With the holiday season in full swing, our days are filled with delicious foods and entertainments galore. Yet we can be easily overwhelmed with expanding shopping lists and packed calendars. It’s no wonder so many of us find ourselves feeling physically run down at this time of year.
Instead of sinking into a post-event collapse on New Year’s Day, I invite you to take the time to assess and renew your energy levels now.
The initial step in replenishing our energy is sometimes the hardest, but it’s a habit that can be cultivated. So often the first acknowledgement of decreased reserves is a complete physical or emotional breakdown. I’ll admit to a mini-meltdown over a botched wrapping job on one high-stress Christmas Eve.
Join me in this moment, setting aside your never-ending busyness to pause and practice the best skill for combatting holiday stress—Noticing.
How about a few more… Then tune in to how your body feels:
So often the first signals of depletion are whispers, so if we don’t pause regularly and listen, they can be missed altogether.
Once you’ve noticed the physical, mental, and emotional signs of impending exhaustion, you can dig down for the root causes affecting your energy. These can vary among individuals and change from season to season, but it’s helpful to sort them into two categories: Too Much & Not Enough.
Are you in constant contact with other people, always making yourself available to someone else instead of tending to your own needs? Evaluate your commitments and find tasks you can delegate or let go of entirely.
Do you strive for perfectionism across all areas of your life, yet feel overwhelmed and unworthy whenever you fall short? We’re all human, with finite resources as well as a need to rest and recharge. Simplify your striving by creating a set of priorities to remind you where your energy can have the most impact.
Are you surrounded by visual, auditory, or other stimuli that overwhelm your ability to center and ground yourself in the tasks at hand? Our attention can be pulled in so many directions, not only by piles of stuff and constant noise, but also by the mental clutter of worry, anxiety, or past resentments. Consider creating a relaxing, visually serene space where you can escape to appreciate the always peaceful, present moment.
Is your calendar overrun with appointments, errands, and social obligations? We tend to over-pack our holidays under the guise of seasonal fun, but then forget to leave enough time to relax, rest, and enjoy ourselves. Pencil in some white space on your agenda and resist the urge to fill it with plans…just choose something spontaneously when the moment arrives.
Do you move through the holidays surrounded by people at gatherings and events, only to experience an aching loneliness at the end of the day? We have more interactions with people now than ever before, through email, social media, and news feed commentaries, but when was the last time you had a moment of true connection—feeling totally engaged—with another person? Allow time for a conversation with someone that fills you up instead of merely passes the time.
Do you find yourself going through the motions of celebrating the holidays without any reflection on what they mean for you personally? Many of us fall into a routine this time of year (sending cards, shopping, gifting, etc…), and the true holiday spirit gets lost in the hubbub. Clarifying your intentions will keep the focus on what matters beyond the surface sparkle…whether it’s a deepened spirituality, a commitment to gratitude and helping others, or the sense of wonder and love that fills your heart this time of year.
Just as energy drains are unique to an individual, each of us must also discover the best way to fill our tanks going forward. In order to keep from saying “Bah Humbug!” in the middle of the holiday season, you must refuel both the inner and outer aspects of your energy resources.
Not reserved for introverts, our inner energy keeps us grounded and in connection with our own feelings and desires. What replenishes you from within varies from person to person, but here are a few ideas worth a try:
You’ve probably heard these suggestions before…that’s because these keystone habits really do work to boost energy levels. Take a minute to read them through carefully, paying attention to your physical and emotional responses. Which of these methods works the best for you?
This covers it all—from staying hydrated; balancing holiday indulgences with fresh, whole foods; vitamins or supplements as needed; moderating your caffeine and alcohol intake; as well as taking appropriate breaks from social media, news outlets, and other screen-based past-times.
There’s a tendency for the new year to inspire all sorts of high intensity efforts, but replenishing your energy during a bustling holiday season requires a different focus. Try moving your body through some restful and relaxing activities:
This means getting enough sleep at night, or sneaking in a nap when possible. Don’t forget about leisure during your waking hours though…create balance by leaving space for downtime too. Consider cultivating the practice of Time Vigilance—choosing how you spend your time wisely, and then fully committing yourself to where (and to whom) you give your attention.
No matter how independent or introverted one might be, we all replenish our energy when we engage in quality time with the people we care about. It can be easy to think we’re getting plenty of “social time” when in fact, our activities may revolve around goals or achievements. When was the last time you spent time with someone you love, just BE-ing instead of DO-ing? Look for opportunities where the focus can be strictly on sharing time and connecting with each other rather than checking off an obligatory box.
I don’t recall the first time I heard the old adage that you’ll never find time, you have to make it. I always assumed whoever said that had never looked at my calendar and ToDo list. It never seemed possible to squeeze one more thing in.
But a careful evaluation of how you’re spending your time is a great way to discover where your energy is flowing…and whether it’s being drained or renewed. After years of over-scheduling, burnout, and fatigue, I’ve learned the only way to make time for replenishing my energy is by learning to say No to something else.
That’s a huge success for someone like me who’s tried every list-making app on the market and has 10+ calendars to coordinate my family, my job, and my personal goals. Since we’re deep into this holiday season, the gentlest step is to start small.
For now, practice pausing at least once in your day to check-in on your vitality and stamina.
Without worrying about all the things still left to do, take a slow breath and turn your focus inward.
Notice how full your energy reserves are—physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Then ask yourself the following three questions:
You might be stuck in a meeting at work, or jostling your way through crowds at the mall, but noticing the level of your energy reserves is your Small Step assignment for this week.
From there, pick something from the suggestions of inner/outer energy resources to fill you up and keep you going this holiday season.
I keep my energy replenished with several difference strategies: maintaining one room clear of clutter yet adorned with Christmas decorations; connecting with my husband and kids over an evening fire and board game; eating well to avoid sugar and its energy spikes-n-crashes; as well as journaling about my gratitude for life and the meaning I want to bring to the holidays.
Checking in frequently reminds me to get outside (even if just briefly) for the crisp winter air, to savor the scents of seasonal candles, to appreciate the holiday music and decor when I’m out, and to greet everyone I meet with a warm smile and best wishes for this magical time of year.
How about you? What are the big and little ways you make time to replenish your energy during the holidays?