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Five Ways to Help Slow Down (or Step off) the “Treadmill” This Holiday Season


With Thanksgiving weekend behind us but the “marathon at a sprint’s pace” of the holiday season just beginning, I found myself lying awake at 3am on Monday with the self-inflicted psychic weight of un-done to-do’s, existential wonderings, fears, lists of gifts to be bought, parenting dilemmas, carpools and logistics, emails to be sent, making sure my sister was awake to catch her flight home that morning, whether to buy anything on Cyber Monday, blah, blah, blah…

Like many “default parents” (ahem…moms!), we start off to the races each summer when the planning process for the new school year begins. Comically, many of us harbor the delusion that things will calm down in the fall “once we get into our groove again,” but it never slows down. And then the next thing we know it’s Halloween, and then Thanksgiving. Then we’re buying Christmas/Chanukah gifts for so many people that it requires its own spreadsheet, then poof! kids are off for winter break, and then boom! it’s January, and then spring sports/activity season. And then, bam! before we know it, another school year is drawing to a close and we’re getting ready for summer which goes by so fast and then we start over again…

Gretchen Rubin so eloquently captured this period of life with her description “the days are long and the years are short.” Yes!

I can’t create more hours in the day (although I did enjoy Laura Vanderkam’s book “I Know How She Does It – How Successful Women Make The Most of Their Time” which provides thought-provoking insights into how working moms spend the 168 hours we all have each week). But I offer you the following:

Five Ways to Help Slow Down (or Step off) the “Treadmill” of Our Busy Lives This Holiday Season:

  1. Do more of what matters by doing less
  2. Practice gratitude daily
  3. Show the love!
  4. Share the load (emotional and otherwise)
  5. Take time off (and make sure your employees do, too)

Do more of what matters by doing less.

This holiday season, try to pause and reflect before saying “yes.” Endeavor to say “yes” only if you are truly enthusiastic about whatever you are agreeing to. Remind yourself that at this stage of life, saying “yes” to one thing effectively involves saying “no” to something else. Try out this framework for tasks, commitments, purchases, consumption and anything else that comes to mind. Want to skip holiday cards this year? Want to buy cookies at the store instead of baking? Want to suggest Secret Santa instead of individual gifts for your entire extended family? No rules, no FOMO, just follow your heart. Let the season fill you with joy, not stress.

Practice gratitude daily

The research on gratitude is clear. As Harvard puts it, “Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.” That sounds pretty good to me! If you want to geek out, check out these articles from Harvard and UC Berkeley for starters.

Try taking a few minutes each morning and evening to reflect on this topic (I like writing in the Five Minute Journal). (That’s not an affiliate link, just me sharing a tool that I enjoy and have gifted to others.) The practice inspires me to proactively set a positive tone when starting my day, and then to appreciate (or on rougher days dig hard for) the bright side of my day before going to sleep. Taking time to reflect is like a pause button on the chaos. Having the journal on my nightstand with a nice pen makes it fun and easy for me. Whatever tool you choose, give it a try for a week and see how it feels.

Show the love!

An awesome by-product of practicing gratitude daily is that you (hopefully) realize there are many people and institutions in your life to be grateful for. While it may seem counterintuitive to slow down the treadmill by expressing gratitude, there are many ways to do it that are awesome, quick and inexpensive or free. Yes, you can show gratitude for the lovely holiday meals you plan to eat by serving food at a soup kitchen (which is wonderful, and I, of course, recommend that if you can carve out the time), but you can also donate online in 30 seconds.

My personal favorite way to show the love: make time to reach out and tell someone in your life that you are grateful for them and be specific about WHY. Doesn’t matter whether it is in person, call, text or email. If you can, don’t discuss anything else: simply tell them how they make your life more wonderful. It brings joy to the person and to you, and it’s impossible to sprint on the proverbial treadmill while you are doing that with your whole heart.

My personal favorite way to show the love: make time to reach out and tell someone in your life that you are grateful for them and be specific about WHY. It’s impossible to sprint on the proverbial treadmill while you are doing that with your whole heart.

Share the load (emotional and otherwise)

This one is a double entendre of sorts. Share the emotional load by commiserating with other busy people or literally asking someone you love to share it with you. And share the logistical load by asking for help, bartering (i.e., if you’re friend is an amazing baker but hates wrapping presents you could ask him or her to bake extra cookies for you while you wrap their presents), outsourcing, or (back to #1 above) skipping things that are too much effort relative to the happiness they bring.

Take time off (and make sure your employees do, too)

I’m not telling you anything you don’t know here. No one that I am aware of has ever been on their deathbed saying “gee, I really wish I spent more time at work… especially over the holidays…” Take time off. For real. Spend hours and maybe even days unplugged and fully present with people you care about. If you are a boss or manager, make sure you tell your team that you EXPECT them to take time off. That doing so is good for them and the company. The best ideas come when we are relaxed and refreshed. Make sure you walk the walk. If you tell people to take time off, but then send then work-related emails Christmas Eve, you’re not sending the right message.

If this resonates with you, jump off the treadmill for a bit and let us know how it goes!

Wishing you a holiday season filled with love, gratitude, joy and enough downtime to feel recharged by the season and not depleted.

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