December 2, 2023
Staying Centered During the Holidays (and Other Times of High Stress)
This journal shares the transcript of the conversation between Hollis and Kimmy, as they discuss tools beneficial to finding a sense of center during the holiday season or in times of high stress. Coming back to our center allows us to come back to the present moment, hold ourselves with grace, and ground ourselves in gratitude.

This journal shares the transcript of the conversation between Hollis and Kimmy, as they discuss tools beneficial to finding a sense of center during the holiday season or in times of high stress. Coming back to our center allows us to come back to the present moment, hold ourselves with grace, and ground ourselves in gratitude.

Listen to their conversation.

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Hollis: All right. Hello, Kimmy!

Kimmy: Hey, Hollis!

Hollis: It's good to be back here again with you so soon.

Kimmy: I know, I know. I'm so excited to talk about this with you.

Hollis: I am too. So for all the listeners, Kimmy and I were talking about just generally how intense the last several weeks of the year tend to be with the holidays, with holiday preparations, with all the gatherings of friends and family, traveling, spending lots of money. There is just so many things going on and we were saying, you know, wouldn't it be nice to do an episode about how to kind of navigate this time of the year?

Kimmy: Right. Because the spectrum of intensity really ranges from super high excitement to super high stress. The expectations that we feel, the overwhelm, the preparation, the gathering. All of these things that are kind of throwing us in different directions that can be really overwhelming. It can start to feel like you're in this tornado of stuff and emotion and other people. I think that finding a place to ground yourself and to come back to yourself in this season gets really lost in that tornado. For myself, I gravitate towards what is moving the quickest, sometimes because it feels like what I need to get control of or what I need to participate in and in that process I can just get wrapped up, as opposed to actually addressing it, then coming back to a sense of center or grounding.

Hollis: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. As you were talking. I was also thinking about the chaos of all of the media simulation around this time too. With black Friday deals and holiday deals and all these images of what a perfect holiday looks like and how there's just this emphasis, there's this real cultural emphasis on, you know, making this the best, the most merry time of the year. And it's such a complicated time for so many people for so many different reasons.  

I think the tornado metaphor is so apt because you can't just pull out the singular experience of it's all joy and glitter and magic. It's also really high stress and for some people it holds the experience of grief and loss. And it's complicated. The emotional clusters of you know, having joy in some moments and then having frustration and irritation and other moments. And feelings of jealousy or inadequacy, like there's so many things that come up that get stimulated from everything that we're witnessing around us and all the pressures that we're feeling within our own groups. And I think that this time is also really interesting because there's always some sort of connection to our past. There's, you know, there's this emphasis on wanting to look back on the last year, but then there's also this connection to like the joys of childhood with all the holidays and spending time with family. So there's already this kind of complicated relationship with maturation and how we've had to step into adulthood and things aren't ever going to be the same as they were when we were kids. And then everything that comes with taking on responsibility around the holidays. And so there's also this added undercurrent of time and the passing of time and our maturation as individuals and all the responsibilities and stress that comes with that as well. So I guess, needless to say, there's a lot going on.

Kimmy: Right, right. It's very conflicting most of the time! You're coming up to a lot of conflicting emotions. It's a lot.

Hollis: It is a lot. It is a lot. Yeah. So, let's talk about some potential strategies that people can use for navigating this time of year, particularly with regards to being able to hold on to their center. The way that you phrased it as a tornado, I also sometimes refer to it as (in other contexts), not necessarily during the holidays, being caught in the Whirlpool. You know, there's always an 'I’ in these chaotic spirals. And so how can you connect to that point of center? That point of stillness within you, that point of groundedness, while all of this stuff is moving around you and trying to pull you into that chaotic spiral? So should we get into it?

Kimmy: Let's get into it.

Hollis: So, the first thing that I think is just important, regardless of if we're talking about the holidays or not, is establishing a baseline for what center feels like in your body. And this can be, you know, before you enter into the real high stress of a situation or the holiday season, you know, what does your day-to-day generally look like when you feel most connected to you? What does it feel like? What does it feel like in your body? What does it look like in your habits? How is it represented in your sleep and in the way that you eat and the way that you relate to people and the way that you communicate? What just naturally feels like you? And how can you kind of mark that in your mind as in your mind and body as a reference point?

