I recently read a short story from Lynn Thibodeau, a mother of an eight-year-old son. Her husband had given her some beauty products last Christmas and she was about wash off one of the facial masks, when her son walked into the bathroom and asked what she was doing. She explained to him: “It was a present from your daddy and it’s supposed to make me beautiful.”
After washing it off, she smiled as she looked at him saying, “Well, what do you think?”
“Oh, Mom,” he whispered. “It didn’t work.”
When Holidays Just Aren’t Working
Unfortunately for many of us, this humorous little story is a picture of reality. Our holiday season isn’t working. It really isn’t a break from the stress of life. We don’t feel beautiful. In fact, during this season, we feel the pressures of hosting others, or of finishing strong. We feel the expectations of others, including extended family members, employers, teachers, spouses and friends. Sometimes, it’s hard to focus on others and enjoy the holiday because of year-end deadlines. For some of us, we can hardly wait for the “break” to be over. This is not the way life should be.
May I offer a handful of simple steps to take to combat the stress and reenergize?
Take five minutes—or even one minute—and stop to just breathe. I have a reminder on my Apple Watch to do this, four times a day. You don’t have to be into Eastern Meditation; this is just a healthy practice. I pause from the task or activity I’m doing and focus on my breathing. I stop worrying about things in my day and push the pause button. Then, once I have stopped racing (mentally), I think. I pray. I reflect. It’s my way of gaining my bearings on the day or week I am experiencing. For a full 60 seconds (or a full 300 seconds), don’t let your mind get distracted or distressed.
I find that I actually begin to enjoy my day again; I can make it meaningful instead of haphazard. I can soak in what’s happening to me and in me. I become intentional.
2. Customize an hour of your day.
People re-energize differently, based on their temperaments. We all must find our method to re-energize. Extroverts (those who are energized by time with people) should find a friend and hang out. Talk. Vent. Laugh. Reflect. Introverts should find some time to be alone—and not feel guilty if people are in the same house. Our stress levels climb when we feel our day is out of our control, or when we feel we’re at the mercy of everyone else’s agenda. We gain a deeper sense of peace when we can customize at least part of our day, and do the very thing that provides energy to us.
3. Express appreciation.
As simple as this sounds, you’ll find if you can literally talk to someone you are thankful for and tell them how much you appreciate them, it is a gift to you in return. You can talk to a current friend, a past relationship or a recent acquaintance. You can talk over the phone, you can use FaceTime, you can Skype, or you can pray. Just make it as impactful as possible by actually talking, not writing a note or sending a text. Psychologists remind us that humans are social creatures and our emotional tanks are filled when we “ladle” our gratitude out to others and when we receive a “ladle” full of someone else’s gratitude. You can only control the first one, so get going.
4. Just say “no” once a week.
Part of our higher stress-levels come during the holidays because we are expected to do so much more than our normal routines. It’s not that we’re requested to do destructive activities, just that there are more items to get done than what we’re used to doing. It’s actually liberating to say “no” once in a while to a request for your time or attention. In fact, it might just be healthy for you. Everyone has an emotional boundary or limit. When we cross it, we are not the best version of ourselves. In fact, when we cross the line, stress can take over and it can turn into distress. When you examine your expanding “to do” list, why not offer an alternative to some of the people requesting your time? They still get a solution and you get to stay sane. Furthermore, you may just feel energized by the experience.
This Week Only: Buy One, Get One Free Marching Off the Map &
Buy One, Get One Free Generation iY
During the month of December, we are working with Santa to deliver two new presents to you each week. This week’s specials include:
- BOGO Marching Off the Map
- BOGO Generation iY
Specials ends: Sunday, December 24th at midnight.