Building Resilience over the Holidays
The holidays are a time to recover, relax, connect with loved ones and celebrate. It is also an opportunity to reflect on the past year so that you can gain some perspective on what went well, what was difficult, and how you can improve.
First, however, let’s prioritise what we wish to achieve over the holidays.
1. Get clear on your holiday priorities
- Relax, recover and rejuvenate
- Connect with loved ones
- Celebrate and be kind to yourself
- Set your resilience goals for 2018
2. The core of resilience is insight – know yourself
At the end of a busy year, we have been fully focused on tasks. Christmas is a time to slow down, escape the intensity, and take time to reflect.
Use this time to engage your body, your emotions and your mind in a more relaxed and reflective way.
- Take time to sense the needs of your body
- Take stock of feelings and emotions
- Notice the habits of mind
Insight is the ability to look inwards and review how you are travelling. What feels good and what is not so good.
3. Reflection and journalling
Before you dive into the Christmas celebrations, book some time to stop and take 30 minutes to reflect on the year.
- What has gone really well this year?
- What has been challenging and successful?
- What has been difficult or frustrating?
Note down all the emotions you can remember and that might be still sitting with you. What would you like more of? What would you like less of?
4. Tune into your physical self – schedule time to move
Movement is the fundamental function of humanity. We are extraordinarily complex and capable. Be sure to tune into your physicality:
- Take a relaxed walk every day
- Get out in nature and sunlight
- Breathe fully with long exhalations
- Stretch in the mornings
- Tackle a garden challenge
- Get out and do your favourite physical activity
- Secure a few nights of really good sleep – and powernap!
Each investment in your body will reap huge rewards.
5. Nudge toward positivity
The pressure of the year can trigger frustration, anxiety and disappointment. These negative emotions are natural and normal but they are sticky and can undermine our wellbeing, relationships and mental state.
Positivity is a commitment to nudge toward the positive:
- If frustrated or angry press towards acceptance and kindness
- If disappointed or sad press toward appreciation and joy
- If anxious or worried press for calm and being present
- If tired seek energy and passion
- If you feel cravings savour the good – be contented
6. Master the monkey mind
Our minds are whirling by the end of the year. With 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts per day, it makes sense to step back and notice what you are thinking. Some of us tend to ruminate on the past. Others worry and fret about the future.
When the mind wanders into the past we dredge up sadness or anger. If we wander into the future it mostly triggers worries and anxiety.
7. Stay present
Practice staying in the present. If you notice your mind churning:
- Name the thoughts
- Bring your attention to the now – your body, feelings, environment
- Stay fully attentive to those you are with
- Be gentle with monkey mind – but be firm.
8. Practice tactical calm
You need to relax more than you can imagine. At the core of relaxation (vagal tone, coherence and wellbeing) is your breath. Far too often we “take a deep breath”. This is wrong. Breath out to relax:
- Lie flat on your back or sit upright
- Drop your mind into your belly
- Exhale fully through the nose for 6 seconds
- Gently inhale through the nose for 4 seconds
- Relax neck and shoulders and let your lower ribs and belly move
- Go to your happy place or thoughts of loved ones
- Watch the breath – 6 seconds out and 4 seconds in
9. Zip it
It is easy to get into heated arguments over trivial things during the holidays. We have all worked hard and have high expectations for Christmas. This can easily lead to misunderstanding.
So when you feel triggered:
- Stop (zip it!) and practice restraint
- Breathe out slowly and pause
- If needed excuse yourself from the situation
- Apologise and share how you felt when triggered
- Listen carefully to the other person’s perspective
10. Opposite emotions
A resilient person can defuse feelings of anger with love, or sadness with Rejoicing. This is called “Reframing” and is a great way to counteract issues that come up.
Just acknowledging the opposite of a negative emotion can help draw you out of an unproductive mental state. Here are the key opposites:
Anger > Compassion
Fear > Calm
Craving > Gratitude
Sadness > Rejoicing
Fatigue > Passion
When you sense a powerful negative emotion rising up, take a moment to exhale fully, pause without acting, and then try to acknowledge the opposite emotion.
11. Overindulge? It’s ok
Let’s face it, the holidays are for enjoying yourself and that will mean food, drink, fun, sun and late nights (at least that’s the plan!).
Guilt is not for Christmas. Let yourself go.
Strategic celebration tips:
- Try not to have that 2nd plate, or 3rd if you had a second
- Take a walk after heavy meals
- Watch sugar intake and aim for 9 servings of veggies and green leaves per day
- Enjoy red wine, coffee, dark chocolate and, most importantly, time with others
- Stay hydrated, but don’t go overboard
- Kickstart your exercise program early – don’t wait until January 1st
- Rather than sleep in, wake up at your normal time and take a nap during the day
- If you can’t nap, then go to bed early the next night
- Define your resilience priorities and track your progress
Wishing you a peaceful and happy holiday from all of us here at the Resilience Institute.