Some calming balm

Christmas ornamentsIt’s December! There are so many wonderful things about this time of year, but for most of us, it’s not without its challenges. Our to do lists can get downright menacing, and our calendars threaten to burst with cheer.Family issues we’ve avoided all year are about to bubble up as we try to plan and attend holiday activities together. If you’re starting to feel more overwhelmed than merry, you’re not alone.

Tools For Shining Bright

1. Prioritize

If you’re a client of mine, we’ve probably looked at your values on some level no matter what time of year it is. Why? Because when we’re faced with tough stuff at work or home, we tend to respond by finding reasons to quit or, worse yet, we suffer through our activities needlessly.

There’s no need to suffer through the holiday season. You can avoid this pattern by reminding yourself what your goals are and focus on those. Let the rest fall away.

If spending quality time with your family listening to Bing Crosby croon carols is the most important thing to you, take a pass on that gourmet cookie project. Not to mention those handwritten Christmas cards, the extra project at work, and that sixth holiday potluck. Be realistic about what can fit in around the edges of the big things that matter, and truly let go of the rest so you can give them all your attention.

2. 10 deep breaths

For many of us, doing the things we want still generate stress and strife, even though we’ve chosen them. Luckily, there’s an easy tool to help deal with that kind of stress: breathing. In fact, it’s amazing what a little deep breathing can do to soothe this. Our body’s response to stress includes tight muscles and shallow, faster breaths. A very short break and as few as 10 deep, slow breaths can lower your heart rate and reduce your body’s stress response noticeably.

What’s more, this will give you a moment to harness your attention and take note of your focus. If you’re tangled in troubling thoughts, focus instead on doing whatever is next to meet your goal effectively. The pause you’ve taken to breathe and the physiological effects of breathing will help you think about it more clearly!

3. Contact the moment

While you’re breathing and noticing your internal mental state, take the opportunity to get in touch with your physical surroundings as well. What color is your boss’s shirt? Can you smell pine in the air? What sounds do you hear? What is your body doing in the space around you? Are you sitting? Are you standing?

Getting in touch with your physical surroundings is a great way to become more aware of the concrete facts of your situation. Facts are emotionally neutral, unlike interpretations and judgments, which amplify your stress and suffering. Just take a non-judgmental look at the features of your location in any given moment. This exercise can also help pull you out of thoughts about the past or the future so that you can engage with your present goals more effectively.

Whatever tools you use this season, I wish you a happy one!



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