4 ways to shake off those holiday "crazies"
Let's face it. The song may say "the most wonderful time of the year," but the paradox is that many of us are crazed, stressed, sad or anxious. In fact, I think this time of the year is such a paradox, a contrast of the holiday "cheer" outside and the tears, jitteriness and sometimes sheer panic my patients tell me about when alone and vulnerable in the exam room. And it makes sense to me. There's a lot of pressure at this time of the year. To be a certain way. To enjoy yourself at parties, to even throw parties. To have family you want to spend time with. To shop even if you don't have the money. To pretend you aren't sad about an anniversary of loss around this time or just life itself. So what do you do?
I can't pretend to have the answer for everyone. Let's face it. As individual as we all are, so is the uniqueness of our struggles. But what I can say is that the holidays heighten all of our emotions so thinking of a little Holiday emergency kit, a tool kit you turn to at this time of the year can be a salve. Even if it feels a little late for this year, keep it in your back pocket for next December!
1. Move, move, move
"If our bodies don't move, then our minds and hearts will stay stuck as well."
Notice how jittery and/or stuck you feel at this time of the year. Most of our struggles can come down to a lack of or too much movement in our minds and hearts. The antidote for either is movement. Either to get us unstuck or to move those "crazies" or jitters through us. At this time of the year we get so mired in the doing and the struggle that we often move even less than we are used to. We comfort ourselves with couch time and movies instead of getting up and moving. Add in a walk in the neighborhood, go to the gym if that's your thing and best yet, if you can get some nature mixed in, then you can get the holy grail of movement medicine going. But whatever you do, just keep moving. I wasn't even kidding about SHAKING off the craziness. I literally do a shaking meditation or dance around the house. Find your movement medicine.
2. Just say no!
Think about the ONE thing you need to do today and say not to all else. Just because there is a lot going on at this time of the year, doesn't mean you have to participate in all of it. Skip that extra party that has you sighing in stress. Skip the extra errand that can wait. Make shopping easier and buy gift cards instead of getting lost in the crowds. (Or better yet, make something! Then you get movement of your hands and creative juices at the same time!) Whatever it is that you can put aside to get more sleep or more time for what really matters to you, do it. I am not saying we don't need social connection because that is critical. But really think about which activity is giving you meaningful connection and which one is a check on your list or an obligation.
3. Find time each day for stillness.
Just as important as movement, so is stillness. Here, I am talking about stillness of the mind. Notice how much clutter you create yourself in your mind when there is already clutter from the holiday stress. In the moments you could actually just be and not do, you may be picking up your phone needlessly, watching a video of some kind or filling your time with some other distraction. Try at least a few moments each day of just being. Some downright intentional daydreaming. Some meditation if that shakes you the right way. Whatever works for you. But find some time to do NOTHING. We all need to sweep out the clutter and we can't do that if we are loading on extra debris. Please, please do yourself and turn off the phones for a set amount of time each day. You can thank me later.
4. Find a way to give. Time, money, service. But just give.
It's not just a cliche. It may be the most redeeming thing of this time of the year that giving is underscored as a part of it. The neuroscience shows that the more we give, the more we get from it in heightened sense of well being, connection to others and that the generosity stimulates the reward centers of the brain. Volunteer, give gifts to a family in need, do a random act of kindness. There are so many opportunities all around you. And especially if you are missing a loved one or struggling through a challenging anniversary of some trauma or loss, giving provides a way for us to move outward and see ourselves connected to all of humanity, most of which are suffering just like us.
It's a challenging, beautiful, crazy, busy, lonely, light filled, dark time of the year. Yep, it's all that. It's a microcosm of life, all of the difficult and beautiful amplified into one part of the year. So give yourself a little Holiday 101 and be gentle on yourself.