I find it ironic that this time of year is so stressful. It's a time of reflection, appreciation and celebration. Instead, we're bombarded with to-dos, family and work obligations and the added pressure of holiday gift-giving. On top of all of this, we're expected to start planning for next year with ambitious New Year's resolutions. How on earth can we plan for a great new year from this stressful place?
I've never been a big believer in resolutions, but I am a big believer in creating more of what I want and need in my life. On the other hand, I don't want to work so hard that I'm stressed out all the time. Remember the old saying, "work smarter, not harder"? For me, that happens more consistently when I tap into my passion and create from there. I'm not stressed out all the time, pushing myself harder and hard to do more and more. Instead I'm living a more blissful life, even during the holiday season. Everything just seems to click into place as if by magic.
Deepak Chopra explains this magical flow as "the ability to recognize and take advantage of the abundant possibilities that always surround us." He's referring to the everyday coincidences that somehow put us in touch with just the right people, the hunches that direct us to just the right place at just the right time to give us just the right next step that eventually helps us realize long-held dreams. If you're moving at the speed of light and your stress levels are climbing, it's hard to notice these subtle nudges in the right direction. In order to flow with the rhythm of your life, rather than struggle against it, you need to slow down.
Experts recommend meditation, and say that you should say "no" when you feel overwhelmed. Both are great tools, and I've incorporated them into my holiday routine. But for me, the most powerful tool is writing. Plain old journal writing. No pressure, no one looking over my shoulder and no concern about how good my writing is. This kind of free writing helps me get out of my own way and connects me with my heart. From this calmer, more centered place, I can be present and more accepting of what life presents.
Here are five ways to use writing to help you let go and enjoy every minute of this holiday season:
- Five-minute dump: When you find your mind racing, this exercise will help you clear your head. You'll need a timer, some paper and a pen. Set the timer for five minutes and write without lifting your pen from the page. Don't think about what to write, just write about whatever comes to mind. Don't stop until the timer goes off. You should feel better and more present after you've done this. If you're still feeling stuck, go for another round.
- Write about how you feel. When you're feeling holiday anxiety, write about how it feels in your body. Find words to describe what you're feeling. This will help you shift your perspective from your stressor to yourself. You're venting, but you're also being creative, trying to find the right words to describe your feelings. Before you know it, you're focusing on the exercise and pretty soon, you'll find yourself more relaxed.
- Make a list. Choose a title for your list. It could be a list about your annoying co-worker. Let his or her name be the title. List qualities about your boss or holiday shopping. List out everything you're thinking and feeling related to whatever topic you choose. You could even make a "Bah, Humbug" list. Chances are by the end of that list you'll be laughing!
- Start a gratitude or inspiration journal. This will be a journal for writing about all you appreciate, what you're grateful for in your life and what inspires you. While co-authoring the book Super Brain, Chopra discussed how "the input you give your brain causes it to form new neural pathways." He says, "The new brain is a process, not a thing, and the process heads in the direction you point it in. A Buddhist monk meditating on compassion develops the brain circuitry that brings compassion into reality." He suggests that input is everything and that "happiness and well-being are created by giving the brain positive input." Besides, it's pretty hard to be stressed out when you're feeling grateful!
- Write a fairy tale. Instead of New Year's resolutions, write your own fairy tale, complete with a happy ending. Try starting with "once upon a time." Write as if it's Dec. 31, 2013, and your year was filled with wonderful surprises. By writing as if you've received everything you desire in your life, you're reinforcing your belief. Since your attitudes and actions reflect your belief, by this time next year much of your fairy tale just might become your reality. Besides, it's hard to let the craziness of the season bother you when you're writing your own winter wonderland.
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