Writing to stay grounded through the holidays

writing to stay grounded through the holidays heading in pale aqua over photo of tangled strands of holiday lights on a wooden floor
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It’s that time again…

Ahem, I mean, ‘tis the season!!

I’m not a Grinch or a Scrooge, I promise. It’s just that the holidays can be A LOT. Expensive, chaotic, emotional. Whether you have to travel to see family, max out the credit cards playing Santa for small children, or make it through the first holiday season after losing a loved one, this time of year can take its toll.

When we feel the crush of familial obligations, financial stress, and being constantly on the go, moments of rest and reflection become even more important than usual. Maybe finding or making the time to write each day feels laughably unattainable to you, but I’ll posit, as I always do, that writing can be a grounding force when we feel like things are spiraling out of control.

Every year, just as the seasonal madness is peaking, I somehow manage to find time to sit quietly in front of the twinkling white lights and fragrant evergreens that adorn my home, sip something sweet and warm while wrapped in a plush blanket, and count my blessings. It’s in this moment, when I get still, that the holiday spirit slips in. And every year, this moment happens while I’m holding a pen.

I’m not saying now is the time to start a novel or map out a memoir, but putting down some words can help you take stock of where you are, plan a project that excites you, and stay connected to things that matter most to you. Here are some suggestions for fortifying your spirit with words through the holiday season, no matter how busy you are.


Feeling stressed? Try gratitude journaling.

Here’s a practice that packs year-round, scientifically proven benefits: Write down five things for which you are grateful. Do it every day, maybe even at the same time of day. I like to gratitude-journal right before bed. Your list can include big things, like “My family,” or little things, like “Didn’t burn the cookies.” Focusing on what we have instead of what we don't have, on what's going right instead of what's going (or could go) wrong, feels very much in line with the holiday spirit, no matter which holiday you're celebrating.


Feeling broke? Try affirmations as gifts.

You might not be able to afford the newest smart phone, but you can stay connected with those you love by doing more than signing your name to the holiday card. Write down what you love about each person, what they do that makes you proud of them. List the things they’ve accomplished this year, and what you wish for them in the next one. Write what you’d love to be able to give them and why. The gift of being seen and heard by your loved ones is better than nearly anything you can wrap in a bow.


Feeling over-extended? Try storytelling as escape.

Constant running is draining. We can start to feel like machines instead of human beings. This is when your imagination can come in handy. It costs zero dollars to sit and spin a fantastical story that looks nothing like your real life. Invent a mythical monster to slay, turn a staycation into a hero’s journey, or rewrite a favorite fairy tale in modern terms, poking fun at all the absurdities of the present day. Use writing as a way of stepping away from your obligations for a while, and hopefully, you’ll come back rejuvenated.


Feeling sad? Try letter-writing.

Someone you love who was with you last year might not be here this year. So many of us experience grief more keenly during the holidays than any other time of year. What if you wrote a letter to the person you’re missing? Letter writing can be a great way to acknowledge and hold space for our grief while reconnecting, in our own way, with those we’ve lost. Share inside jokes about how much coal your kiddo deserves this year or your aunt being back on her regifting game. Tell your ex-spouse how much you miss their cooking, or your deceased mom about the gift you so wanted to give her this year. Let it out in a letter you don’t need to send.


We can get through just about anything with writing to ground us in what matters. Even the holidays.


Will you try any of these writing practices to stay grounded during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season? Share with us in the comments.


Related reading: Reframing the “no time to write” problem

Writing is wellness! The process of writing “well”

How to re-route your writing practice when you feel lost

Find the right journal writing practice for you

Writing to cultivate calm

Writing to savor the moment


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