It’s the holidays, and I should be (pick one or more)

  • Cleaning my house
  • Doing the laundry
  • Baking holiday treats
  • Making and shopping for gifts
  • Wrapping gifts
  • Sending gifts
  • Going to holiday events
  • Getting a new blog post up
  • Writing a newsletter
  • Keeping up with current events
  • Meeting friends for lunch.
  • Going to a networking event
  • Holding a project planning call with a client.
  • Reading background materials for a new project

All of these and a bunch of other “shoulds” continuously loop through my mind.

Very likely, your calendar is much like mine. All the regular stuff continues. A lot of holiday stuff gets added. Family get-togethers, special events, holiday travel, gift-making or shopping, cards to send….

Is it starting to sound stressful? That’s because it is. Even too much good stuff can have negative effects on us if we get overwhelmed. You know about the negative effects of stress. I don’t have to remind you of that.

How about if we try an attitude shift. Holidays are for all of us, including me and you. While you’re busy giving to everyone else, you can give to yourself as well. Let’s take some measures to take care of ourselves during the holidays. That way we can keep doing those things with and for others that truly matter most.

How, you ask? Here’s something to try:

Make a list of the things you have to do over the next few weeks. Can you remove some things from it? Simplify others? If that seems impossible, maybe this visualization/thought experiment will help.

Put on some peaceful music if you like. Sit, stand or lie down comfortably. Take a deep breath. Take some more deep, slow breaths. Keep on with the slow, deep breathing, inhaling deeply and exhaling fully. Notice what you’re thinking about. Notice how your body feels.

As you continue breathing slowly and deeply, consider, “What matters most about the holidays?” Notice the thoughts or images that come to you. It might be the wonder evoked by seeing beautiful holiday decorations. The spirit of sharing around the table during a special meal. The spiritual connection you feel at place of worship or meditation. The warm memories evoked by an annual ritual. The chance to reconnect with friends or relatives you haven’t seen in a while. The opportunity to step back from work for a time, renew and recharge.

Again, notice your what you are thinking and how your body feels. When you’re ready, open your eyes and get ready to think differently about that holiday to-do list.

Hold in mind those things that matter most to you about the holiday season. Re-read your list and make some choices. Choose what to say yes to, what to say no to, what to go all out for and what to simplify. Choose those things that are most important to you, the things that bring meaning and joy to the holidays. Allow yourself to make some things easier so you have time and energy for what you most want to do. Recognize that you may not be able to do everything, and that that’s ok. Maybe the holidays are as much about being as they are about doing.

It can help a lot to let go of some of those holiday “shoulds.” I’ve decided I don’t have to bake. And that whatever gifts I manage to knit, great. If I can’t make something for everyone, they won’t mind. What did you decide to simplify or remove from your list?

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