Your To-Do list just exploded… It must be holiday season!
It’s common for many of us to idealize the holidays… until they start to show up as all the things we’ve committed to complete/attend/buy/wrap/send, etc. Yes, “ ‘tis the most wonderful time of the year”, but it seems like many of my friends and colleagues manage to miss the wonder of it all … due to holiday overwhelm.
If this resonates for you, below I will share some different types of lists to keep for the next several weeks. If the ideas herein don’t really work for you, then I’d like to suggest choosing just one word – your own focus word - to serve as your mantra for enjoying these activity filled days ahead. Can’t come up with your holiday mantra? How about charity? Joy? Generosity? Grace? Belonging? Friendship? Pick one word that makes you smile, and breathe it in and out when the stress meter starts moving towards the red zone.
“What’s working” list
The barrage of holiday advertising tends to make us feel that we don’t have what we need, that somehow we’re not measuring up in one or many areas of our life. This “scarcity mindset” afflicts you at home and at work, and can leave you feeling unsuccessful, unsatisfied, lonely.. or sometimes even hopeless. No wonder mental health professionals report a spike in clinical depression during this season! Try making a list of what’s going well with you and your business/job right now. Make sure you recognize and note your own super human strengths; even if it’s dragging yourself to a job you don’t love (that takes fortitude!). You can address change in a meaningful way next year, but noting what you love about your current daily life, your family, your inner strengths, your outward accomplishments, your grit, even your ability to make someone smile.. it’s all worth noting on this list. Once you start making a habit of noticing what’s going well in your life, you’ll experience a sense of calm, relief, empowerment; and you will build trust in your capability to create what you want in your life. Why not start today? You can make a single list, or come up with a fresh list each day.
Embody your forward motion
When we feel overwhelmed, we can experience mild (or acute!) anxiety, which shuts down our natural ability to focus on what’s working in our lives. Challenges and problems feel enormous, insurmountable … almost like we need to scale an entire mountain standing before us. Rather than focusing on what you can do, you shut down because you can’t scale it all at once, there’s just no obvious route.
Let’s start by simply renaming your holiday list your “can-do” list. This already sets that stage for moving forward. After identifiying all that you want to accomplish over the next several weeks, think of positive situations where you regularly experience literal forward motion, such as walking, running, stretching, etc. Try to imagine what that feels like. Now, think of other activities and projects which are regularly a part of your days, like reading certain periodicals, filing a status report, connecting with colleagues, planning a vacation. Literally close your eyes, and think about how you are moving forward, getting these meaningful things done, crossing them off your list. Now, back to that holiday can-do list: Pick one activity that brings you joy, break it down to measurable increments, and do something to check it off. Keep building on the positive momentum that you gain from this activity and move forward some more. For example, let’s say you have an intention to plan a holiday gathering with clients but can’t find the time or resources to organize it (..Who would love to be included? Shall I use evite or the newest online event app? What if I pick a date when too many can’t join?... ); imagine simplifying your approach, then harness your sense of forward motion, and just make a date with a colleague or client to enjoy a holiday meal together. Who knows, others may just organically join. There - holiday gathering - done. As you achieve more, you’ll discover more positive approaches, and your attitude will shift from overwhelm to accomplishment and flow.
Note your signals of progress
As the year draws to a close, we tend to focus on all we didn’t actually accomplish, despite our best intentions set at the beginning of the year. Rather than letting our attention shift to what we didn’t accomplish, and how little time you have left to get it done, try instead to notice what did work well. What strengths did you lean in to? How can you leverage those strengths as you think about what you want to accomplish today, this week, next year? Did you learn some important life or business lessons? Try to conjure up the expected and unexpected wins. Try to bring some focus to those days when life moments just felt good. What were you doing? Who was present? What did you do that day, so that you could enter into that state of authenticity and flow? Focusing on these positive signals will lift your mood, help you to feel excited anticipation for the upcoming year, minimize the holiday overwhelm, and ideally help you to truly enjoy this most wonderful time of the year!