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How To Maintain Your Zen Through The Stress of The Holidays

I’m not sure if the rapture of the holidays has hit you yet, but it certainly hasn’t hit me. Too many incredibly disturbing things going on right now. Are we seeing a return of ’68?  A lot of us are pondering if this is going to get a whole lot messier before it gets better (assuming it gets better.)

I’m not in Christmas mode. A lot of us are not. I had a moment one day. I saw two little girls putting their Christmas wishlist in the North Pole mailbox at Macy’s. It warmed my heart–the true spirit, the assured belief… absent of cynicism. Lately, it has been difficult…to not be cynical. The world has arguably lost its collective mind. People dying, police brutality, Ebola, ISIS, pundits, static to noise social media, selfie infatuation. It’s enough to make your head explode.


Add in familial pressures and you might as well reserve an early check-in at the local hospital’s special unit. Maybe your family is highly dysfunctional. Maybe they’re no longer alive. Tons of triggers, tons of time commitments, tons of food and booze. Hard to find balance. Don’t fall into the catholic-guilty thing. This is real talk. I love my family, but they’re nucking futs, so here are some tips for getting on through.


Breath work.

Inhale one long inhale–hold for four seconds, then release. Or better yet, go on youtube and find a meditation. There are a million. Here’s one of my favorite. I do this all the time on the train with my eyes closed. It totally centers and grounds me and I feel totally renewed in the middle of all the clamor. I used to worry about closing my eyes on the train, but let me tell you, half of the world is either ensconced in a text message or subdued by something else. No one cares. Do it.

Exercise and Eat Right

Take your head for a long walk. That’s what I do. I have to clear it. I disregard the voice in my head that wants to excuse myself because it’s a little cold or I really need to catch up on The Walking Dead. I throw on the head phones, get my walk on and talk to anyone who is friendly and safe. Humans are not solitary creatures. Like it or not, we need each other. I’ll listen to some deep house and shut off the world in the in between moments. Unplug. No Facebook, no Twitter. Nothing. Recently, I walked right into L’Occitane to smell their lavender soap. That soap and I got intimitely acquainted–let me tell you. I didn’t buy it—just gave myself a five minute vacation after good jaunt. On a different occasion, when I was doing actual shopping and really busy, I could have easily snuck in a a burger or some salty Chinese at the Mall’s food court, but I found a place (next to salty Chinese) that hooked me up with an amazing, grilled chicken salad. Stressful times call for extra self-care–don’t slack on good, nourishing food and sleep. You’re worth the extra care.

I’ve had several people ask me what I’m doing for the holidays. I simply reply, “Trying to not stress out.” Most of them chuckle and say: “Yeah, right. I wish.” As if, with absolute certainty, there can be no alternative to losing your mind around the holidays. It’s true. Holidays are anxiety producing machines. Walk into any target or Walmart. AIN’T NO ONE meditating in there–they’re freaking out about the best bargain for their niece who already has an Ipad 3 and isn’t gonna care much about that Hello Kitty coloring book, but we always have choices.

Make a Gift

Home made gifts are the absolute best. Don’t have a lot of money? Bake some cookies. People love cookies. Seriously, people love anything that’s food, especially if made with love. If not, they’re silly. Or skip the baking and make a card, or a gift certificate for a service. When my brother was in diesel mechanic school and up to his eyeballs in debt, he made me a coupon for a free oil change. I can’t even express how much that meant to me. That meant more to me than anything he could have bought me. Don’t be embarrassed. A little heart goes a long way. If the recipient doesn’t appreciate it, (which is highly unlikely) it’s on them, not you.

And lastly,

Keep calm and listen to Joni Mitchell.

About Kristen Damasida

Kristen Damasida
Writer and Photographer for Virago Magazine, Kristen grew up listening to vinyl and highlighting the dictionary. Her work has appeared in IrockJazz.com, The East Harlem Journal, Boston's Culturehive, the Ithacan and other publications. Her love of music cannot be eclipsed by her love of words. She's been coined the "Akira Kurosawa of Blogs" by such people as herself. An aspiring musician, she has a serious penchant for peach-flavored anything, multi-tasking, slow-paced thrillers and dreams of going back to South America, laying on the beach, and drinking from a coconut.

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