The "Holiday Season" (from Thanksgiving to New Years), can be one of the most joyful times of the year. Many people look forward to this time, envisioning seeing friends, getting together with family, and seeing so many people in a good mood. While it is true, there is that "holiday happy", charitable, give-to-others vibe going on, there is still a large part of our universe who feel overwhelmed.
Just about everyone at some point in the year, will experience feeling overwhelmed. It can be a positive stress, such as preparing for a major vacation trip, or getting ready to host a party. But the holiday season brings to the surface "overwhelm" in most of us. This is no surprise, since work normally does not stop, at least not until the last week in December, yet, there are gifts to buy, holiday parties to attend, family to see. Ah, family, sometimes the mere mention of family getting together can stress people out. So, during this joyous holiday season, many people are going through their days, worrying about all that needs to be done, checking off the next item on their "To Do" list. Can any of you relate?
With so much going on, another thing happens - we stop taking care of ourselves. Thus, the purpose of this post is to remind everyone of the huge importance of SELF-CARE. The first things to go are exercise and mindfulness or quiet self-time. From there things will slide, such as staying on your healthy nutrition regime. I want to remind everyone to take time for themselves, and to stay the course with your health and balance. Here are some tips:
1. EXERCISE: Movement every day is important to your overall well-being. If you don't have time to do your regular workouts, marathon training, yoga rituals, then do a "mini" version. You can (a) do a 10-15 minute workout of your choice - maybe an on-line yoga routine; Pilates; lift some dumbbell weights; do a Hiit workout; You can dedicate 1-2 days a week to just stretching out, using a foam roller to get out your body kinks. Walk for 1 mile, or 5, 10 or 15 minutes any time you have a break in your schedule or the weather. It is true that even small bouts of movement make a positive difference. If you are home-bound, do stair-climbing (the old-fashioned way).
2. MINDFULNESS / QUIET TIME: This is critical. Our heads, brains and minds become stuffed with stuff. Have you ever had that feeling that your "head is about to explode?" It simply means you have too much that is trying to be stored there.
(a) Write down your "to do" items, don't rely on storing them in your head;
(b) Prioritize - if there is no time to rewrite your list, put asterisks next to the most important items so you at least get those done today; think through where you are driving each day - can you toss in one of the lesser important ones which is in the area you're going? think of ways to cut that list down, but don't hold yourself to too-high expectations. Give yourself a break - you can only do so much.
(c) Meditate - I know you've heard this countless times. Everyone says they can't concentrate and thoughts swirl around in their head- guess what? - it's the same for everyone. Here's a fact- proven by science: Even giving yourself 5 minutes time to sit without doing anything else, gives your brain time to empty out the "clutter", even if you're swatting at all the thoughts swirling around. The key is to try and focus on something like your breath, or do a "body-assess", focus on parts of your body, what you are feeling, any aches and pains? feeling good? notice it, go through all parts - and, you have just refocused your mind if only for a few minutes. When odd thoughts wander in, notice them, and swat them away, focus on breathing, etc. There is no award given for meditating the longest. Figure out what you have time for- make room each day for at least 5 minutes - 10 if you can. Perhaps save longer meditations for the evening. And.. guess what? If you can even do it for 3 minutes, you are helping your own wellness and well-being, which makes you more able to handle the overwhelmed feeling, and perhaps get it under control.
3. MANAGE YOUR TIME WELL: Set aside time in the morning, to just focus on yourself- stretching, foam rolling, movement/ exercise; meditation or prayer or other mindful activity; yoga; Pilates, walking, running, hiking, whatever will be a positive to you and your mind and body. It is critical to not touch your phone, iPad or computer during this time. It will only distract you into responding to others' priorities and take you away from your own. Indoctrinate people in your life that you will start reading emails at 8 or 9 a.m., If you give a gift of time to YOURSELF in the morning, it will set the stage for a good day. You will be more in control, not resentful of anyone "robbing" you of your time, and you will be more productive.
4. MAKE THOSE TO-DO-LISTS THE NIGHT BEFORE: Review your list before bed, make sure you included your "YOU" time. Review it again after you have completed your morning rituals - yes, I used "rituals" for a reason - it is important to make these routines into rituals, so that just like brushing our teeth, they become second nature. Habit making and habit breaking is too large a topic to cover here (*but good news-I have a whole chapter dedicated to habits in my upcoming book on "Balance". Hoping to finalize it by early 2020.)
