By Erin Austin
In what seems like a lifetime ago, I worked part-time in a retail clothing store. Despite retail not being my favorite job, I still can’t forget our holiday “Who-Who-You” sales strategy:
“Who are you shopping for?”
“Who else is on your list?”
“What about you?”
When it comes to holiday season stress, it feels likely that much of it, for me anyway, is due to adopting a “Who-Who” view of the season instead of “Who-Who-You”.
Through trial and a considerable amount of (often laughable) error, here are six ideas I use to help quell seasonal stress:
1. Rise & Shine
I’m a full-time teacher and mother of a 2.5-year-old and a 5-year-old; someone always needs me for something. When I feel frazzled, I do something my former self would’ve considered sacrilege: I get up early. It’s not by a lot–only 20-30 minutes–but it makes all the difference in my day. I get up, make tea, sit under a blanket on a cozy chair, and read. ALONE. It’s lovely. Instead of starting my day 100 miles per hour, I ease in, and it sets the tone for a better day.
Tip: Try one of the Celestial Seasonings holiday blends during your rise & shine time. Yum!
2. Meditate…but differently
While reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestseller Eat, Pray, Love, a line stuck with me: a monk told her to “meditate on whatever causes a revolution in your mind”. For me, the answer is simple: music. I have a meditation playlist of songs that settle me down, that stir something deep inside, and I listen to them as my meditation. Sometimes I start by focusing on the guitar, other times on the bass or drums, and I let the music guide my mind. Without fail, I physically feel my entire body slow and release within the first minute.
Tip: Wear headphones. It makes the experience more intimate, and the way certain elements fade from side to side enhances the effect.
3. Write a note
As a teacher, I occasionally deal with an unpleasant parent and have the kind of phone call that leaves me an angry mess afterward. Instead of stressing about it, I write a note. I take the frustrating quality of the parent (or their child), think of a student with the opposite quality, and I write that student’s parents an email. I praise their child’s positive quality and thank the parents for doing a great job instilling that trait. And you know what? I always get an email back, and I always feel better. The same can be done during the holidays. About to lose your mind dealing with traffic or long lines? Write a quick note to a friend whose patience you admire. Struggling with a coworker? Write a note to a different one, telling him or her why you appreciate them.
Tip: A handwritten note is a nice touch, and you can take a cue from Elle Woods and add a scent to it. (“I think it gives it a little something extra.”)
4. Take 5
No matter how busy we (think we) are, we can still carve out a simple five minutes for a reboot somewhere in the day. Five minutes of focused breathing has a multitude of health benefits including reducing stress, lowering your heart rate, and reducing adrenaline chemicals in the body. Five minutes of sun salutations can ease tense muscles and support mental focus. Five minutes of sitting on the shower floor and letting warm water stream down over you is magical.
Tip: One of my favorite applications of focused breathing is doing it every time I’m in the car. That helps me be regular about it and has the side effect of making me a calmer driver.
5. Become a “No, but…” person
I am the quintessential “yes” person; I say “yes” to most tasks asked of me. The truth is that I don’t always have time, but I like to be helpful, so I say “yes”. This puts me and my needs last, and around the holidays this makes stress build faster. Simply saying “no” can be hard, but if we say, “No, but….” and then offer up something helpful, we save our time and energy while still being of service. For example: “No, I can’t help with that right now, but I know someone who would love to! Let me give you their contact info!”
Tip: Make a goal along the lines of “I am going to say ‘No, but…’ three times this month.”
6. Create an oasis
I have resigned myself to the fact that it will be years (if ever) that my entire home is clean at once. I’ve had to adjust my expectations here considerably, and one of my solutions was to create an “oasis” in my home. It’s a spot that always stays clean and free of clutter, and includes only my things. Simply being in this space reduces my stress! Whenever anyone else’s stuff encroaches on my space, I literally throw it into another room…because it’s my oasis!
Tip: Use this space for your rise & shine time (#1 above) in the mornings or keep your yoga mat permanently unrolled here for easy access.
Who requires your time and energy this holiday season? Who do you choose to give your additional time and energy to? And most importantly, what about you? Here’s to a holiday season with less stress and more smiles!