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‘Tis the season for some peace of mind

I got home the other night after a frenzied bout of late-night shopping. I’d cursed over passing up the only available parking spot in hopes of getting closer, then forgot to eat as I rushed about, frantically grabbing more ‘this’ll do’ items to make the best of the sales on offer. I walked through my door exhausted, famished and downright miserable, not to mention in a flutter of panic about the tab I’d just run up on my credit card.

But ‘tis the season, right?!

The truth is, I don’t think so. As I sat in a heap on the floor (it was that bad) I realised that, while I spend all year coaching around setting goals, using helpful tools to discover what we want to achieve and creating action plans to achieve it… somehow I perceived the holiday season as exempt from any of that. Suddenly it’s a free-for-all of chaos, unfettered spending, distraction, too much indulgence, over-extending myself, and eventually wishing it was over already. Only to start the New Year burnt out, broke and bulging in the middle. Wait, where is the jolly? Isn’t that what ‘tis the season for’?

Undoubtedly, some of the appeal of this time of year with all its festivities, is being a little excessive, letting our hair down and not worrying so much. And this can be grand if we are truly enjoying the process and it’s not impinging too greatly on our overall well-being in the longer term. But this isn’t always the case. My question is: how can we ensure we make the most of this special time of year and still protect ourselves, from ourselves if nothing else?

From a coaching perspective we might try approaching December as we would any big project or task. We can start by taking the time to identify what we really want to get out of this holiday season (and I don’t just mean under the tree). This also includes what we want to give, again, not referring to presents but instead how we want to ‘show up’, contribute and behave. When we understand our priorities we can set goals around them and explore the various options of how to reach them.

By defining some carefully considered boundaries, we can also pre-empt falling into what we don’t want for ourselves, losing our perspective and feeling swept up and out of control, like I was last week.

Some questions to ask yourself (jot down your answers):

What is most important to me about the holiday season? And what else (until you’ve listed all your important things)?

What kind of memories would I like to have of it in January?

What do I want to be feeling this December? What do I hope to be experiencing? Seeing in those around me? Hearing? Doing?

What specific plans can I put into place to make these things happen? What can I do today towards it?

This time of year tends to buzz with a ‘more is more’ attitude. With so many things on offer, it can be tempting to try and do it all, whether it be food/parties/visits/shopping etc. But by deciding what is most important and what we are truly looking to experience, we can pick and choose the things that most suit our aims and gently decline the rest.

What would you like to avoid that has happened in the past around this time of year, or that you are currently experiencing?

What possible steps can you put in place to prevent this from happening? What simple actions would make the biggest difference in this area?

As an example, I have a few clients working on weight and health goals who were concerned what the coming month, with its plethora of parties, dinners and seeming continual smorgasbord of diet disasters, would mean for all their recent hard work. Recognising some past unhelpful and unwanted behaviour in such situations allowed them to create solutions to enjoy themselves whist keeping aligned with their goals. In this case, choosing to eat something healthy before going to parties so as not to gorge on the ‘bad/good’ stuff, and being organised with easy-to-prepare, healthy food for the meals between parties. Simple and effective steps, designed by the individual, to bypass old patterns proven to bring misery.

Some top tips for keeping a smile on your face this season:

Make time with your calendar (and family members’ if appropriate) and work out exactly what parties and activities are planned over the next coming weeks, what is on offer and which are priorities. Sort out any conflicts, organise in advance anything you will need for them to avoid last minute rush, and remember to make time for yourself for decompressing between events.

Set yourself some limits in advance to manage your well-being: drink limits, time limits, spending limits, bedtimes etc. By looking at the bigger picture, consumption, wealth and time can all be budgeted to ensure staying power through the New Year. Keep the reality of January in mind to help you stick to them.

With so much hustle and bustle around us, we can sometimes be left feeling we have not got/done/or are enough, be it buying or decorating or providing etc. The best antidote to feelings of ‘lacking’ is gratitude. Take a moment to think of all the positive things in your life this season, what you do have, all that you have done this past year and those people who mean the most to you in your life, to regain perspective.

Factor in extra time for all outings as parking and general bustle can cause major delays. Getting frustrated and swearing at other cars and drivers is not conducive to enhancing your seasonal spirit and can throw a negative spin on your day. Take deep breaths and try remembering with compassion any past times you perhaps needed to double-park quickly or may not have been paying your fullest attention on the road.

Spread cheer. It doesn’t cost a dime and it can make all the difference this time of year when others who haven’t read this are running around like headless chickens melting their credit cards and frying their last nerve. Small acts of kindness given from the heart, especially without expectation of their return, can boost our own internal joy meters as we embrace our needs for contribution and connection. Giving way to someone on the road (and not getting cross if they don’t say thank you!), holding a door for someone, taking time to say hello… What can you do to brighten someone else’s day? Keep in mind your list of what’s most important to you and try embodying that.

While I am wishing joy to the world and peace to all this holiday season, I think the greatest gift we can give ourselves is some peace of mind. By being aware of our actions and taking some simple proactive steps we can remain at our best to share our joy with others and experience more of what we truly hold dear at this special time of year.

Julia Pitt is a trained success coach and certified NLP practitioner.

For further information telephone 705-7488 or visit www.juliapittcoaching.com.

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Published December 11, 2012 at 8:00 am (Updated December 10, 2012 at 4:17 pm)

‘Tis the season for some peace of mind

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