5 Tips for a Lower-Key Approach to Thriving in the Holiday Season

November 20, 2013
Tara Fass

If the upcoming holiday season looms as something less than exciting and heartwarming, you can take comfort in the notion that the fall/winter holiday cycle is meant to increase lightness during the darkest days of the year.

Our ancestors knew that survival requires getting through dark times, and participation in even a minimal amount of seasonal traditions or establishing new ones for yourself can help you connect with your hidden light.

Disclaimer: these ideas present just a road map, and should not be confused with the territory, the journey, or as a substitute for counseling. Remember too, if you're having suicidal thoughts please reach out to a prevention hotline, therapist or trusted friend. Sharing your pain is better than suffering alone especially if you're drinking alcohol alone and outside of mealtimes.

There is a harvest time in your bio-rhythms that coincides with autumn's catch.

Like the yield from the field, not all of it makes it to your table right away. If you find yourself too much on your own you may feel out of sorts. Know that some experience can't be understood in the short run. Take some comfort in the endurance part of this endeavor called life.

Hard times can require reflection to be fully digested

It helps to look at everything that happens as a kind of fuel, sometimes held in reserve for another season. You don't have to figure it all out now -- greater depths of understanding will unfold over time. Emotional turmoil is a reminder that you aren't necessarily in control and that will suffice for now.

Here are 5 tips for what you can you do to take care of yourself and make feeling blue from a sense of loss of control more manageable?

A break from your regular routines over the holidays can be seen as an opportunity to forget your every day worries and merge with larger organic cycles.

This might mean something as small as taking a walk outdoors each day to be exposed to the benefits of even weak natural light or cooking for yourself. I find that garden work such as pruning, weeding and sweeping can bring a sense of catharsis as can making a big pot of soup.

The Zen directive for chopping wood and hauling water applies: when you're absorbed in a repetitive rhythmic activity, it's like a moving meditation, at the end of which you see an immediate positive effect. Your surroundings -- outer and inner --seem tidier and well kept. You've worked up an appetite and have something to eat.

Bring easy to care for living things into your home if you can. Paper white bulbs are blooming now, as are mums and Christmas cactus. Evergreens smell so good. Poinsettias come in so many colors and variations these days. Many of these can be kept for weeks and later transplanted outside.

Feeling left out of certain activities and celebrations?

A way to positively re-frame this is you weren't meant to be there. The adventure of "you" is whatever it is, wherever it takes you. If you feel terror, make it your job is to use the fear to point to your next move. Staying indoors? Have a spa vacation in your own home. Ablutions and bathing rituals in general are meant to be restorative and cleansing to more than just the body.

Try to get away, travel, even day trips to museums and gardens, especially if you're co-parenting and it's not your year to have your kids. Maybe this is the winter holiday season for you to go to a spiritual retreat or some other sacred space where others congregate. The work of listening to and making sense of your inner game takes place both in isolation and in small groups.

Reflection is important, but I can't emphasize enough not to be too much on your own. Even if you're acting 'as if' or pretending to have a good time try to be with others. Make sure you have at least one or two gatherings to attend, as host or guest. Volunteering to help others may also help ease loneliness.

If you're feeling low and blue, chance are there is unfinished business that needs to be re-buried to rest in peace.

A place to start may be to ask yourself: How old were you when your parents were your age now? What was going on in their lives compared to yours? Were they going through similar struggles at about the same time you are now? Are your kids now the age you were at this time? As Mark Twain said, "History doesn't repeat itself -- at best it sometimes rhymes."

Does anyone you're on the outs with resemble a parent or authority figure, dead or alive? As an adult, if you still have strong negative emotions about your parents, this is proof positive you've got unfinished business with them that's likely to be causing misery today.

If you've lost touch with family members you might try to look for and reach out to them. If they've passed away, seek out people who knew them. Find yourself talking to your parent or others openly about re-dressing old hurts to affect healing today.

In a reading mode, then intersperse reading for pleasure, that novel or poetry, with non-fiction work such as history or biography of someone you're curious about.

I recently came across an article meant to be for self-help that had me in stitches laughing on how to succeed at self-sabotage and be miserable by esteemed therapist Cloe Madanes.

Holidays can either sync you or sink you.

As you move through holidays that roll out like a reliable drum beat in fall and winter, ask yourself repeatedly with every word, mood and thought, what are you unfolding to? What really makes you tick? In a phase of self and career re-invention, also known as an encore career, what do you need for a fresh start? There's an old saying it's never too late to have a good childhood, well it's never too early to have a better career either.

What passion and purpose can also bring you a paycheck? Creative thinking produces ideas that move in diverging directions, there's never a better time than right now to brace yourself and bring it on.