By Barb Ward

I’ve noticed this year as we head into the holiday season that more of my neighbors than ever before have put up festive lights. Even those who have always done them, have added to their impressive displays. In our household, my youngest daughter asked to put her indoor Christmas tree up before October had even come to a close. And we decided to put up our family tree and decorated our house a whole week before Thanksgiving—instead of the day after as has been our tradition forever. After a brutal year that continues to throw uncertainty and change our way, I believe we are in a season where we need something normal to look forward to, something that offers hope. And what offers more hope than Christmas?

This year we are all looking for different ways to celebrate. We are looking for ways to connect that offer us the ability to celebrate with our friends and family, while also ensuring our health and safety. We need downtime from months of home-schooled children, work-at-home schedules and ever-changing rules and suggestions for what works and what doesn’t to protect ourselves from, and to overcome Covid-19. This holiday season will be one like no other, and one that we will hopefully never repeat. So, as you connect with your loved ones, remember, you have the opportunity to give a unique present, that you, and only you can give, your thoughtful, authentic, full presence.

Not being present is easy. There are bills to pay, a to-do list to tackle, emails to check and kids that need activity or help with schoolwork. With so much going on each day it’s no wonder that presence is so elusive. But when you take the time to slow down and be in the moment, your mind relaxes, you sleep better, and you connect on a deeper level with those around you.

Here are three tips to help you be present. These work anytime, but perhaps especially this year:

  • Make yourself a priority – Whether it’s family or work obligations demanding your time, if you simply take 10 minutes for yourself to unwind, you can reset your mind. When you take care of yourself first, you can be more attentive and patient when attending to others.
  • Make memories, not “social moments” – in today’s digital world, it can be easy to get caught up in the desire to showcase every moment on social media. And, perhaps this year, this is one way you can maintain connection, but also consider using a digital platform that allows you to connect face-to-face. Face-to-face platforms can offer you a more personal interaction with those you can’t gather with this holiday season, so you can still create new “in-the-moment” memories.
  • Do one thing at a time – With so much to do, it’s tempting to try to pack several things in at once. But usually, this only leads to stress and ultimately mistakes that take additional time to fix. Instead, put all your energy into one task at a time, finish and then move on. You’ll be more focused and may even get more done as a result.

So, try to maintain traditions that make you happy and find new ways to share. If you work together with your loved ones to build new traditions and new ways to celebrate, you may just come out with stronger relationships in the end. And what could offer more hope to your family and your friends than to connect with you on a deeper level? Yes, it truly is a season like no other, and we hope for a return to our old traditions in 2021, but for now, we need to make the best of what we have. And, perhaps that is why the focus of Christmas this year should be all about presence.