I am obsessed with making a Christmas list.
I love the act of choosing my top ten material wishes in this world within a reasonable price point appropriate for the gift giver, a.ka. although I would love diamonds…Converse All-Stars are a list staple instead. Throughout the year, I take mental notes of things I wish I had to prepare my list far in advance.
Back in the ’80s we received magazines in the mail around Thanksgiving for which I would carefully analyze scouring each item’s picture and description to determine if it was going to make my sacred list. I would carefully cut out the image and adhere it to a piece of colored construction paper to prepare for Santa. I have not matured much then over the last 30 years as I still enjoy this practice.
I am not ashamed to send my list, now in digital version, out in November to my three brothers and my parents. I am also bold in demanding their lists. It is fun to read everyone’s requests and to steal their ideas to add to mine. My sister-in-law always asks for something unique that I ultimately add to my list later too. It’s an obsession.
This list, the Christmas list, is one of many lists made during the holiday season. But, it may be the only fairly healthy one. This wish to get everything done is what I call, the Holiday Hustle.
The first step in the Holiday Hustle is to make to-do lists as long as Santa’s Naughty and Nice reflections. These lists look like this:
- Put up and decorate tree
- Send out cards
- Prepare for travel
- Buy gifts
- Attend parties
- Buy outfit for parties
- Workout (because we need to fit in that new outfit)
- Get your hair done, nails, eyebrows…you gotta look good!
- Buy food for gatherings
- Attend school holiday events
- etc., etc., etc.,
And by the time the list is written on a scrap of opened envelope paper sitting on the kitchen counter, the anxiety sets in, this marks step two in the Holiday Hustle. “I don’t have enough time.” “How am I going to get all this done?” “I always send a photo card, do I still have time to order from Shutterfly?” “I missed black Friday, am I going to get the best deal on that gift now that I’m late?” “I don’t have time to workout.”
The next stage is my least admirable stage of the Holiday Hustle and I hope you do not relate. After the to-do list is written, and the anxiety of “getting it done” sets in, I become mean to the ones I love the most. I know, it’s bad, but it’s the awful truth.
While decorating the tree, intended to be an iconic moment of the holiday spirit, instead typically shows me yelling at my son to move faster. While getting ready to get in the car for shopping, instead of the giving spirit, my moping daughters not wanting to go to a store without toys get an ear full from me. I might as well be replaced by “Anger” from Inside Out. Then, my poor husband…sorry Nick…gets the brunt of my emotional outbursts.
It’s a long litany of things that places us in this state of anxiety and big emotions. Not only is the holiday spirit to blame, but it is also the American spirit. We are accomplishers in America. We have grit and determination. We get things done and wear pride on that fact. All of which is admirable, until it breads unhealthy behaviors such as anxiety and anger.
What is the cure to the Holiday Hustle? Mindfulness of course!
In the Time article from their September 2017 issue on The Science of Happiness, author Emma Seppala reminds us that, “multitasking instead of helping us accomplish more things faster, actually keeps us from doing anything well.” If you really think of “multi-tasking” you realize that it is fairly impossible. Sure we can walk and talk at the same time. But you can literally not do the dishes and go shopping, even virtually, at the same time. You must be focused with your mind and body on one activity at any single second. So, this year, take your to-do list one item at a time. It is all humans are capable of anyway.
Give yourself grace. How powerful to allow yourself the same kindness you give others when they admit to you they didn’t get to something on their to-do list. We lend so many kind thoughts back to our friends. They will do the same for us, and we need to do this for ourselves. If we don’t send out the photocard this year, the sun will still come up. Give yourself grace.
Happy people are forgetful people. I don’t mean in a sense that they are ditsy, I mean that they let things go more easily. So, if a child or spouse or friend upsets you this holiday, remember that you are in control of when you decide to let that anger or resentment go. So when your husband forgets the flowers, try being forgetful and move forward for yourself, not just your husband.
Find moments to still be present. While accomplishing and checking off the lists, pause….breathe….look at the sky….look at the holiday decorations….enjoy the tiny moment. Feel the floor against your feet. Feel the warmth of your child holding your hand. Take it in. And enjoy the moment.
Gratitude of course. Calming amidst accomplishing to express thanks to the grocers and shop keepers can help remind you that it isn’t about the buying of the stuff, it is about the spirit of gratitude and love.
Always my favorite – meditate. Buddha was known to have said in summary, “Today will be busy, I must meditate twice as long today.” Instead of skipping your practice, prepare for a crazy holiday day through extra meditations.
The Holiday Hustle can be fun. The Holiday Hustle can be stress free, OK, well at least it can boast less stress if we try. This year face the Holiday Hustle with confidence through mindfulness.
I guess the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree – this is Josie’s list which is currently taped to our fridge ready to leave for Santa.