Nov. 29, 2011 -- And so it is here.
It means if we thought our lives were overcrowded, unmanageable and running at the speed of light last week, we can expect that to ramp up four-fold within the next four weeks.
So what can we do as we sit and face the inevitable? Here are my top ten tips to ease the holiday madness. While they may sound impossible at first, on second, third and fourth thought, they'll begin to settle in as items you can achieve.
1. Choose a different view. The first and most important idea is to decide right now, as you proceed into the tunnel of madness that lies ahead, to look at the next month from a different view. Yes, a different view. That means instead of imagining mass chaos, maxed-out credit cards, crowds of people, stress, overeating and exhaustion, decide to imagine what you remember as a kid during this season. Remember the songs, the candy, the parties, the laughing, the excitement and the feeling of something pretty great. Can you do that? Can you let go of the years you've lived with the increasing pressure and anxiety of all that the season brings and, instead, choose to see it from a different view?
2. Make a pact with your family and friends with whom you normally swap gifts. Send an email saying that this year gifts bought or paid for are prohibited. This is the year of making, baking, drawing, planting, writing and showing care through some sort of creation. Don't say that you don't have time to create. You don't have time to shop and spend money either. Santa will still have to show for the kids, of course. This is an alternative to adult gift buying. Tap into a side of yourself that can come up with a priceless gift of thought.
3. Turn Facebook OFF. Every one of us would gain something during the holiday season if we made a deal to stay off of Facebook. Close the door for one month and see what it brings to your everyday life. The spirit and feeling of the holiday season cannot be felt through the light of a computer screen. The time we spend peering in on the lives of others could be spent enhancing the quality of our own. Try it!
4. Remove cellphones from the front and center seat of your life. Just for this month, when you sit down to do something or talk to a family member, turn your cellphone off. In fact, when at all possible, even when you're in the car alone, turn your phone off. Not so long ago we left messages for people on answering machines and got to them when we had our undivided attention to give them. We used to get to focus for long periods of time without distraction, multi-thinking, multi-tasking and doing. The amount of anxiety it could relieve could be immeasurable in your life.
5. Shut down the computer -- all computers in the home -- for two hours before bedtime. The stimulation induced from the light of the screen tricks your brain into thinking it's the middle of the day, when your brain is really supposed to be winding down for sleep. Many of us wonder why we can't fall asleep and why the kids stay up so late. Screen lighting and overstimulation are confusing our bodies' natural rhythms. Turn your computers off after dinner, just for the month, and see if you feel a difference!
6. Set up a family jigsaw puzzle of a fabulous Christmas or holiday scene that could take your family the month to finish. Your family may balk at the start, but it will draw you together in ways you perhaps haven't been.
7. If you have spouse or a significant other, invite them this year to swap a different kind of gift with you. This year, you are going to write each other letters. You can share your heart and thoughts on just what you mean to each other through the written word. It is amazing how much people learn about how they feel and how the person who loves them feels. The letter can contain some sort of doing, an act of giving that you will give one another. Bring the romance back, free of charge!
8. Take the family caroling. Singing beautiful Christmas songs in a group, regardless of your religion, age, ability to sing, gender, race or patience level, can bring a surprising amount of pleasure to those who allow the experience into their hearts. There's at least a moment in caroling where the feeling of Christmas seeps in and reminds us why, beneath it all, we actually love this time of year. Consider it a hammer-over-the-head reminder that in order to enjoy our lives we have to first live in the experiences we're having.
9. Use the season to remind yourself of the things in life that matter to you. They are there for the taking if you make the right choices. Gone, it feels, are the days when we spent small periods during the day thinking about our lives and our feelings. Those short moments of thought have been stolen from our lives by the accessibility we now have. Try and grab back some of the random, quiet moments our lives used to hold. Give yourself those moments alone in the car or quiet in the house or with nothing to your ear while you walk. See what it feels like.
10. Make a Commitment. Let's be real. None of us will be able to implement all of these ideas in one season. We're creatures of habit and habits are tough to break. But perhaps we can cherry-pick just a few of the ideas that most resonate for our lives and for us. Try it and commit to an idea with conviction. It's the only way to make change.
The one thing we know for sure is that this time comes once a year. Yes, it may arrive too quickly and, for sure, it comes with a burden of responsibility. But the reality of where our lives have landed doesn't have to stop the magic.