Seasonal stress is hotter than ever this year, with more people reporting symptoms of fatigue, burnout and depression. So, if you’re feeling blue or out of sorts, you’re not alone. According to polls from the American Psychological Association, the most commonly used terms to describe negative emotions during the holiday include fatigue (68%), stress (61%), irritability (52%), sadness (36%), anger (35%), and loneliness (26%).
End of year fatigue may be partly to blame, but experts agree that it’s often our unrealistic expectations that drive people to feel overwhelmed and exhausted this time of year. Expectations we place on ourselves and each other, schedules that get too packed, financial strain that gets spread too thin, and the constant rush we feel to get more things done in less time, even as we’re supposedly slowing down.
So, what’s a busy body and mind to do to chill out and enjoy the blessings of the season?
Tip 1: Slow Down
Recognize that we train our brains to be in a constant rush all year long, and slowing to a screeching halt never works. Any time you notice yourself rushing, stop and ask yourself if it’s really necessary.
Oftentimes I catch myself barely breathing, heart pounding, rushing to the car to get to an appointment that I don’t want to be late for, only to realize that I’m just running an errand with no one waiting for me and no deadline at all. Because we’re so programmed to race against the clock these days, we easily slip into patterns of disruptive stress just because it’s the status quo. So, practice slowing down and just noticing your state of mind and body, and then ask yourself if it’s helpful or hurtful.
Tip 2: Set Yourself Up for Success
I can’t emphasize enough how incredibly important it is to start being intentional about how you want to show up for the time that you have. Again, past mental programming has us rushing to get more done in less time, so we drift through life with this focus even when we want to be more present in the moment. If we’re not careful, we’ll rush right through the season of giving thanks and celebrating what’s good in life, missing out on opportunities to connect, reflect and recharge.
To set yourself up for success, plan time each morning to consider what’s most important for you that day. Try to avoid being task-focused, and ask yourself WHO you want to be before you think about WHAT you need to do. This isn’t our normal focus of attention, so it’s critical to set aside time to reflect on these ideas, with your brain and body in a calm, relaxed state.
For practice, try this 10-minute Holiday Intention Meditation I created just for this purpose. In time, you’ll be able to breathe, feel and focus your mind in just a matter of moments, training your brain and body to quickly engage your best energy in the time that you have.
Tip 3: Soak in the Good
Similar to your prep time each morning and throughout the day as needed, it’s important to set aside time and space to reflect on what’s good in life at the end of the day. Bedtime is a perfect opportunity to practice a Reflection Meditation in order to soak in the positive experiences of the day and shift your brain and body into a more relaxed and nourishing state to improve your quality of sleep.
If you find yourself tired and wired at night, you likely have stress hormones trying to keep your brain on high alert even as your body is desperate for rest. Building in time to unwind from the events of the day, you decrease cortisol and boost positive endorphins like serotonin and oxytocin, to quiet your busy mind.
For practice, you can try this 13-min Evening Reflection Meditation, which will guide you through noticing the positive events of the day, considering people you interacted with and shared meaningful moments with, soaking your brain and body in nourishing chemicals to restore, repair, and recharge for the day ahead.
As we start to unwind from another busy year, celebrate what’s good in life and prepare for opportunities ahead, we can use the holiday season as an opportunity to start implementing strategic brain recharge practices that can become habits to support long-term energy, creativity and resilience.
Aim to start each day with a Prime Time ritual like the Brain Recharge Practice to align your energy and attention with what matters most to you. Book end your day with a Reflection Meditation to quiet and nourish your brain and body for restorative sleep, and then Recharge regularly with tools like meditation, music, and mirth (humor!) to keep yourself on track.
And remember, it’s not about the time we have but the energy we bring to that time that gives us the opportunity to have the greatest impact on those we love. So, please take time to recharge your brain regularly. If we all take responsibility for the energy we bring to the time that we have, we can shift the state of our collective stress for the good of us all.
If you’d like more free tools to help you recharge, check out my free Recharge Toolkit where I’ll be adding new tools regularly throughout the year and soon providing live guided recharge practices to share together. Bless your stress!