Wanting Holiday Balance
The holiday season typically brings too much activity and a lot of overwhelm for me. How can I enjoy the festive weeks more?
Signed: Wanting Holiday Balance
Dear Wanting Holiday Balance,
Overextending ourselves is a problem many people have, no matter what time of year it might be. But the holiday season can bring out that concept of “excess” even more. I use a specific concept a lot when I am describing the essential aspect of a healthier life. That concept is “balance”. We have to be able to balance our day (even each hour sometimes) on a regular and consistent basis, if we expect to find a sense of peace and serenity in this life. When a busy or crisis period hits, we are much better able to manage the extra physical, emotional and mental effort it requires when we come from a foundational place of resilience and fortitude. If we are already drained and overextended, a chaotic period will just send us deeper into a spiral of negativity.
For today, let’s just focus on the holiday season. The first step in trying to get balanced with holiday obligations would be to consider what is coming and make a plan. Create a daily agenda, broken into hourly sections if that helps even more. Write down all the obligations that you feel need to be prioritized and be sure to add in travel time or prep time (getting dressed up, or making a potluck dish for an event, etc), as you think it will be needed. Don’t forget to also include the activities of your regular, everyday life (like work, household chores, taking the kids to their events).
Whittle down these obligations based on the flow they create for you. Look at them objectively and ask yourself if you truly have the ability to do 4 big events, back-to-back, in the same week (for example). Recognize whether or not some of these obligations are really worth it for you to do (especially if you hate doing them). If the answers are no, you might need to start thinking of a polite way to send your regrets to at least one or two of the invites.
Now that you have an overview of the demands you can expect to be facing, it’s time to start to build in some counter-activities, as well. If you go into the holiday season surrounded by things that drain you, how can you expect to not end up stressed and overwhelmed? You need to build in pause breaks and refill moments, as well. Pause breaks are moments that allow you to catch your breath again. They are activities that bring you out of a draining moment, and help you find your way back to a neutral state. Refill moments are activities you do to recharge and replenish your emotional, mental and physical energy. They build your stamina back up from neutral and into the positive zone again.
Here are some questions to help you create some pause and refill moments:
What are some activities that make you smile?
What relaxes you and helps you unwind/let go of the stress of the moment or of the day?
What kind of activity do you enjoy doing that helps you connect to the people you value and cherish?
What is something you do that allows you to bring back old memories and stories from great times in the past?
What kind of activity connects you to any Higher Power that you might believe in?
What do you think is just fun to do, every single time you do it?
What kind of activities are a reflection of your value system and the things you hold dearest, over the holidays?
What kinds of things have special meaning to you, especially over the holiday season?
Once you have created a list of things that help you reset and perhaps bring you pleasure and enjoyment, you need to go back to your agenda and add them in. They counterbalance the draining obligations, and should be scattered in multiple places throughout your day (with extra servings whenever the busy-ness is going to be higher than usual). You will need many pause breaks (ideally, one each hour) and at least one refill moment, each and every day. Some of the counter-balance activities might require 3 minutes of your time; others might need an hour. You can fit them in as they work best.
Yes, I know what you are thinking! LOL Finding the space to incorporate these activities might be a challenge at first (your obligations likely far outweigh your counter-balances; and you already feel like you don’t have enough hours in the day). But these refills and pauses are as equally essential as any of your obligations. Without these, you have no hope of not being stressed out and upset, as the holiday season takes over. It all comes down to how much you are willing to do what is needed (put some boundaries in place), instead of just accepting what sneaks up on you (and is easier to just give in to). It likely means saying no to some of the things that are creating that feeling of overwhelm for you!
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