Cultivating Calm in Chaos

Cultivating Calm in Chaos

Risa Bos, LMHC

It’s the holidays again—the most wonderful time of the year.  If you’re like me, you just rolled your eyes so hard that you may have pulled an optical muscle.  It’s a lot, right?  It seems like overnight, while Halloween was being put away, Christmas burst onto the scene, ready or not.  What do you feel when you think about all that the holidays involve?  (shopping, baking, parties, wrapping gifts, spending, decorating, entertaining, cooking, and on and on) Do you feel that warm glow of celebration and family, or do you feel the edges of a panic attack closing in?  Lets break it down and get grounded–being mindful of self care, managing expectations and setting realistic goals. 

You can’t say yes to everything.  This is a matter of setting healthy boundaries, which for many is a difficult thing to do.  But the lack of personal boundaries can result in overwhelm, taking on too much, and can ultimately result in resentment.  Be kind to yourself when considering which events to attend, whether to buy gifts or host extended stays for guests and family members.  Expectations almost invariably lead to disappointment or guilt, whether they are your expectations or those of others in your life.  If you “expect” that your sister’s family wants to stay at your home, but you really don’t have the space, energy or desire for them to do so, be proactive by suggesting inexpensive hotels nearby, or finding a list of Airbnb options.  Take care to manage your own expectations by having an open heart and allowing things to unfold organically, without needing them to turn out “perfectly”.  Sometimes, we envision an awkward social situation when anticipating a party, later to find that we worried about nothing, and expended a lot of emotional energy being uncomfortable with what we expected to encounter. 

 Maintain your spiritual and fitness practice as best you can.  It’s ironic that when we feel “too tired” to exercise, doing it anyway will actually give you energy!  Just show up: on the mat, at the gym, on your bike.  Follow through and take care of your mind, body and spirit.  The lyrics to a classic Christmas carol say: let your heart be light. During times of overwhelm and busy-ness, that takes mindfulness and deliberate focus on attitude.  Have an affirmation that brings you back into balance: “May I show love”, “Gratitude and graciousness”, “I release and choose to trust”.  Find a brief phrase that reminds you to stay grounded and remember what is important.  If we cultivate a strong core, through spiritual practice, fitness and nutrition, that core will be our pillar of strength, even when things around us might be chaotic. 

Beware of making comparisons.  I often tell my clients that comparisons are the devil.  Social media makes it so easy to believe that others’ lives are better than our own, or that we are not popular enough, well-liked or otherwise not good enough.  Images that we have of others–whether those represented by photos posted on Instagram, or beliefs we have about the quality of someone else’s life—are rarely accurate.  Choose to live your life in a way that has value to you.  Notice when you are focusing on thoughts that make you feel bad, and deliberately shift your thoughts to something you’re looking forward to, or something for which you are grateful. 

Giving back is the best path to fulfillment.  This applies all year round, but the opportunities increase exponentially at the holidays.  Pitch in at your church’s food and toy drive, serve food at a homeless shelter, or leave gifts anonymously at the door of a family who you know are struggling.  Givers be mindful to let others give to you as well.  It truly is better to give than to receive, so graciously receiving the good will and generosity of others lets them feel that joy, too.  Giving back doesn’t apply only to these grand gestures of volunteering or helping others through gifts or time.  Everyday kindness goes a long way, especially in the current divisive and sometimes combative climate.  Find opportunities to connect with people in small ways, like holding the elevator door, helping someone carry their armload of bags and boxes, letting someone into your lane of traffic, or simply sharing a genuine greeting or smile. 

Slow down and savor.  Rushing here and there, and hurrying to get through longer than usual “to do” lists can cause you to stumble, make mistakes and increase your anxiety.  Even though it sounds counterintuitive, slowing down and being deliberate about your steps and movements actually contributes to your productivity and accuracy, not to mention your sanity and inner peace.  Stop and marvel at a beautiful light display, take a moment to be mindful and truly enjoy the togetherness, beauty and deliciousness of the season.  Do one thing at a time, so that you can do it well. 

May you feel warm, may you feel safe, may you feel loved this Christmas, and all the days of your life.  And if you’re struggling with overwhelm, anxiety or hopelessness, give yourself the gift of therapy.  The hardest part is reaching out to ask for help.  The experienced therapists at Life Skills Resource Group can help you learn to manage your life and your emotions.  We can help you to activate and strengthen your core of calm, so that you can find peace in all of life’s challenges.  Call us at (407)355-7378.  Happy holidays to all!