12/05/2012 08:01 am ET Updated Feb 04, 2013

Launching the Holidays in Creative Ways That Restore Meaning, Rest and Laughter

Hear the call, "Runners, to your starting gates"? Shoppers are shopping, bells are ringing for donations, children are lining up to sit on Santa's lap to whisper into his ear. Ready or not, the holidays are on our heels. But what if all our best intentions end up leaving us overspent and farther away from what we really want? Ironic, isn't it? The harder we try that for which we most deeply long, connection, appreciation, meaning, rest and laughter can slip through our fingers. I call this "holiday over-functioning," and it is a nasty habit. Good news is, there is a remedy. It begins with a pregnant pause for a self-quiz.

If you are willing to consider experimenting with a new way of launching the holidays this year, contemplate the following 12 in the spirit of the 12 Days of Christmas:

1. Start with where you are. Honestly assess your energy level without judgment. Rate yours: 0-10

2. If yours is less than 10, your next step is, wait for it: rest. Rest now, not later. What follows will take care of itself. Without taking care of your energy bank account, the withdrawal can cost you plenty.

3. As you rest, especially when you confront your "I don't have time" story, ask for inner guidance. Seriously. Only by taking time to take time, with the intention of receiving your own innate wisdom, can we open to what needs updating.

4. Let the old way go. Release how you did things in the past. What is called for today? What might best restore your vitality and sense of humor?

5. Give yourself permission to create from your heart. If you gave space to "start over," just for this year, what experience would you be like to create? What might be the most meaningful and joyful way for you to complete this year? What might your heart love to birth?

6. Honor what comes. Do not doubt what is for your good. Maybe you'd like a helping of rustic, or elegant, romantic, or adventurous? Maybe you'd like more of less. Or what calls you could be "peace and quiet," or love and affection. Perhaps you'd like to think beyond the box and consider those you do not know in some act of intentional kindness that doesn't cost a dime. Maybe you are tired of "putting your energy out there" and would love to practice getting better at receiving. If so, what might be your request? What could hold you back from asking? What would your "good" look like if you didn't have to over-function?

7. Dare to be you in some original way this season. Even if you tell yourself you already do this, reconsider going beyond this belief.

8. Dare the adventure. Yes, adventure! It is so tempting to dive into "same old, same old." The question is: Does this bring new life? Regardless your tradition, this time of year symbolizes finding new light in the darkness. Repeating what has always been might be sentimental and comforting in that way, but it can also deaden an enriching way of living in the now.

9. Be present to the presence of the moment each day for at least four minutes. Breathe in and out. Let go. Receive. Enjoy. Feel your connection with life passing through you. In a recent study asking over 16,000 people what made them happiest, the theme had nothing to do with their circumstances or conditions, but rather their willingness to be present to the moment.

10. What makes you laugh? Seriously! One of the "musts" for my heart is to spend Dec. 26 with one of my closest girlfriends, a day of zero planning. We simply are together and follow where spirit beckons. I think it is brilliant. This will be the 12th year we have done this, and each year, the shared time of restoration, devoid of plan, has never failed us to refresh, renew, and call forth gratitude. The very memory of this space makes me laugh. For us, it is a religious holiday free from dogma of any form, most particularly in our own mind.

11. Come out behind the screen. Where would you like more enriching connection? Be specific. How easy it is to erect a screen between ourselves and those we love, and even strangers. Safe, yes, to discuss what is on the surface, but hardly illuminating, or enlivening. What if we made deeper contact and dared the vulnerability of deeply listening to what dwells beneath the blah, blah, blah? This is the gift that goes on giving, the gift that is never forgotten.

12. Share this process with others. What might you like to create as a community? Something beautiful is waiting in the wings for those who dare the launch.

Love Letter to Those Who Wish New Life:

As you launch the holiday season this year, my hope for you is best expressed by the I Ching that reads: "simple grace... gently penetrating."

I have sensed how hard you try to do better, to care for others in the best possible way. You have courage that goes beyond what might be recognized by others. And yet, you press on, like the good soldier, doing your bit, rising to challenges, adapting to what you cannot change, even when you would rather not. This year has brought its own hopes and even more challenges. Yet, here you are, beautiful creature that you are, too often failing to take time for you, to rejoice in how life moves through you. You are a marvel, you know. Truly a marvel. Of course, you, being you, are the last to know. And, hence, my wish for you, my dear, a wish for "simple grace" to penetrate the bastille of your thinking, which holds you back from discovering the splendid reflection you are of the light itself. Yes, you have bad hair days, like any of us. But what I want to remind you, in the simplest of ways, is that, as Carole King once sang: "We are all in this together." We are, you know. What a magnificent treasure you are within this web of life. You remind me of all that makes life worth living. From the bottom of my heart I thank you for being exactly as you are. Godspeed.

Carole King:

Your Turn: What have you launched in the past that has brought new life? Thanks for sharing that others might learn. I'm listening! Thank you for forwarding this.

A continuing thank you for the ongoing outpouring of support during this period of finding new footing, quite literally. I am most grateful.

Gratitude for your amazing way of embracing The Love Project: Coming Home. It can be a great gift for those you love.

For more by Dr. Cara Barker, click here.

For more on emotional wellness, click here.