Taking Back the Holidays: Take a Breath
You want this year to be different. And it can be! You’re invited to join us in this year’s challenge to take back the holidays—and give yourself a more centered season. Every week, we bring you a new challenge that will help you boost your resilience, calm your thoughts, and inspire your efforts to be the best you during the busiest time of year.
This week: Shift your sense of time by rushing less, taking a breath, and changing your relationship to time during the busiest season of the year.
We’re halfway through the season. You feel the expectations rising, along with the pressure to spend what you have (or don’t have).
The stress and rushing take a toll on us, both physically and mentally,and that’s no way to live for weeks on end. By taking a few moments to shift how we spend our time, we’ll get a whole lot more peace and joy out of the holiday season.
Here are three easy strategies for finding a bit of calm in the chaos.
1. Use breathing to slow stress down. Shallow breathing and holding our breath are some of the most common ways we physically experience stress. In fact, most of the time we don’t even realize our breathing has changed, but it affects us all the same. However, we can gain control of our breathing by regularly taking soft, deep belly breaths. Studies show that this simple technique activates our body’s natural relaxation response.
To practice deep breathing, set a timer for five minutes (first thing in the morning is great, but anywhere you can snag five minutes between calls or before you get out of your car), and pay attention to your breath.
That’s it. Put your hand on your belly and feel it slowly and gently fill and empty, over and over. When your mind wanders (and it will), simply bring it back to your breath.
2. Let it go. Your time feels scarce when you’re paying too much attention to what everyone else is doing, getting, giving, spending, or eating between now and New Year’s. That’s how you end up feeling bad that you’re not doing enough, or worse, doing too much to make sure you don’t miss out.
Instead, turn your focus inward. Do you really want to bake cookies for the office party? Do you really want to make one more trip to the mall? Make the decision for yourself. A night at home. One gift per person. A trip to the community chorus holiday concert. Even if it means missing out a bit, let some of this holiday season be solely up to you.
3. Give a little time away. This strategy is about giving away to get more. A study published in the Association for Psychological Science showed that people who spend time helping others feel more capable, confident, and useful—and more in control of their time, says University of Pennsylvania professor Cassie Mogilner. This is especially true if you give your time to something that feels meaningful to you, such as tutoring, cleaning up litter on your street, helping a neighbor with decorations, or organizing a clothing drive for a local homeless shelter.
The key is to give not because you have to but because it feels good to.You’re in control when you choose how you spend your time. And that power, plus a few deep breaths, will take you far into the new year.