Pause and reflect before you leap.
Yesterday I spent an hour with my November/December calendar–not penciling things in, but cancelling pending events and making choices that supported a more open, spacious, restorative winter schedule.
Does the thought of hanging lights and attending holiday parties make you want to grab your sleeping bag and run for the nearest cave?
It would be an understatement to say this year has been intense. In addition to the chaos we’ve all been experiencing on a macro-level, most of us have felt over-scheduled, overworked and unable to unplug. Many of us have navigated big career and life challenges—and we’ve had little time to integrate these changes. Frankly, we’re exhausted. We’re ready for rest. Not a relaxed evening by the fire, but a serious stretch of lazy days, long naps, walks in the woods, deep nourishing slumber and joyful, easy, simple connections with friends and family that feed us emotionally and spiritually. What we most need in the coming weeks is not the latest iPhone or one last trip to the mall, but permission to rest, relax, unplug and do nothing.
But with all the expectations, activity and invitations that come with this season knocking on our door—what are we to do? I challenge you to take the road less traveled and take a radical stand for what you most need this year. Consider the following five ideas to help you do less:
Schedule down time now. Block out periods on your calendar during the holiday season for "dedicated relaxation," where your only job is to unplug from electronics and rest. Schedule half-days, full days, weekends or an entire week if you can swing it. Maybe you'll feel like a nature hike when your period for renewal rolls around or maybe you're better served by staying in your pajamas, turning off your phone, sipping on hot tea and watching the leaves fall from the trees. Make downtime a priority and schedule this now so you can honor your commitment to deep to-the-bones self-renewal.
Just say no. Decide what's most important to you and let everything else go. If it's not an "absolute yes," then it's a no. Don't want to miss Aunt Tracy's special Christmas Eve dinner but feel exhausted at the thought of attending your neighbor's cookie exchange? Just say no and let it go. You'll be glad you did. The opportunity will come back around next year. Our quality of life is always enhanced when we let go of things-not when we add them.
Ask for help. Give yourself permission to ask for and receive help whether it's cooking, gift giving, socializing or hosting family. Do it different. Be willing to let go of tradition for the sake of enhanced emotional well-being. Step out of your comfort zone, reach out to friends, neighbors and coworkers and ask for their help during the holidays so you can create more space for yourself and your family to just "be." What are three things on your plate right now that you could delegate, outsource or ask for support around?
Do less to experience more. Positive psychology researchers say we're happiest when we keep things simple and have fewer choices. We create stress when we try and cram too much into our schedules and then try to control everything we're juggling. My friend, author Joan Borysenko says, "Your to-do list is immortal; it will live on long after you're dead." How can you simplify your plans (do you really need to go chop down your own Christmas tree, make your mom's famous Cathedral stained glass cookies and host your husband's department dinner)? Popcorn, hot cider and an evening of great conversation with people who let you show up "warts and all," is hard to beat. Do less, so you can experience more.
Unplug and spend time in nature. My friend Richard Louv author of the Nature Principle says, "Time spent in nature is the most cost-effective and powerful way to counteract the burnout and sort of depression that we feel when we sit in front of a computer all day." I call nature the ultimate antidepressant and re-set button. If anyone in my family is exhausted or out of sorts, off to the greenbelt we go. Typically during the holidays, my family unplugs completely and heads to the Davis Mountains in West Texas to enjoy some of the darkest night skies in the world. Being in nature offers us nourishment and renewal on all levels—physical, emotional, spiritual and mental. It is a powerful, restorative and healing force. Tap it!
There is an innate push and pull that many of us feel during the winter season. As the Dec. 21 winter solstice approaches–the longest night of the year–our natural rhythms are calling us to slow down, reflect, go inward and contemplate where we’ve been and where we want to go. (Think of our friends the bears, they’ve got it right!) Counter this with the world around us that is swirling madly with activity and constantly telling us to do, eat, buy and be more. It can feel quite confusing, exhausting and overwhelming.
I challenge you: do it differently this season. Pause and enter the holiday season mindfully and with a clear intention. If the call to making rest and renewal a priority resonates with you this holiday, make this #1 for yourself and for your family. Then, you can bound—instead of crawl–into the new year fully present, refreshed and clear on how you want to use your energy in the days ahead.
Written by Renee Peterson Trudeau for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.