3 Ways to Stay Zen this Holiday Season

“In separateness lies the world’s greatest misery; in compassion lies the world’s true strength.”
—The Buddha

The holiday season is a time of celebration and community with friends and family. Yet the hectic nature of this time of year can wreak havoc on our nervous systems as we embody the pressures of buying gifts, throwing parties, and hosting family. This season is typically characterized by love and light, but can quickly turn into one of the greatest catalysts for stress. However, through intention and awareness, we can stay connected to the essence of this spiritual season. Here, I share three mindful ways to keep your “zenergy” up as the world whirls around you during the holidays.

Be Still

There's a tremendous amount of movement that happens around the holiday season. If you actually pause to absorb what's unfolding around you, it's amazing to witness the frenetic energy buzzing about. Stillness has been my wisest teacher. When we intentionally become that still point in a turning world, we're able to find clarity beneath the ripples of stress, anxiety, and that incessant stream of thoughts. To practice the art of stillness, continue coming back to the present moment, using our breath and body as anchors to steady the mind.

During the holiday season, make your mindfulness meditation practice a non-negotiable on your schedule, like brushing your teeth or eating breakfast. Sitting on your cushion each day will help you maintain your energetic vibration, make you less reactive, and give you that embodied sense of peace you'll need when triggered by difficult family interactions. Allow this holiday season to be an opportunity to become a perpetual student of stillness.

Commit to the Sacred "No"

This is a growth area for so many of us, including myself. When we begin to practice that sacred pause in our lives, we build a greater capacity to make choices that are aligned with our life's values and intentions. In order to keep our Zen during the holidays, it's important establish boundaries and say "no" when we need to protect our internal needs. Saying "no" to party invitations, hosting expectations, and even gift-giving is a deep practice of self-care. When we take care of our energetic and emotional needs, we're able to fully, authentically show up when we actually say "yes." Committing to the sacred "no" is an act of boundary setting that aligns with your soul. 

It's liberating to exist in alignment with the needs of our inner landscape—and, in the process, we invite others to do the same. What a gift to those we love! As Brene Brown wisely says, "Don’t shrink. Don't puff up. Stand your sacred ground." Self-inquiry is powerful. When deciding to attend parties, buy gifts, and host family this holiday season, I encourage you to ask yourself, "Is this choice in service of my heart's deepest intentions?" before committing.

Be a Creature of Compassion

Compassion reflects the wisdom of being connected to other beings through the universal experience of suffering. The practice of compassion starts with kindness turned inward. When we're judgmental and reactive to others in our external lives, it's a projection of our inner wounds and judgment towards self. Acknowledging this truth allows us to release judgment and soften into our heartspace—where compassion flows. The holiday season is a beautiful time to sense the truth that we're all inextricably, eternally connected. To commit to walking a path of compassion is to journey inward—dipping beneath the materialism of the season and reconnecting to the heart of humanity.

What greater gift can you give yourself, loved ones, and the world? Perhaps you sit and practice compassion meditation to start each day this season. Or, create a compassionate mantra. I've used "compassion flows through me now, radiating into the world." Images are also powerful ways to cultivate compassion. Closing my eyes, I'll envision wrapping others in an aura of loving light. Be creative and elevate your vibration this holiday season!

Inner peace starts with you. Staying connected to the divine energy of the season takes focused intention and consciousness. Practicing the art of stillness and the sacred "no" with an expansive, compassionate heart is a transformative gift you can give yourself and others this season. Taking gentle care of our inner world will elevate our levels of peace, joy, and ease in our outer world.

Find out about upcoming programs with Lena Franklin at Kripalu.

This essay originally appeared on Lena’s blog.

Lena Franklin, LCSW, is a mindfulness-based psychotherapist and international wellness guide who teaches that to journey inward is our highest calling.

Full Bio and Programs