Kimmy: Right. What are the things that you can keep with you to look at every day, even if it's setting a reminder on your phone that this is the point in the day where I check in with myself. This is the point in the day where I check in with my headspace, and even just acknowledging, like oh, I'm feeling pretty high stress right now. What can I let go of? What can I release? Yeah, I'm interested in if you have any suggestions for how to kind of get clear on what those grounding tools can be, and how we can check in with those on a regular basis in the holiday season... but also in in life. I think that this is just a helpful thing to have for yourself, but especially in high stress situations.

Hollis: Yeah, completely. Yeah. What we're kind of talking about here is boundaries, right? It's recognizing your point of center and then putting the necessary boundaries up so that you can kind of protect that point of center so that even though you're being pulled in so many different directions, you're not necessarily allowing yourself to get swept up in the emotions or in the needs of or the requests of what other things or people are asking of you. And the holidays kind of require us to get really clear on what those boundaries are and to also allow our boundaries to become more fluid. You know, if your point of center on a regular basis is that you wake up and you go for a walk or you meditate and, you know, you sit down and you have your coffee, write in your journal and like you have this whole morning routine, if you're in a house with a whole bunch of family members or you're traveling a lot and going from place to place, you might not have the time or the space to participate in those things that normally bring you to that point of center.  

So when we're talking about these events in our life where we have more variables, more things going on, more things that are being requested of us, I think getting really clear on, OK, what is my baseline? How do I feel in my body when I'm in my baseline? How do I know when I'm moving beyond my baseline and what are my small little things that are touchstones for to bring you back to center? So that as you feel like you're getting pulled away from yourself, you still know, on some distinct level, that you've got yourself, that you are still grounded in who you are, no matter how much you feel like you're stepping away from your natural rhythms or your natural routines, or your foundation of center. So I definitely think those sort of portable practices need to be defined for every person they can be super simple. I have one for myself where I wake up every morning and I take 3 deep breaths and I just check in with my body and I'm like, what does my body need today? And I try to give myself that every single day. That I can do absolutely anywhere at anytime with any person, in any place, so that is one that I personally love. But I also have friends who they will allow themselves to walk away, go outside, go to another room for however long they need 10/15/20 minutes or even go their car and then, you know, once they've sort of settled back into themselves, they can rejoin wherever or whoever they're with.  

It can be also things for your night time routines like, you know, a little evening gua sha or meditation. There are so many things that you can do. So I recommend looking at your life already and asking what is it that you already do? What are the little practices that you already do that you can easily bring with you that don't even necessarily require an actual physical tool or even a lot of time or space, but really make you feel like you've got yourself? It's almost like the security blanket of practices, you know?

It's like what can you bring with you that you're like, oh, this makes me feel safe. And this makes me feel comfortable in who I am. And one thing that I actually suggested to someone recently, that's a new one for me that I am actually really excited about trying myself is picking an element. This is just like any one of them, the little tricks, but this is a fun one that I think can be really grounding because coming back to center and finding grounding and finding stillness requires you to be in touch with your body. And your physical space and it brings you back to reality. And it brings you back to the material world instead of being caught up in, like, the chaos of the felt experience or, like the emotional experience or the mental experience. So the practice is to pick one element of either fire, earth, air or water and allow yourself to connect to that element in a really intentional way. Whenever you have the chance to.  

So if you're picking water, every time you drink a glass of water, that's your moment to really allow yourself to be in that moment and with yourself. Or every time you take a shower, you're like the shower is for me. I'm cleansing my body. I'm cleaning off all the old energy. Like whatever it is, every time that you wash your hands. Even if it's air, it can be taking those intentional breaths every time you feel the wind on your face or on your skin like. Anything like that. Those little moments of really being present with yourself, with your body, with the environment that allows you to kind of see, it's almost like you can see the bigger picture while being reminded by these really, really small details. Does that make sense?

Kimmy: Definitely. Yeah. And I think being present in your own experience allows you to be a little bit more present with what is happening externally. I find that I will brace a lot of the time. Based upon what I'm projecting to be a certain experience, I'll find myself bracing and anticipating either a really good experience, like I'm anticipating that this is going to be the best day of my life, that this is going to be the most fun or I'm anticipating this is going to be really difficult. This is going to be really frustrating and really hard and a lot of the time that is super important to name for yourself like, this could be really great, this could be really hard, but the bracing for it and the expectation of that makes it very hard for me to be in the actual experience. And also, my personal felt experience because I'm grasping so tightly onto what the expectation is.

