It’s getting towards ‘that time of year’ when I find it hard to talk to people in workplaces because they are so consumed by the end of year rush and are feeling exhausted after two particularly gruelling years.
I know there are good reasons for the rush and the cramming. Christmas is one of the few markers we have left in the yearly calendar that signals it’s time to stop. We therefore push to get stuff done to make sure we don’t miss out on our well deserved breather. There’s also great satisfaction in completing things.
But I also wonder whether we unwittingly buy into a collective consensus that frenzy is what we do in December.
I really don’t believe all of the the pre-Christmas frazzle is inevitable.
Here are four ways to choose NOT to feed the frenzy.
The 4 Ss of Christmas
Simplify: do you, your family and friends really need so many, or such expensive presents? NO! We all have enough stuff already. Start reducing expectations now – and remember that experiences can make even better presents than objects. Do the meals really have to be extravagant, expensive four course feasts that leave you stuffed like a turkey and exhausted from all the preparations? Think about how can you simplify the menu while keeping is special.
Self-talk: if you hear yourself saying “I’m so busy, I’ve got so much to do, I’m so stressed,” realise that while this may be true, you are actually increasing your own suffering. How can you acknowledge the reality of the situation without creating more tension in your mind and body? You could try more neutral self talk such as, “I do have a lot to do so I am going to pace myself and slow down on the inside. That’ll help me stay steady and increase the chances I actually enjoy the ‘festive season’. ”
Step Back: rather than get swept up by frenzy around you, take a moment to step back and observe the rush. You don’t have to join or be subsumed by the stressy vibe of others, the jostling crowds at the shopping centre or the impatient drivers on the road. One of the simplest and most effective ways to stay with your own rhythm and not get swept away is to breathe your own breath. Repeatedly bring your awareness back to your breathing and bring a gentle quality to it. If you notice a fair amount of movement in your upper chest when you breath, see if you can invite more air into the lower lobes of your lungs. This pattern of breathing activates the relaxation response.
Start Now: you can actually start to decelerate now so you don’t fall in a heap come the holidays. How, you may ask, when I have so much to do?! Well, still do what you need to do but see if you can cultivate stillness in action. You can begin to do this by bringing attention to the quality of your movement as you go about your work and daily tasks. Do you really need to stab the keyboard when you type, for example, or stomp down the corridor? Experiment with: slowing down your movements; being more spacious; moving gently; and taking the unnecessary tension and contraction out of your muscles for everyday activities.
Aah, that’s feeling better already!