Ahhhhhh…the holidays. The shopping, the songs, the sweets…what’s not to love? UGH! What’s not to love? Are you kidding me? The holidays are freaking stressful – figuring out what presents to buy people, trying to keep your weight down when every other co-worker is shoving cookies in your face, having to waste precious vacation days with your family and your uncle’s crazy new girlfriend that you can’t stand, decorating your house when your kids aren’t helping…I’m sorry, but the most wonderful time of the year is not always so!
I learned a long time ago that commanding joy during the holidays takes some focus and dedication. Weathering through the feelings of being overwhelmed leading up to the big day requires a strong desire to do so. In between watching your bank account dwindle as you buy presents, putting up with the traffic around every major shopping mall, and having to deal with airport chaos during this time of year.
How to deal? Take a page from the Optimist’s playbook. When the feelings of stress start to rise up, and you know they will, prepare yourself ahead of time with three easy techniques.
Take a Time Out.
You’ve spent hours, even days feeling overwhelmed to the point where you don’t know how or where to start. Do you decorate the tree first or start shopping on amazon? Crap, don’t forget to send out the cards – when are going to find time for that? The deadlines at work are piling up, with no extensions in sight. As soon as you sense the helplessness from the holiday to-do list, start a to-don’t list. Take a time out. Put whatever you are doing down and for 5 minutes, re-shift your focus. Get your mind off it for a while. Start to think about the wonderful parts of the season; the pretty lights up in the neighborhood, the fun songs that celebrate love and togetherness, the days off you might get from school or work. There is joy in the season even if it takes a few minutes to remind yourself of it.
Focus on your Breathing.
Have you ever noticed that when you feel stress, your body tenses up and you hold your breath in? Sometimes the easiest and fastest way to calm down and command joy is by simply taking a few deep breaths. How it's done: With one hand on the chest and the other on the belly, take a deep breath in through the nose, ensuring the diaphragm (not the chest) inflates with enough air to create a stretch in the lungs. The goal: Six to 10 deep, slow breaths. With each exhale, why not give yourself a little pep talk? Say something to yourself like “hey self, this is nothing I can’t handle, I’ve done this before and I can do it again” or “woo-hoo, look at what an amazing person I am, handling all of these stuff and keeping a positive attitude,” or “I’ll let everyone else get stressed out, not me…I am calm and confident.” When we breathe deeply, we oxygenate the blood, which causes our brain to release endorphins. It is these endorphins help reduce stress in the body and decrease levels of pain.
List 3 things you are Grateful for.
It’s so easy to lose perspective when demands are piling up around you. A few years ago, when I was constantly feeling burned out, overwhelmed, and overstretched, I decide to get into the habit of writing 3 things down every night in my journal of what I was grateful for. I probably read somewhere that Oprah or some other famous person had done this. So, I decided to give it a try. At first, I thought It was stupid and a total waste of time. I didn’t feel any more positive, and I certainly wasn’t acting any more positively. But then, after a couple of months, I realized that during a normal day, I would start to think about what I was going to write down that night. I found myself noticing and paying attention to the small uplifting moments in my busy day so I would have something to write down in my journal. After all, you can only be grateful for your health and job for so many journal entries. Sure enough, I had slowly shifted my attention to the good things in my day and found myself feeling more joyful about everything. So, do it. 1, 2, 3. Think about it, write it down. Here’s a start: the fact that you are still breathing, that you the means to have internet so you can read this post, and that you, unlike the majority of society, have enough courage to seek out websites like command joy which means you are open to growing and becoming a better person.
Cheers to you and have a happy, healthy, command joy holiday season.