Hollis: Yeah, it's that mental preparation for the future. Instead of being very connected to where you are in the moment and by being more future focused on what this potential outcome or situation is going to be like, you're literally stepping away from your point to center because you're not present. So I think getting really clear about what brings you back to center needs to also include the practices that help calm your nervous system so that you are not in that fight, flight freeze, fawn mode. You know, you're not in that like, ‘oh my gosh, who knows what's going to happen,’ kind of state. And this allows you to find like a little bit of that equilibrium. And again, you know, looking at whatever tools, whatever practices you're already implementing for yourself on a regular basis, I think can sort of help with that. But even with applying a little more intention of these are my practices to bring me back to center and to help calm me and to help me feel more grounded and connected to myself, can add an even stronger layer of potency to those practices as well.  

But I think you also named something I think is really key, which is to name what you could be potentially walking into in these these gatherings, these events, these experiences because, you know, we have the holiday season every single year. If we do gather with friends or with family or we, you know, we kind of know what we're going into. Well, we all kind of know what we're going into to some extent because we repeat these rituals, whatever our rituals, are every single year, even if there is a lack of rituals, that's a repetition. Right? And also just to say on that note, everybody's holidays look so different, but regardless, we all have these kind of repetitions every single year of what we do, who we do it with, how we do it and naming the challenges that you know are likely going to come up: that one family member that always pokes you in a certain way or the conversations that you know are going to come up with certain people or the experiences that you always hope to have where you always walk away disappointed because you don't have them, you know? What do you know is likely going to happen? What's going to be the reality and getting clear on what those things are so that you can create a really simple strategy for how you're going to navigate those things as they come up or navigate those people or those conversations as they come up.

Kimmy: Absolutely, because just naming the patterns or dynamics or roles that you find yourself stepping in, you know, if you step into the role of caregiver with your family, that can be a really gratifying. And it can also carry with it a lot of emotion and I think sometimes when you're bracing for something and you don't know exactly what it is that you're bracing for, but you find your body doing that, like, ‘OK, I'm about to step into this’ thing. Maybe you just feel that like clenching of your shoulders or are sleeping less. Maybe you’re disengaged, you know? When you can name those patterns and look at them and say, ‘You know what? I actually don't have to participate in this’ or ‘when I step into it this year or if I find myself in the in the situation this holiday season, maybe I can relieve myself’ or ‘this is a role that I actually want to take part in, and this is a role that doesn't serve me or anyone else anymore.’  

And that takes a little bit of time to understand and to look at in necessary reflection. A lot of times I can't really see that for myself until I give myself the allotted time to reflect upon it. It takes some maturing, as you brought up in the beginning of our conversation. And looking at something and being like you know what I've, maybe matured out of that this and can appreciate that I'm at a different place and I don't need to engage in this anymore.

Hollis: I love that. I love that so much and I love the way that you phrased it, in particular, that it can take some time to get yourself to that place where you where you recognize and are able to even name what it is that maybe you want to not participate in or not engage with this time and, I guess to make this more grounded and practical for people who are listening, I would say name one thing that's challenging for you every single year that you know clearly is a pattern of behavior or a thing that you just generally do or a person that you engage with or a dynamic that you engage with -- get really clear about that scenario. Imagine yourself in it, you know, think about the times that it's happened in the past and then imagine how you want it to go differently this time around. What that would feel like, what that would look like, what your language would be? Think of any behavior changes that you would apply. Just tackling one thing at a time. Some of these things are really big, right? Some of these things have to do with patterns of behavior that we've held onto for most of our lives, and it's not going to change in one go around of the holiday season or one experience with these people. It's going to take time.  

I think if we, again, if we go into it with intention and with a little more clarity, it can feel like we're at least chipping away at it a little bit and we can find a lot of pride and gratitude for ourselves if we're just doing a little bit, even if we don't, upend the whole thing or flip the whole narrative. And then for those people who aren't really sure, like, if you know that there's things that you don't like. Or that you know you want to change, but you aren't sure about what they are, I think just asking yourself, what are you bracing yourself around the most? What are you the most afraid of? What are you the most stressed out about in this upcoming holiday season? What are you scared to get close to? And what are you already anticipating? And that can be the entry point for starting to understand what is and what isn't supportive for you, and how to support yourself through navigating that moment or that person or that conversation or that experience. Yeah. How does that sound?

Kimmy: Yeah, that sounds great. That makes me think about what we've discussed a little bit on our own, which is always a big pressure that I carry during this time of the year, expectations. And I think that the expectation can be another area of stress. But I love the idea of being able to name what you might be feeling overwhelmed about or anticipating. Looking at it for what it is and having the tools to say OK, if this happens I have this, this, and this. And from there letting go of control where we can because at that point you have the tools for what you can't control, right?  

