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Happy holidays! Many people try to relax during this time of year—perhaps attending holiday gatherings or taking a vacation. But many of us struggle with truly relaxing. Modern life has a way of moving quickly…even when you’re trying to slow down.

According to the Center for Integrated Healthcare, there are numerous benefits of deep relaxation. These include reduced anxiety, improved sleep, better concentration, and even improved digestion. But how do you get into a state of relaxation when so many things are vying for your time and attention?

This week, let’s talk about 4 factors that tend to derail relaxation, and how to prevent them from doing so.

1. Notifications

Picture this: You’ve settled in at the dinner table and you’re about to eat a relaxing, homecooked meal with your family. Then, your phone dings and you see that someone has commented on a picture you posted on Instagram. You start dishing up your plate, but your phone dings again. This time, it’s giving you an update on your favorite sports team. Ding! You have a Twitter notification. Ding! An eBook on your wish list is on sale.

Before you know it, your mind is caught up in all the activity on your phone. You’re distracted, and your family dinner no longer feels relaxing. You want to hurry up and get through it so you can attend to all these notifications.

Few things clamor for our attention like our phones. The average person will pick up their phone 58 times per day. It’s clear phones have us on a tight leash!

To combat the pressure to always pick up your phone, try some of the following tactics:

  • Turn off app notifications
  • Periodically put your phone in airplane mode
  • Use an app to track screen time (this will help put things in perspective!)

2. Emails

For many of us, emails take up a large portion of the day. We see an email come in, and we’re immediately pressured to respond. Even if we choose to ignore an email for a while, we know it’s there, hanging out in the back of our minds.

I urge you to set healthy boundaries by taking control of your email. You might choose to only check and reply to email 2-3 times per day. Or you can set a firm “cut off” point (say 5:30 p.m.) where you mute your inbox and step away from emails.

3. Poor Sleep

It’s tough to feel fully relaxed if you’re lacking in the sleep department. Unfortunately, many of us struggle with catching enough zzz’s, and that can make everything more difficult. You can’t be the best version of yourself if you’re running on four hours of sleep and an abundance of caffeine.

To practice good sleep hygiene, try the following best practices:

  • Shut off all screens one hour before bedtime
  • If you’re using screens at night, use blue-light filtering glasses
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Don’t eat immediately before bedtime
  • Remove screens (like TVs) from your bedroom
  • Invest in a good pillow that fits your sleep style (side, back, etc.)

4. Over-Planning

If you’ve over-planned a holiday, it can be difficult to find the relaxation amidst the bustle. You might end up feeling like you need a vacation from your vacation! (See my past blog post on planning a relaxing vacation.)

If you can’t help your planning tendencies, try adding downtime into your schedule of events. Though it may seem strange, it can be immensely helpful to set aside “do nothing” time. This will essentially give you permission to relax, unwind, and go with the flow. You can fill this space if you want, but there’s no pressure to be up and about, doing things. Instead, grab a book, play a game, take a walk, or simply enjoy being present.

Even in our busy, distraction-filled lives, it is possible to relax. Take control of your schedule (and your phone!), don’t over-plan, and focus on being present. You’ve earned it.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 

HER NEW EBOOK IS CALLED A QUICK GUIDE TO COURAGE.

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The holidays are upon us and life can easily turn hectic. The stress of maintaining a satisfactory work-life balance has the tendency to amplify during the holidays. Whether you’re rushing to meet end-of-the-year deadlines, plan holiday parties, find (and pay for!) gifts, or prep your family for an out-of-town trip, it’s easy to feel as tightly wound as wrapping paper around a present.

All of this stress is a shame, because the holidays should be a joyous, relaxed time that we spend with close friends and family members. How can you rediscover holiday cheer and find some inner calm? Try a few of these 20 quick tips:

1. Breathe deeply

The steady rhythm of your breath has a calming effect on the mind, much like any repetitive, soothing sound or motion.

2. Eat a healthy lunch

According to Dr. Pat Bass, a healthy diet is an essential element to combating stress.

3. Exercise

Find something that works for YOU and practice it regularly!

4. Relax your mind

Do a crossword puzzle, squeeze a stress ball, paint a picture, doodle in your notebook.

5. Practice yoga/mindfulness

Yoga helps you focus on the ebb and flow of your breath and also releases the tension in your muscles.

6. Schedule “you time”

Write it on the calendar! Set aside some time to do exactly what you want to do.

