Do you believe “holiday balance” is a pipedream or a possiblity? If decorating, shopping, baking, and holiday preparations now eat up every spare moment, balance may seem elusive, something to save for your New Year’s wish list. I believe it is not only possible to enjoy balance during December, but it’s an essential ingredient in a happy holiday. The secret, as perfectly demonstrated by a circus tightrope walker, is to make small shifts and slight adjustments when necessary. This time of year, it may take more frequent adjustments to maintain balance. Here are seven steps to help keep you on your high wire.
1. Make a list and check it twice.
Feeling preoccupied by the long list of to-do’s vying for attention in your brain? Committing the list to paper can help you to focus better on the here-and-now. Write down all the things you plan to do between now and New Year’s. Include things like shopping (specify whom you need to buy for and what you plan to give), wrapping, mailing gifts, sending cards, visits, travel, baking, entertaining, decorating, and attending parties, church services, school and community activities. Now go back over your list with a discerning eye, asking:
* What are the most important activities?
* What are you eager to do?
* What activities do you dread?
* Where could you relax certain expectations?
* How could you simplify holiday preparations?
This year, for example, I plan to: make only one or two batches of cookies, and I’ll buy others from bake sales and church bazaars. I’ll also do more on-line shopping and will print address labels instead of hand addressing holiday cards. (No one can read my handwriting anyway!)
2. Focus on meaningful traditions.
Look at your list and identify the traditions that have meaning for you. Holiday preparations are often dictated by what we’ve done in the past or what our parents did when we were growing up.
* What traditions would you like to hold on to?
* What do you want to eliminate?
* What new traditions would you like to create?
Candlight, music, religious services, traditional stories, and special meals can reconnect us to the spirit of the season. Keep what’s meaningful for you in your holiday plans and curtail what isn’t.
3. Take care of yourself.
You probably already know what’s needed to keep you at your best. There’s a certain minimum requirement of exercise, natural light, healthy food, and rest that our bodies crave. This is an important time to honor those needs. Colds and flu tend to peak after the holidays, in part because colder weather keeps us indoors where we are exposed to more germs, but also because we are more susceptible to illness when we are run down. Be especially gentle with yourself if the holidays are a sad time for you and if you are still healing from a recent loss.
4. Keep the joy in your heart.
Have you ever tried to write all your holiday cards in one sitting? If so, you probably ended up with a horrible case of writer’s cramp and felt like Scrooge himself. Pace yourself so you don’t hit the wall. Imagine that you have an internal Joy-o-meter that automatically triggers a cut-off switch as soon as you stop having fun. The only way you can resume your activity is by finding a way to make it enjoyable again, perhaps by listening to some favorite music, or enlisting a helper. This could be a good time to take a break. You may resume the activity with more enthusiasm after you are rested and well fed.
5. Balance consumption with charity.
There was a tremendous outpouring of donations to help those who suffered in the aftermath of September 11 and hurricane Katrina. It’s been heartwarming to see how we’ve rallied to take care of those who have been personally affected by these tragedies. During the colder months it’s more important than ever for the haves to share with the have-nots.
* How well do your checkbook entries reflect your personal values?
* How would you like to support those who are less fortunate?
If you’d like to do more, consider making a gift donation in someone’s name, dropping off canned or packaged goods to a local food pantry, volunteering at a soup kitchen, donating outgrown outerwear, and/or writing a tax-deductible check to your favorite charity.
6. Indulge moderately.
When faced with tempting treats, bountiful banquets, and free flowing spirits, it takes ironclad willpower to say no. Unless you know that that one drink or one sweet will turn into a binge, it’s fine to be decadent occasionally. To keep from going overboard, take tiny samples of everything on a buffet, split a dessert with a friend, and pour only half a glass at a time. The best strategy is to know your limits and stick to them. If you slip up, forgive yourself, and start anew.
7. Lie fallow.
In the natural world, this is a season of rest. Deciduous trees take a break from photosynthesis, and newly planted bulbs slowly send down roots to support future blooms.
* How can you mirror the natural cycle in your own life?
* How do you find stillness?
Especially if you have a whirl of social activities on tap for December, allow plenty of down time to recharge. How about taking a long winter’s nap, curling up with a good book, gazing into a roaring fire, or meditating? Couch time, quiet time, and vacation time can be wonderfully restoring.
Here’s to a happy, balanced holiday!