I'm really interested in cultivating an awareness so that I can at least see it. See, when I'm placing expectations on certain people, certain events, certain gatherings, and see when I am comparing my experience to others or comparing what I think should be this, you know, picture perfect experience. And sometimes just being able to take it for what it is in the moment.

Hollis: Yeah, you're naming this kind of fine line between being able to get clear on your expectations based almost on empirical evidence, like looking back on the past and being like, I'm pretty positive this is likely going to happen, and being able to prepare yourself for what's likely going to happen. Or what's likely not going to happen that you want to happen, but then also, you know, doing that with the anticipation that it's this is potentially going to unfold this way. And then I love that you said also releasing expectation and control for the possibility of something to also happen or the possibility of something different to happen because what we're talking about here is everything that we can control versus everything that we can't control. And we can control everything that goes on inside of us to a certain extent. So how can we create the foundation, get clear on the foundation, name the tools that help us return to that foundation, that point of center, and then also strategize for when we start to feel provoked around the other things that are outside of us that are outside of our control? The expectations, the comparison, the high stresses, all the different pressures, all the different people and variables and things that end up triggering us to react or respond or have some sort of reaction to how we continue to hold on to ourselves and then also be surprised. To allow for the possibility for those triggers, those things that pull us away from our point of center, to be not what we expect.  

So, again, we're talking about everything that we can control inside of us versus everything that we can't control outside of us. And finding that balance and that difference. Kind of allowing yourself to prepare for the ride and then let yourself be taken for the ride.  

I completely hear you. I mean, I think that a lot of things happening during the holiday season can be really disappointing. I mean, I think the best example, and I think most people will agree with me here, is that New Year's Eve is like never what we want it to be. You know, there's always this excitement, this anticipation that it's going to be this great experience. Then you like you head home, or you wake up the next day and you're like, well, that was a bust. It's never what we want it to be. So how can we, I mean, how can we kind of release the expectation, the desire for it to be to look a certain way or to be a certain way or to match somebody else's standards or experience and just allow ourselves to be present in the moment and really find the gratitude and appreciation for everything that we do have in the moment. That can also be a tool for being able to stay connected to who we are and what we value and what we most appreciate, instead of getting swept up in all the other noises and things that are adding to the chaos of the season.

Kimmy: Yeah, and that'll make room for new experiences of the season, new traditions, maybe, or whatever it may be. I have a nephew who is 2 1/2 years old and I was thinking about how having a nephew and seeing this time through his eyes as a kid and getting to engage in that and experience, in a different way, it just adds so much joy and adds so much excitement. And it looks different. It looks completely different than any other year.

Hollis: While you were talking, I was almost. I also thought of something that is less about the strategy of how to navigate this chaotic time of the year and more of like a gift to give yourself during this time of the year when you have time and space and a moment. And even doing it beforehand or after the holidays when it’s kind of calm. But you know, thinking back to when you were a child, you know, what is it that you did want? What is it that maybe you didn't get? And how can you give that to yourself during this time of year?  

Just to do a little bit of that in our inner child healing work. What is it that you didn't get? How can you give that to yourself? And what is it also that you did get that you want to ensure is protected? That you continue to uphold as tradition every single year? That can be something as simple as making the same type of cookies every year or, you know, going for Christmas Day walk or whatever, whatever it happens to be. Maybe it’s writing holiday cards or something like that. Just really making this time really your own instead of again getting lost in like what everyone else defines this time of year.

Kimmy:  It's funny because I think that it's very relatable that a lot of people get wrapped up in what this time means for other people. But it's funny when you think about it, like who's actually calling the shots if it's so relatable that we're all getting caught up in what it means for other people? If we're all doing that, who is calling the shots? It's really interesting and bizarre, but I think knowing what makes this time sweet for you, if it's the weather, if it's decorating or going for a walk or gathering or cooking.  

I find so much tenderness and cooking with my family. That feels like our group superpower. Making really great meals and putting so much attention and love into that, and then really setting everything aside and being able to sit and enjoy them together. And then what makes me feel grounded for myself and adds sweetness for myself is totally different. I think having that gratitude and appreciation and then giving yourself what you may be looking for from someone else and making the active choice to say, you know what, I'll give this to myself. And if I don't get it from someone else, I I've got my back on this one.

