Happy New Year… 2019! Wow, it always surprises me how quickly the holidays come and go. Time seems to speed up the minute Halloween comes around and then it just keeps on marching by all the way up to January and the new year. How about you, do you feel the same way? Ever wonder why that is? Part of the reason, for me, is that I tend to get caught up in
the busyness of the holiday season. I create this elaborate idea of what I want the holidays to look like and then every year I strive so hard to attain that vision. Intellectually I know it is an impossible feat but nevertheless I try.
This year was different for me. As we were moving through the holiday season I made a conscious choice not to put pressure on myself with unrealistic expectations. In fact I chose to do very little planning this year, and I was surprised at just how much it freed me up to enjoy the season. This year I made a conscious effort to be flexible - that important but oh so dreaded word. So with an open mind and few expectations, and with maintaining a flexible nature, I was truly able to enjoy and reflect on the holiday season.
Because of what I was experiencing, my clients and I talked a lot about mindfulness and being in the moment during these past holidays. Many of my clients had parties and gatherings to go to and we talked quite a bit about ways to stay on track in regard to their wellness routines. Important questions to ask oneself when things are unusually busy are, ‘Am I connecting with the people and experiences around me or am I distracting? Does my body energy say crazy or calm?’ So often we are looking for connection, looking to connect or bond with other people. Social connection is in our DNA and it is a huge part of anyones wellness journey, yet more often than not, while in the midst of our friends, family and loved ones, we are distracting ourselves from truly connecting with them.
Let me give you an example scenario: You have a party to go to (Christmas or otherwise) and you spend a week or more trying to figure out what you are going to wear, or you spend hours in the store and more than likely spend way too much money trying to find the perfect outfit. You consider your body - is it too large, too small? Do you need to lose those extra 5 pounds to look just right? Are you dieting down, starving yourself, yet obsessing over food leading up to the party? Do you spend more time getting mani’s, pedi’s and any other kind of “i’s” before you feel you are ready and beautiful enough to attend the party? And perhaps, if you really think about it, you don’t even want to go to the party anyway! When you finally do get to your gathering you look to hold something in your hand - like a drink or food - so you can look casual, and you fidget about with nervous energy. When you talk to other guests it is with a veil of self-consciousness, not really listening to their conversations but rather already figuring out your response.
Say what??? Are my words too harsh? But are they accurate? For those of us who can relate to the above scenario, let’s stop the chaos. This type of behavior is distraction to the highest degree and many of us do it all - the - time. I am exhausted just writing about it!
Sadly many believe they are actually connecting when they go through these motions. They think 'busywork' is worthwhile. But in reality, running around with an unfocused, nervous and insecure energy in preparation for a party is not connection. And scurrying about during a party sampling food, drink and gosh knows what else is also not connection. This type of energy and behavior is only distracting you from actually making true connections.
Solution: When it comes to mindfulness and being present in the moment, the first thing I like to do is take several very deep breaths - in and out. When I am feeling the anxiety and stress building up in my body, when I notice my breathing begin to shorten and get shallow, I release all of that chaotic energy by deeply inhaling through my nose, holding it for a few seconds, and then exhaling deeply, somewhat forcefully and thoroughly, through my mouth. Next I work on slowing down my breathing in general, and I concentrate on filling up my lungs with clean, calm, pure, deep inhales and exhales through my nose. This kind of breath-work quickly centers my mind and my body. Try it for yourself and see if it calms and centers you as well.
So in contrast to the above scenario, as a way of staying connected in preparation for a party, perhaps I would not put so much weight and importance on the physical side of my being, but rather more focus and energy on my inner being and the quality of the energy I am bringing to the world and those around me.
Example: Instead of rushing around looking for the perfect dress, hair, nails, makeup etc. for the party, one could quietly take a close look at the items already in their closet. Take your time looking at what you already have in your wardrobe, reminiscing on the occasions you wore certain pieces of clothing and how they made you feel. Make a clear choice as to what you will wear from your existing wardrobe. Take time to wash, mend, or dry clean these items. Do you really need the professionally manicured gel nails with the most recent color trend, or can you in the comfort of your own home quietly do a bit of self-care by doing your nails yourself? Or…do you really need anything on your nails at all, why not just clean and natural? If you do decide to have your nails done professionally, then make a pointed and unhurried appointment, with a few extra minutes to spare before and/or after your appointment so you don’t have to rush or so you can chat with your manicurist, or even buy them a cup of coffee or tea - something a little extra to say thank you and show that you are grateful.
When it comes to the day of your party, enjoy the process of getting ready but don’t spend a ton of time doing so either. This is not about you primping and pruning until you feel acceptable to be around others at the party, but more about looking nicely groomed so that you can sit comfortably, engage, and truly get to know the people who are attending the gathering. These parties should be about giving, extending, and making a difference in the lives of the other guests, not about talking all night long about yourself, hoping to impress others, and hoping they will make a difference in your life. Turn the tables. Give and extend of yourself and the connections will be made.
Distraction is about dumping your energy onto other people and sucking up their own energy in the hopes of it filling you up and making you feel like a better person. Woah… that does sound ugly doesn’t it! Most of us don’t think about it this way, and our intentions are not to be so leach-like, but when we are hurrying about and getting caught up in the chaotic energy of our busy lifestyles, we are distracting from others and not truly connecting. When we calm ourselves enough to bring our beautiful energy inward for a moment, it is then that we fill ourselves up enough to extend outward and lovingly share all the gifts that we have to offer. This is what true connection is all about.
After talking about this concept to my clients over the holiday season, I challenged them and asked that they truly work on the connection versus distraction concept. I even asked them to specifically try not to eat while they were at some of their parties - unless of course it was an actual dinner party - but to work at making the party less about drinking and eating and more about meeting, socializing and getting to know the guests at their parties, about being in the moment and really caring and sharing their warmth. I must say the results of this challenge were very enticing. Every single one of my clients who engaged in this connection challenge came back to me afterwards stating how much more they enjoyed their parties. How they engaged with others on a much deeper level, and created memories and experiences that were with great heart and worthwhile.
Overall the connection concept might be something to think about and perhaps focus on during the new year. In a climate of hustle and bustle, not just during the holidays but throughout the entire year, and in an environment where everyone is ‘busy’ - yet stressed over being too busy. When more and more people are talking about wanting to simplify, de-stress, de-clutter and slow down, well maybe now then would be a good time to give yourself this challenge - work on connecting versus distracting each and every day. Being overly busy, multi-tasking with no real purpose, and running around without connection is passé. Toning it down, bringing it in a notch and really just focusing on one thing at a time might be another step on your wellness journey. Be mindful, be connected in all of your activities. Be connected with ourselves, our loved ones and our friends, family and neighbors. Now that is a strong stance for the new year. I challenge you to give it a try. Here’s to a beautiful new year and a happy 2019 to all. xx
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Photo by Greg Raines on Unsplash