5. SLEEP: Figure out how much time you need for your morning ritual of exercise or movement; mindfulness, prayers or meditation, aka quiet time; Allot time for those in your "to do" list so that you do not run out of time to do them. If you need extra time in the morning, this will impact your bedtime. You may want to get to bed 1 hour earlier to allow you time to do these important "you" items. The importance of sleep cannot be overstated. There are many people, including people close to me, who truly struggle with being able to fall asleep, or who fall asleep only to awaken easily after a couple hours and have difficulty falling back asleep. The activities described above, such as mindfulness/meditation, exercise (though best if not too close to bedtime, to give your brain and body a chance to “slow down”), good nutrition, can help with overall sleep. The bedroom environment can affect sleep. Numerous science studies show that having the room as dark as possible, limiting light (e.g. even the light from your smart phone can impede sleep!), keeping the room temperature relatively cool, rather than hot (because your body heats up during sleep), and getting into bed at an earlier time, can all help. Some people take melatonin, many health practitioners recommend taking Magnesium (a very important nutrient that is often overlooked) at night before going to bed; There are sleep medications, both over the counter, and prescribed (please use only as needed and under a doctor’s care; also watch out for overdosing or addiction). Snoring and sleep apnea may indicate a serious medical condition, so if it is chronic and keeping you (or your spouse/sleeping partner) awake, please see your medical practitioner). If all else fails, consider a sleep study. There are many tweaks , hacks and tips available on-line. Regardless of the situation, sleep is very important to overall well-being, feeling good, and functioning at your best.
6. PRIORITIZATION: Figure out your priorities for the time period after your morning "YOU" rituals. Watch out for the "frog" or "gorilla in the room"- e.g. make sure you are not putting off a major task because it is difficult - you may want to prioritize it, because once that is out of the way, your mind can relax, you will feel better about all the other tasks.
7. HEALTH & WELLNESS: There are a lot of colds, flu's and bugs going on out there now. Everyone is hacking and wheezing and sneezing.
(a) Try to steer clear;
(b) I, and many health practitioners and nutritionists, recommend starting out the day with lemon juice, often with apple cider vinegar added. 1/2 to 1 cup of water w/1 tsp ACV, first thing in the morning; it alkalizes your stomach and helps to strengthen your immune system.
(c) keep elderberry, zinc or Zycam and other holistic remedies nearby. You can stir one dropper full of elderberry extract into water
(d) Wellness Formula is excellent; you can get it at Amazon.com for the best price per size. Take it preventively or at the first sign of something being wrong. Make sure you are getting enough sleep and include yourself in health & wellness "gifting".
8. MONEY: This holiday season in particular, inspire or seemingly commands people into spending lots of money, on gifts, parties, clothes for parties, food for large group events, etc. and sales, lots of sales and discounts. Too many people spend beyond their means, which leads to feelings of stress and overwhelm. There is a psychology and mindset involving Money, which, similar to the topic of Habits, merits more time and space to discuss than we can fit in here. However, some quick tips if money is a concern or stress for you:
(a) Gifts: First, plan out a gift-giving list, then step away; Come back and look it over again and consider if you can pare down your gift-giving? Many friends do not expect gifts, in fact most adult family members do not expect gifts. Of course, children do. If you feel you must give a gift, but are strapped for money, perhaps you have time to offer--consider offering to help someone: watching children for harried, new parents to get a night out; or taking care of someone’s pets when they travel; For someone who has infirmities or disabilities that limit mobility, helping with chores and errands around the house or outside, or sitting with them or taking them out for a meal or movie; if you are handy, helping with small home repairs, etc. Think of how you can help with your time and abilities, for someone who lacks the time. It will be appreciated! No matter what, do not spend more than you can afford on gifts, no one wants you to suffer or go into debt for a gift.
(b) Food: For get-togethers, there is nothing wrong with potluck, asking people to bring a particular dish, food or drink. Especially with family, almost everyone wants to contribute something to the meal.
(c) Parties and Clothes: TIP: There is usually NO reason to buy something new for that big party of yours. I once went to my store salesperson to get a party dress. She had helped me a year earlier to find a really beautiful dress that fit well and was in my favorite color, which I wore to a few holiday parties that year. She asked, “What’s wrong with the dress you bought last year?” I responded that everyone had seen that dress several times. She asked, “Can you describe or recall anything about the clothes that others wore at all these parties?” I could not. She said, “Wear that dress, you will still get compliments, and no one will recall you wore it a year ago.” Her advice was spot on! She saved me spending unnecessary money.
Be mindful of the money you have, money you are earning, and affordability. Spend money mindfully. Go ahead and give that expensive gift to your special person, if you can afford it and it will not unduly put you into debt. If money is concerning you, please be mindful of it, what you have, what you can afford, and whether you need to spend the money in the first place, or how much should you be spending? To be popular or liked by someone, is not a good reason to spend money you do not have.
On the topics of "mindfulness and money": It is important to have an “abundant” mindset, rather than a “lacking” mindset. There are lots of studies that demonstrate that thinking in a “depleting” way, e.g. “I do not deserve and have no money, and don’t think I will ever have enough money”, will lead to more lack, while, thinking in an “abundant” way, e.g. I deserve and have money, and I am continuing to have money”, will lead to more money coming into your life. So, watch your thoughts and try to keep them positive, especially during this hectic, overwhelming time.
This is not comprehensive, but I hope it will help. If doing anything here is of concern to you, be sure to talk with your doctor or medical practitioner first.
Happy Holidays to all! Toasting to your Health, Wellness, and Balance.