If you’ve been caught up in the holiday season, buying gifts, going to parties (or throwing parties) or going out to meet friends for holiday cheer, it can feel like way too much to do in way too short a time frame. If that same feeling is in your job, you’re probably having to tackle year end deadlines and goals. Have you ever felt like you’re being carried along by a force that you didn’t create and feels slightly out of control? Like being on a roller coaster ride, it can either be exhilarating or exhausting. To those for whom this end-of-year experience is exhilarating, I bow to you.
But when it’s exhausting, that’s a signal to shift gears. That nonstop round of activity is taking a toll on you. So just by making some small adjustments, you can move through whatever activities you’re scheduled for without that feeling that even though you’re there in person you’re not really present to where you are and who you’re with.
You may recognize this “present but not accounted for” state of being as having three distinct characteristics: one, it’s impossible to shut off the internal mind chatter; two, the body is full of tension and tight muscles and lastly, there’s a vague sense of dissatisfaction or impatience with things. All of which we try to hold in check until some as-yet undetermined time in the future when we’ll get to slow down and take a break. But when we push the timing of that break too far into the future, we end up with less enjoyment and less pleasure in the here and now. And the excuse we often give ourselves is that there’s so much to do, it’s just easier to go through the motions so we can get through it all. Sound familiar?
If we give ourselves just a little bit of breathing room we realize that’s not really how we want to show up in the world. That’s not the part of ourselves that allows for a meaningful exchange with others. So let me remind you of what you probably already know but may have forgotten so that you can take that break even when you’re navigating a full schedule of seasonal hustle and bustle.
When you have a long, long list of people to see and things to do, one of the best strategies is to keep it simple. Whether you’re the one doing the hosting or you're a guest, there are always ways you can keep your participation and engagement simple. Maybe that involves avoiding certain conversations, or connecting with fewer people (so that it becomes a matter of quality not quantity) or simply cutting back on what you think has to happen, be created, cooked, spent or acknowledged.
Slow down. In my own life there have been many times I found myself caught up by the belief that I have to do everything that’s expected of me, and just as many times found that I didn’t actually need to do half as much as I assumed was necessary. Most of my clients have found themselves in a similar situation in one way or another. But we’ve all come to realize when we do slow down, we actually have more opportunities to connect and enjoy rather than fewer, because we’re bringing our consciousness into play and discarding the habit of being on autopilot.
Notice. Imagine you’re driving a car through a beautiful scenic landscape and you’re going 75 miles per hour. You wouldn’t see much detail, and it would go by so fast that you’d hardly be able to remember more than a general impression of what you saw. Now imagine driving that same car in that same landscape and you were driving at 40 miles per hour. You’d be able to be aware of ever so much more of what’s around you and you’d have a much richer experience. We can apply this same principle when we participate in holiday festivities and year end demands.
When you come right down to it, there’s just one question you need to ask yourself. What’s the most important thing you want to get out of this time in your life and of this time of the year? Are you determined to get to your final destination (in this case, January 1st) or are you interested in the richness and beauty and aliveness that you could experience in any moment by being as fully present as you can? You always have a choice, no matter what anyone tries to tell you. It’s always up to you.