Hollis: Mm-hmm. Yeah, absolutely. You know, I think about the holidays that I experienced growing up, and I grew up with divorced parents and every other year we would alternate holidays. Who would have me and who would not have me or where I would stay, who I would stay with. There was really nothing traditional about the holiday season. Even growing up in San Diego. I mean, there's no snow, it doesn't get cold. It's sunny. People are surfing. There's nothing stereotypically traditional about it. So I craved tradition. I always, always craved tradition. But I know people who grew up in very traditional holiday situations and traditional families and all they crave is the ability to do whatever they want to do. So I think getting really clear about, like, what would be the most wonderful experience for you specifically?  

Even just giving yourself a little bit of that if it's the freedom, what does that look like? Is it making something that's not traditionally on the menu this year or is it, you know, actually, not even participating in the holidays this year and saying I'm going to do my own thing. Or, is it doing something really traditional? Because I didn't have a lot of traditions, I love getting the tree, decorating house, doing all those things because, I mean, I had that to an extent. But that's really what I craved to be the ritual. So you know what is it? What is it for you that your inner child is like, oh I really want that. And then giving that to yourself. I love that so much.  

I would love to end it there, but I do have one more thing that I wanna say, which is that at this time of year there is so much going on. Even if you're not traveling or gathering or spending time with loved ones, there's still a lot of intensity and pressure and a lot of emotions and a lot of things going on. And when there are so many variables that we have to juggle, it can be really easy to not show up and be our best selves. Or even to have the intention of showing up and really being our best selves in whatever way that we can, whether it's for ourselves or for other people, and to fall off every once in a while or not to ‘mess up’ or disappoint ourselves or do what we say we weren't going to do. And that is just part of the human experience.  

I think this time of year is like this microcosm of everything that we're challenged to do on a daily basis, you know, set boundaries, navigate challenging emotions, deal with pressures of relationships and finances and time constraints and all of those things and then putting them all together in this one condensed time of the year. It can feel like a lot to navigate, so if those things happen and you show your own humanity and your own imperfections to yourself and to other people, know that it's OK. That it's not worth holding on to and beating yourself up too much about. It's like everything else. It's a learning experience of where you potentially still might need some inner healing, some inner love, some inner support. Where you can potentially grow, but it's not enough for you to say ‘I'm wrong’ or ‘I need to be ashamed of this’ or ‘I need to feel guilty about this.’ Obviously in some situations, yes, those experiences of guilt and shame are necessary. But most of the time I think we hold ourselves to the fire a little too much. And so just be really gentle with yourself as you navigate all of the things, all of the experiences, and all of the emotions of this time of year.

Kimmy: Holding yourself with grace is, it's just, I think it’s the most important thing to build any kind of resilience in a difficult time. And I think that, yeah, we hold ourselves to a very, very high standard. A lot of the time, like you said. I don't doubt that standards can be met, but I think that, when that is sort of married with kindness and gentleness and grace, and giving yourself some of that peace, it's so valuable and it allows you to gain more information about how you can better care for yourself in these times. So, I think that's a really, really nice reminder.  

Man, we can't get it right all the time. And carrying yourself with tenderness and grace is a really nice way to meet the very probable stress, overwhelm, and emotions that come with this season for so many of us.

Hollis: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Just to make it all flow a little more easily.

Kimmy: Right, right.

Hollis: Well, is there anything else that you feel like we need to touch on before we wrap up this episode.

Kimmy: I don't think so. I mean, I think there's so much that we could go into because everyone's experience of this time is so vastly different. But I don't have too much else to add in a short period of time.

Hollis: Yeah, yeah, I agree. We could go into so much of this. So, if anyone out there is listening and you're like, oh, they didn't talk about this, let us know and we will potentially address it in another episode. But yeah, I mean this time of year is inherently complex, and it's just a heightened version of life in general and it being a reminder that you can hold joy and gratitude and appreciation, while also navigating frustration and stress and anxiety. I think it's actually a really great reminder, because it allows us to have this multi-dimensional experience that we're having all the time. Especially, you know, this year there's so much to be grateful for. That's very, very clear based off of, you know, other things that are going on in the world. I think it's important that we do really hold on to the gratitude of what we have while also being able to honor and bear witness to the complexity of life and the difficult parts as well. Both can exist and do exist every day, all the time.  

So yes, again, if you listen to this episode and you really want us to talk about something specific with regards to the holidays or just navigating high stake, high emotion, high stress times in general, let us know. We could always do a Part 2 of any episode, so let us know if there's more that you want us to touch on. And we're going to do another episode soon about prepping for the New Year, right?  

Kimmy: Yeah, yeah.  

Hollis: So stay tuned for the next the next seasonal addition to this to this podcast. And thanks everyone for listening.

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