You’re excited about the holidays. Finally, the time of year when not only you get a much needed break from work, but also the rest of the world shuts down. If you’re in luck email correspondence will seize for the 7 days between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day. YES!
We can all agree that this break allows us to spend quality time with our family and friends, BUT I encourage you to also make it about YOU, especially if you answer yes to any of the following questions.
Are any of the following statements true for you?
- Even when I have a spare moment to sit down, I’ll always find something I should be doing.
- I sometimes feel like I’m in a rate race. The overwhelm never seems to stop.
- My heart is telling me that I’m unhappy about something, but I can’t put my finger on what it is.
- I sometimes wonder if I was meant to do something else with my life.
- I love what I do but feel I’m not showing my fullest potential.
All our life society pushes us to DO, to SUCCEED, to STRIVE, and to be the best so to STAND OUT in the crowd. And that’s not a problem. I value these attributes as well and believe that each of us is meant to do so in their chosen field and their chosen magnitude, be it being an amazing parent to a child or being the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.
What’s missing is the counter balance that nourishes our body, mind, and soul. And from everything I’ve experienced and learned, I now know that you can’t be all these things if you march to the beat of everyone else’ drum rather than fully understand what it is YOU want out of life.
Do you know what you want? When you think about the answer, are those really your answers or those of your parents, boss, or others who have shaped your life?
There’s only one way to find out.
Take time alone, sit still, shut up, and listen.
To elaborate on this…
Take time alone: This is about youso talking to others about what it is you may want will muddle the answers with whatever they may want. I love time with my girlfriends, but even those conversations are best had when you’re ready to share your findings after spending time in contemplation on your own.
Sit still: Is this hard for you? Especially for us women who have often been told that you don’t relax until the work is done, this can be difficult. Clear your calendar, stop all to dos, and allow yourself to have no responsibilities…for once. If you can’t commit to it during the holidays when will you?
Shut up and listen: Only in silence can you hear what your heart wants to tell you. Thoughts and questions will emerge only in moments of silence and contemplation. Your intuition, that inner voice will only be heard when you shut up and listen.
This is what I do. And the holidays are the best time to do this.
I block out 2-3 days where I can be alone and commit to not doing a single chore, or have any other commitments to others. I pledge to have NO PLAN. Doing this for one day is better than nothing but the more days you can do this, the more answers you’ll find.
I write a ‘menu of self-care’ – This is not a to-do list but rather a list of options. A menu implies that you can chose. You don’t cross things off of a menu as you may want to chose an item again and again. This list should include things that nurture your soul.
This may include things like taking a full bath or foot bath, reading a book without purpose (so no business reading), playing an instrument, painting, drawing, or playing jigsaw puzzle, journaling, going for walks, napping, watching a movie, getting a massage, or anything else that feels good to you.
There’re a few things I’d LEAVE OFF the list as they’ll pull you back into the ‘outer world’. Avoid reading or watching any news, stay away from your phone, especially your emails, social media, online or video games, or surf the internet. Keep the gossip or beauty magazines tucked away, and in general stay away from TV (binge watching your favorite shows will not bring you the clarity you’re looking for). I’d even avoid the nail or hair salon or any other place where there are TVs or others around you that pull you back into society.
When the day has finally arrived, I encourage you to be lazy, to only do what your heart (not your mind) tells you, and follow those prompts without hesitation. Often this starts with lying in bed long after I wake up…
Here are a few practices that I’ve found to be most helpful in getting needed answers:
Morning pages: Have a notepad or journal on your nightstand. As soon as you wake up take a pen and start writing. Don’t sensor anything. Even if you think “this is silly” write that down. Note every thought without trying to control your thoughts. It’s amazing where this can lead you.
Journaling: I’m actually not much of a writer so my journal entries often consist of open-ended questions. What’s stirring inside me? What am I suppressing? What else can I do with the talents I’ve been given? What does the world need from me right now? Does that excite me? What does excite me? In what moments am I happiest? If I could support a charitable cause what would my heart want me to do? If I had the power to adjust how I spend my 24 hours of the day, where would I spend less time and where would I spend more time? Why? When I was a kid what creative outlet did I enjoy most?
These are just a few questions, but rather than using the ones I list listen to your heartand see what questions emerge for yourself. Even if you don’t have the answers right in that moment, this time is super valuable as I often find the answers emerge days and weeks later when I’m not even thinking about it.
Get out into nature: Yes, it’s cold but you’ve got a jacket, a hat, and gloves. Bundle up and get some fresh air. Take a leisure walk for an hour, look around and notice the small things. Somehow the gentle movement and your keen observations can lead to new questions, and often the answers to questions you’ve been looking for.
Breathing & Meditation: You may feel you ‘can’t meditate’ as your brain is going a hundred miles an hour. But I encourage you to try it again. Sit comfortably in a chair, put your hands on your thighs, and take a few long breaths in and out through your nose. Close your eyes and start observing your body. Are there muscles twitching in your body? Are your shoulders relaxing? Does your inhale feel fulfilling? Observation is where the magic happens. Yes, your mind will wonder. So what. You’ve nowhere to go and nowhere to be, right? Observe these thoughts and bring your attention back. Practice it twice a day, once in the morning and again in the afternoon.
For once this year can you dedicate a couple of days to only your well-being? I’d be willing to bet that there wouldn’t be a single person who’d tell me afterwards that it was a waste of time.
I suspect for most of you it’ll feel like the warmest hug from God himself.
Merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, and happy holidays!