7. Schedule family time

Be present for your loved ones.

>>Read about three ways to truly live in the moment.

8. Walk outside

Vitamin D is essential for your skin and just being in the outdoors has a revitalizing, rejuvenating effect.

9. Laugh

Laughter reduces stress, according to the Mayo Clinic. Watch a funny movie, read the comics, or go to a comedy show.

10. Be present

Focus on the here and now instead of getting stressed about the future or regretting something in the past. My book, The Ten-Minute Leadership Challenge, devotes an entire chapter to this concept.

11. Network/reconnect with friends/find your support group

We all need a support group. If you have close friends in the area, make an effort to reach out to them from time to time. If not, find a supportive community through meet-up groups, your local community center, or continuing education classes.

12. Indulge in your interests

Do you like to knit? Paint? Practice Tae Kwon Do? Work your interests into your schedule.

13. Massage

Everyone loves a professional massage, but if you’re short on time or don’t want to spend the money, give yourself a hand massage or shoulder rub.

14. Listen to music

“Music calms the savage beast” and it can also reduce tension. Pick your favorite genre and let Pandora find the perfect music mix for you.

15. Practice gratitude

As I mentioned in my November newsletter, a grateful person is generally a happier, more optimistic person.

16. Count/recite a mantra

The rhythm of counting or reciting a mantra can help calm your mind. Additionally, a positive mantra (i.e. “I can do anything,” “I am smart and strong,” or “Nothing can get in my way”) can give you an added confidence boost.

17. Close your eyes

Sometimes closing your eyes is a good way to distance yourself from your troubles. It also helps you focus on your thoughts without letting visual distractions get in the way.

18. Get organized

A neat and tidy desk or house can help focus your thoughts. Too much clutter can lead to feelings of anxiety and stress.

19. Free write

Get your thoughts down on paper. Write whatever comes to mind if you’re feeling overwhelmed and want to sort through a complex issue.

20. Plan a vacation

Even if you don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon, it’s fun to plan a future vacation. It also gives you something to work towards—a long term reward.

 

Isn’t it time to relax and enjoy the holidays? Take a deep breath and get started with creating a calm, rejuvenating holiday season!

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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Whew! All the hustle and bustle of the holidays can keep you go-go-going in a million different directions. Balancing end of the year work projects, family gatherings, and holiday activities can make us burn the candle at both ends. With the multitude of events and projects, it’s easy to get stressed. And that stress can be compounded by a lack of sleep, an abundance of sugary foods, and the weight of holiday expectations. Not to mention, if you live in the northern U.S. like I do, it’s cold! It’s not quite as tempting to hop on a bicycle or go for a walk when the weather is below freezing.

All of this stress can have serious consequences for our well-being.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Stress that’s left unchecked can contribute to many health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.” It can lead to muscle tension, digestion issues, and headaches.

Stress can also affect those around us.

When we’re stressed, we tend to lash out at others more. Or, we disengage and have trouble being present. We tend to get wrapped up in our own tension when we’re stressed and therefore do not give others the full attention and consideration they deserve.

How to combat the holiday stress? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Breathe. Take time to step away from stressful situations and focus on your breath. It only take a few seconds and it WORKS.
  2. Exercise. Go for a long walk, hit the gym, or ask a friend to go to yoga class. Movement gets your blood flowing and reduces anxiety.
  3. Treat yourself! Give yourself a gift this holiday season, some special treat that will help you relax. Schedule a massage, a pedicure, or a facial. Or, plan a relaxed night (by yourself or with a friend/significant other) that involves low-stress activities, like a nice dinner and a movie.
  4. Eat well. Good nutrition can increase our energy, improve digestion, and reduce headaches. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine reminds us to avoid high-fat foods (like pizza and mac ‘n’ cheese) when we’re feeling stressed because “they can make us feel lethargic and less able to deal with stress.”
  5. Practice quiet time. Read a book, knit, bake a pie. Do something that you love and DON’T feel guilty about taking this “you time.”
  6. Invest in yourself. If your stress reaches serious levels, you may want to consider reaching out to a therapist or career counselor to get yourself back on track. Pay attention to how you’re feeling. If this is more than “a little holiday stress,” reach out and seek help immediately.

Your mental and physical health is directly tied to your stress levels. Don’t let the holidays get to you! Take time to respect yourself and your wellbeing. Doing so will help set you up for success in the New Year.

Happy holidays!

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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