Friday, December 14, 2007

Calming the Chaos of the Season

Doesn't it seem like December just snuck up on us? Before we even had time to take the Thanksgiving decorations down, we found ourselves in the midst of menorahs being lit, Christmas carols being sung and presents being wrapped.

We weren't even into the second week of December and people were already saying, "I just need to get through this month." Why is it that we are more focused on "getting through" the holidays then we are on enjoying them?

Before things get too crazy, consider 10 tips for calming the chaos of the season.
  1. Slow down.Have you been one to say, "I just need to get through this month?" If so, stop what you are doing right now and think about how that feels. Slow the pace down, even just a bit, and recognize that you have control over how the holidays will feel in your life.
  2. Breathe. Now that you've decided to slow down, it's important that you actually breathe. Whenever you feel the pressure increase or the negative thinking appear, take three deep breaths and remember that you get to choose whether these days feel crazy or enjoyable.
  3. Get clear about what the purpose of the season is for you. Is it to give gifts or get gifts? Is it to honor your religious traditions? To connect with family and friends? To rejoice in life? Connect to what this time of year really means to you. Hold that purpose in the forefront of your mind as you make decisions about what gifts to buy for whom and which events to say yes to attending.
  4. Set your intention as to how you want to BE this season. Now that you know what the purpose of the season is for you, declare how you want to be. Do you want to be joyful, peaceful, inspired, or connected? Or do you want to be stressed, grumpy, frazzled, or distracted? There may be some family or work obligations that you feel you just can't choose to say no to. However, you can choose how you will show up and what you will put out into the world. Choose wisely, as we often attract what we project.
  5. Focus more on the “I want to’s” and less on the “I should do’s”. Many of us operate out of obligation, whether we know it or not. Make a list of all the things on your plate this month. Next to each item mark whether you really want to do it or you think you should do it. If you don’t like to do it and you don’t want to do it, challenge yourself to strike it from your list.
  6. Simplify. You don’t have to do it all; and you don’t have to do it all perfectly. Streamline your plans; shorten your gift-giving list; ask for help; eliminate the excess.
  7. Set gift-giving guidelines. This goes hand-in-hand with the idea of simplifying. When you figure out what you want to do and determine how you are going to go about doing it, you simply the entire gift-giving process. Agree with the relatives that you will exchange only one toy per child. Discuss the idea of doing something with family instead of exchanging gifts that no one wants. Determine how much money you want to spend based on your budget before you begin shopping. Go in with a plan and the process will feel easier and more enjoyable.
  8. Shoot for connection, not perfection. When we get caught up in doing it “just so” we all too often are focused on the wrong things. Whether you are decorating the tree, making a holiday meal with your mother-in-law, picking out gifts, or ordering the holiday cards, what is important is the connection you are making with the person or people involved. Let your child hang the ornament wherever he likes, use the time in the kitchen to ask your mother-in-law about her youth, pick out a gift for someone from your heart, and consider what you want those receiving your holiday card to feel when they open it. Whether any of those things turn out perfect is less important then the memory you are creating and the relationship you are nurturing.
  9. Give a gift to yourself. This is the season for caring, sharing, and loving. Why not turn a bit of that in your own direction? Instead of waiting for someone else to get you the perfect gift, why not give it to yourself? I am not talking about a material gift, although maybe that would be nice as well. Instead, I am talking about the gift of time. Give yourself some time to slow down, breath, relax, and rejuvenate. It’s the gift that will keep on giving as you will feel more positive and energetic and better able to enjoy the holidays.
  10. And did I mention slow down and breathe?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Tune Your Tone

Have you ever noticed how the first few seconds of interaction with someone can set the tone for the entire conversation?

I just had one of those reminders from a brief phone exchange with my husband. I had called him at lunchtime with the intention of checking in and seeing how he was doing. I was feeling good about the day and excited about reaching him.

However, it took no longer than 30 seconds of hearing his voice to bring me down. I realize this doesn’t sound so good, but I am being honest. Plus, there’s a point to all of this and hopefully a reminder that we can all use to improve our communication with others.

Little did I know that my husband was having a frustrating morning, but he was and I just so happened to catch him it at a particularly frustrating moment. And it only took me asking the wrong question in the wrong way at the wrong time for him to snap.

He snapped. I got defensive. And the rest of the conversation went downhill from there.

What caught my attention was how the tone of that conversation set off the tone of further conversations with him later in the day. My email regarding some scheduling stuff was “strictly business” instead of my normal loving tone. And even after that we had a brief Instant Message exchange that lacked the intimacy and connection we are use to.

Why did the first 30 seconds of one conversation with my husband impact me so much? Because in our relationship how we are with each other—our level of connection, intimacy and positive exchange—is often the temperature gauge for the other areas of our life. If "we" (our relationship) are off, we both feel off in general.

My husband I have discussed this before. We know that how we greet each other when one of us walks in the door has a huge impact on how the rest of the evening will go. We have both made an effort to remember this and to stop what we are doing, welcome the other person home with open arms and a kiss so that we can help set the tone for a loving and connected evening. It only takes a few moments and it makes such a huge difference.

As for that phone conversation earlier today, my husband has apologized for taking his frustration out on me. We agreed that it wasn’t our best interaction and that we are looking forward to reconnecting when he gets home tonight.

My point: Good relationships take good communication. Good communication doesn’t always come easily…especially when you are tired, frustrated, sick or irritated. Choosing to tune your tone towards the positive when you first connect with someone can mean the difference between a positive and fulfilling conversation or a negative and unsatisfying conversation. Which will you choose?