Here come the holidays barreling down the calendar track. Are you frozen like a snowman in headlights? Or are you frantic, checking an endless litany of musts off your overloaded holiday to-do list each day? Even if you feel great about the approaching holidays, and are mostly on top of all of the extra tasks that come with them, you can still hit your limit now and then. Once your holly-jollies start running on fumes, these steps will remind you how to hit the reset button, so you can make a quick comeback.
Stop it. The frenetic pace is undeniable at this time of year - planning, shopping, parties, travel. However, all day, every day, you get to choose whether to act, react, respond, or detach. If you are often not feeling like you can invoke your power of choice, and if you find yourself reacting to situations you would prefer to detach from, then maybe you need a break. You’ll know you need a break if you feel constantly grumpy and stressed out. When this happens, take 10 minutes to re-evaluate your day. No matter how much you still have to do, anyone can spare a few minutes.
Drop it. You may be attempting to accomplish too much most days because of holiday pressure coming from inside and out. But your holidays are more likely to be imperfect rather than perfect. Ironically, the more we try to jam into our waking hours, the less we feel like we are in the flow. If we are pushing all day, using will to power through a series of tasks, it may feel as though each task grows larger and more daunting than the last. The key is to stop pushing. Striving is tiring, and constant striving turns quickly into exhaustion. Drop the willpower and try to relax yourself back into a more natural flow of tasks instead.
Sit down. Find a chair or sit on the floor against a wall. Breathe in and breathe out. Just sit for a few moments, relax, and do nothing except breathe. What you are doing is using breath to slow down time. Of course, you can’t really control the clock, but you can change how time feels to you by getting back in touch with your senses. Breathing slowly and deeply is a shortcut back to sanity when you feel stressed. If something of tragic proportions happens, like forgetting to put the turkey out to thaw or neglecting to mail a package early enough to arrive on time, just keep breathing. When you panic and start berating yourself, it’s game over for your holiday spirit. When inevitable stresses strike and mistakes happen, sit, breathe, and take a few moments to collect yourself.
Tune in. Once you can maintain a feeling of calm, pay attention to what is going on inside you. There may be a swirl of competitive shopping going on all around you, but you can transcend any amount of external static by getting a grip on what's happening within. What you are looking for is your inner compass. Some folks call their intuition the still, small voice, others may rely on their inner Jiminy Cricket. Some people have a spiritual attitude towards their intuition whereas others may prefer a more religious approach. It really doesn't matter what you call your intuition, as long as you can tune in to it. Practice staying tuned in whether in calm or busy environments. If you can stay tuned in and trust your gut no matter what else is going on, you'll be the happiest person around.
Appreciate something. Now that you are calm, cool, and collected, take a moment to appreciate one thing. Consider something simple: notice a pretty wreath, feel the magic of watching falling snow, or the warmth of your coat on a brisk day. Once you get a grip on one thing you can enjoy thinking about, think about it as long as you appreciatively can. When you feel done, move on to the next natural thing to appreciate. You may feel grateful for something right in front of you or for something more abstract. Whatever you genuinely feel positive about, counts. Take a couple of moments to appreciate little things until you feel a smile spread across your face.
Let go. No doubt, once you stop thinking about good things, a few stressful things that have been lined up waiting for your attention will pop into your mind and start jumping up and down and waving their arms. But here’s the thing: You just got yourself into a pretty good place. Do you really want to go back to square one all over again? I’m sure you don’t. And don't feel badly about wanting to milk feeling good as long as possible. It’s good for you, so keep it up. Don’t revert right back into a stress monster. If nagging worry keeps dogging you, acknowledge the concern and gently wave it to the side as though clearing a butterfly from your path.
Act thoughtfully. Ease back into your day, moving forward mindfully. Drop the list for now. What is the single next most important thing to do next? Intersperse actions with self-care. Do a task and then put on some cheerful tunes. Do another and then light a wood wick candle. Do another and then put the water on for tea. Take short breaks after completing a series of tasks. Have small snacks throughout the day so you don't overeat at mealtime. Maybe put your list away for a little while. Later, pull your list back out, and check a few more things off of it. But don't become a slave to your to-dos. Remember, you set the tone for your holiday. And you can stay in charge by taking excellent care of yourself.
Author, journalist, and writing coach Christina loves to savor the day during the most magical time of the year.
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