5 Golden Ways to Keep Your Balance in December
I’ve always found December to be a bit, well, bi-polar (and since I live in Chicago, it’s a bit plain old polar as well). It slides in after Thanksgiving, bearing big bags of fun in the form of presents, parties and people we only get to see during the holidays but then sneaks in a bunch of work-related stress, which exacerbates that feeling of being constantly behind on absolutely everything and then has the nerve to ask us to get all sequined up to sparkle our way into a New Year!
The mix of having to be 110% fantastic at work (gotta make sure to get that bonus) and also on your A+ Game at home starts to feel more than a bit overwhelming by the end of the first week. Mindfulness, a practice based in consciousness and compassion, can help you to navigate the season with a little less stress and a little more grace.
To help you keep grooving in your own personal happy place, here are my 5 favorite ways to manage the season:
#1 – Schedule in Quality YOU Time
All that social butterflying can leave you feel like an empty stocking. Check your calendar out now and set aside a few hours here and there to hit the reset button on yourself. Just like you’d schedule in a manicure, a massage or a meeting, block out some non-negotiable space to take a bath, a nap, read, journal or do whatever it is that fills you back up again.
This is a great strategy to apply to your intimate relationships as well. Schedule one-on-one time in with your significant other that isn’t based on a seasonal activity. Connect in the real, normal way that works so well for you the rest of the year so you don’t get thrown off by weird family gatherings, odd work parties or less-than-perfect present exchanges.
#2 – Practice Your Compassionate No
I’m all for living a life of yes, but there are times when you have to set some healthy boundaries and gracefully decline an invite. Since December is typically a crazy month at work AND at home, you’ll find yourself having to draw the line here and there. Boundary setting at it’s best is very conscious and intentional. For example, a friend wants to happy hour the night before your hugely important end-of-year presentation is due…what do you do? Instead of agreeing and then cancelling at the last minute, allow yourself the space to make a more informed plan. Most people understand the workload issues, so ask if happy hour can be an early dinner or if you can change it to another night (when you’ll be able to be more focused and fun anyway). Be honest, offer up options and be sure to let your friend know how important they are to you.
#3 – Credit Card Consciousness
Financially, December is the month with the biggest repercussions. Gift-buying wanders swiftly off budget, a quick happy hour turns into an expensive dinner and all the monthly bills still come in on their regular schedule. The first step to avoiding credit card shock in January is to create some awareness in December. Check in on your “recent account activity” each week and adjust your spending from there. Not only does this help you to notice any unusual charges, but you also stay connected to your financial comfort zone. I also highly recommend making a list of the gifts you’ve purchased (even more so if gift-giving is part of your love language). This will help you to stay on track and make sure that you’re not over-buying or forgetting anyone important. When it comes to money, knowledge is power.
#4 – Connect Mind and Body
There’s a reason we all feel the need for a health kick in January. This makes December a perfect month to practice your body scan exercises. You might be surprised what you find! A body scan is a simple check in with your entire body, starting with your big toes and ending with the top of your head. Simply notice what you find. You might be surprised to find that you tune in earlier to when your acid reflux is about to hit or catch the signs that your carpal tunnel is getting ready to scream at you. Since this is also the last month of the year for health insurance benefits, be sure to take action and take care of yourself. It’s very common to get sick after a period of high stress, so taking good care of yourself all month, could help you enjoy those paid days off (instead of spending Christmas with a sinus infection) even more. Extra bonus – doing a slow body scan can help you get to sleep more easily.
#5 – It’s Not About You…
The holiday season is a very personal one, for everyone. Which means feelings are running high, hearts are a little extra tender and tempers tend to be a bit tight. Before your bite off that first head, allow yourself some space to let go of some of this stress. Take a breath, step back and check your assumptions. Where are you assuming something is personal or about you? Traffic and delayed trains are a great place to start. The idiot who just cut you off? He’s just an idiot, not an idiot who’s out to get you. Start to create space for things to just be, instead of them being about you. The less baggage you allow other people and events to pile on you, the lighter and brighter you can travel. Give yourself permission to be gentle with yourself, as well as with others. Taking a moment each day to remember that we’re all human and are each doing the best we can (even when it doesn’t seem like it from the outside).
Every holiday season comes with it’s own mix of weather, emotions and experiences. Taking a few extra minutes each day for mindfulness can make each of the 31 days feel a little more joyful and a little less scroogey. As a final reminder…you, little human, are absolutely worthy of peace, happiness and love. And finding all those things and more is my holiday wish for you.
Katy Flatau is a mindfulness trainer and certified coach as well as Founder and CEO of Mindful-U. Based in Chicago, she’s passionate about helping individuals upgrade their personal happiness and educating corporations on how to mindfully engage employees. She balances her spare time between enjoying the capricious Midwestern weather, reading too many fantasy novels and concocting extra spicy curries (a must for a snowy winter). Follow her on Facebook and get 10 Easy Ways to Stay Mindful-U in a Social Life and a free 4-minute meditation here…