The holidays mean different things to different people. It could be a time of joy for some, as we have more opportunities to spend with loved ones and get to participate in beloved traditions. For others it could be a time of obligation, overwhelm, and anxiety. These negative emotions can feel unavoidable and I want to share with you how managing your mindset can bring harmony to your holidays.

We live in a society that tells us to spend more than we have and indulge more than we should. We are told to fill our lives with things we may not want, to do things that may not bring us joy, and to spend time with people we do not enjoy spending time with. Living with these cultural expectations can be stressful. Thankfully, people are slowly stepping back to the basics of the holidays and are cultivating feelings of gratitude for the season, a desire to be more present, and spend time with those we love—the things that make the season joyful.

Being able to get back to the heart of what the holidays mean to you will require setting boundaries and determining if any of your personas are out of alignment with who you are. Personas are the roles we take on around different people or in different situations to express ourselves. We have a persona with our spouse, a persona at work, a persona with our children, a persona with our friends. If any one of these personas are out of alignment with who we truly are, we will start to feel some negative emotions.

This happens during the holidays quite a bit—when we have to put on a smile at the family party because we have a fragile relationship with someone there or when we miss out on a family event we really want to go to in order to make an appearance at a work party we don’t enjoy being at. It can come in the form of overwhelming obligation—feeling like you have to buy a gift for everyone in your office, for example. These kinds of experiences and emotions can perpetuate our feelings of stress, anxiety, and overwhelm. If left unchecked, they can grow into an extreme dread and even avoidance of the holidays.

Many people thrive during the holidays season and, with some tools to manage your mindset, you can experience more of the joy, warmth, and excitement that they experience.

To help you determine if any of your personas are out of alignment with another, I have outlined some steps for you to follow. Feel free to briefly open your eyes during each step to take a few notes to reflect on later.

  1. Find a quiet, comfortable space where you can be alone. Turn off your cell phone and minimize other distractions.


  1. Put on some light, comforting music if that feels appropriate to you.


  1. Begin, now, to notice your breathing. Allow your eyes to gently close and allow your inhalation and exhalation to settle you into a space of feeling calm, centered and at peace.


  1. Bring into your awareness something you are feeling obligated, in some way, to tend to during the holidays—something you aren’t feeling inclined to do, or don’t feel is congruent with your own needs.


  1. Begin by identifying the persona—the act or the role—you’re needing to play in order to fulfill this obligation. Who or what do you need to become, or pretend to be?


  1. Next, ask yourself, “How am I neglecting my own needs, or what am I giving up, if I make the choice to adopt this persona and do the thing I’m not feeling aligned with doing?”


  1. Spend some time imagining, in your mind, playing this role and become aware of how it makes you feel. Notice how your energy shifts, what thoughts you’re having, what emotions you’re feeling and how your physical body is reacting.


  1. Next, ask yourself, “What will I gain, or how will I benefit, if I choose to honor my own needs and make choices based on what is realistic and true to who I am?”


  1. As you spend a few moments visualizing the ways in which playing this role shifts how you feel. Become aware of how your energy shifts, what thoughts you’re having, what emotions you’re feeling and how your physical body is reacting.


  1. Take as much time as you need before opening your eyes and coming back into the room.

You may find that this meditation brought you to a negative state that you are still experiencing. If so, you can practice a technique that Hawaiians call Hakalau to reduce the charge around the emotion you’re feeling.

If this guided meditation helped you see how choosing to do what is right for you will benefit you or determine what is in alignment with who you are, it is likely that you have been able to choose what course of action is right for you. Remember that it is okay for us to nurture ourselves sometimes in order to stay more grounded and be able to enforce healthy boundaries with those around us.

When all is said and done, life requires some give and take, collaboration, and an exchanging of energy. We get to decide where the line is for us to be able to live authentically. The holidays come every year, so we may as well figure out how to experience it more joyfully.

Wishing you joy and peace this holiday season and every day!