Things can get hectic around the holidays, and, really at any time of year. Our busy lives don’t have much room for the unexpected. When something happens – a sudden illness, an unexpected business trip, an important work project with a tight deadline – something has to give. So often what we let go of is the very thing we most need – the kind of care that helps us stay calm, centered and focused during a time of increased stress.

It’s been really helpful to have some brief, effective self-calming strategies during times like this. Here are some that  have worked well for me and for members of the Keys to Change community.

Finding Focus and Calm in Everyday Experiences

I like to think of these ideas as ways to create “micro-retreats” — brief respites from the press of daily responsibilities. When I feel like I just don’t have time, I remind myself that small investments of time for finding calm and focus pay off big time! They help decrease tension and anxiety, and increase patience, clarity and coping.

You don’t have to make any elaborate preparations for these micro-retreats. Some, like slow, deep breathing, can fit right into what you’re doing. Others take just a short time, needing very simple supplies, if any. Just as examples, here are some favorites of mine.

Some Favorite Micro-Retreats

  • Cooking a simple, favorite meal at an easy pace, enjoying the textures and scents. Putting on some relaxing music while doing this.
  • Knitting or crocheting, even for just 5 or 10 minutes, using a simple pattern, becoming absorbed in the feel of the yarn, the texture of the piece I’m making, the experience of creating something from a strand of yarn.
  • Listening to Happiness Spells while taking care of a household chore, allowing the pleasing visualizations to relax my mind.
  • Walking through my neighborhood, paying close attention to my surroundings, perhaps finding something that surprises or delights.
  • Deliberately taking slow deep breaths, continuing for 3 minutes or more. Doing this throughout the day, both at especially stressful moments, and whenever I think of it, and feeling tension leave body and mind.

When You Have a Little More Time

Even during very hectic times, you may be able to set aside 5-10 minutes when you won’t be interrupted to use the ideas found in these posts.

How to Quiet Your Mind in the Midst of Frenzy describes how to use free writing to quiet and clear the mind.

How to Deepen Gratitude in a Surprisingly Easy Way guides you in using the Six A’s of Mindful Writing to help your mind slow down and appreciate the present moment.


Try beginning and end each day with one of these “micro-retreat” ideas, or use one of your own favorites. And call upon one that you can use any time, throughout the day — like deep, slow breathing.

Of course if you have the time, even once a week for something more, by all means do it! Yoga, meditation, massage, Reiki, aerobic exercise, naps… Though you may not be able to spend as much time as you normally would, remember that some self-care time is better than none! If you have just 20 minutes, use that time for something that helps you find focus and calm, and give yourself some well-deserved appreciation for doing it.

What helps you create calm and focus when things are especially hectic?

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