Could be occurring simultaneously right about now for you…
“I love the holidays.” and “I am stressed out by the holidays.”
“I love seeing my family, yet they also drive me crazy like nobody else.”
Being in the midst of a crowd, but feeling completely isolated.
The holidays being truly magical for the kids, yet feeling the fatigue and stress of creating that magic for them as an adult.
My focus outward on people coming together again, yet focus inward to the impact they have on me.
That focus on celebrating with others, and pulled into my head for personal year in review.
...This time of year can magnify these opposites as we break from rest-of-the-year rhythm to revisit (or miss) places, people and traditions. They can play serious tug-of-war inside our heads, which is stressful even when we try to ignore it. The stress of opposing-force tension within ourselves is the hardest kind. Worse is when we’re not thinking about it consciously, and it’s working in the background of what we do, just insidiously sucking our energy… exhausting.
What if those same opposites could be just fine and even the fun dynamic of the season?
Call out the tricky ones.
The fastest way to de-power any problem is to expose it. So, call out these opposing forces for what they are, and watch how that strain lessens. Out loud: “This running around part is crazy. So- once we get there, let’s all take a few deep breaths and let that go to reset before we walk in.” Later, silently to myself: “I’m surrounded by people but completely disconnected… now’s the time to engage.” Calling it out like this won't eliminate the situation, but will lessen the tension everyone feels from it.
Then… try some new opposites. You can find meaning where you haven’t, connection with those you couldn’t, and peace in the midst of the swirl.
Be InterestED instead of interesting.
Initiate actual connection instead of forgettable smalltalk which we all really hate anyhow. Yet try it with some hyperfocus on them. Set all the stuff you could either gloss over or delve into about your own year aside, to get under someone else’s layers… Put the big spotlight shining down from the sky on the other person you’re talking with and genuinely lean in to enter their lives a little with some genuine questions. For shallow answers like “I’m good, thanks. Y’know- busy,” make eye contact and ask a layer or two deeper until you get to what they care about. Ask, “Of all the things you’re busy with, what’s actually your favorite and why?” You’ll get to what they’re really up to in their lives, and ultimately substantive which they’ll light up in talking about. And it'll be way more interesting than the surface-y stuff you could talk about with anyone, and both forget.
This is when you hug goodbye at the end and can genuinely say, “I’m so glad we got to talk a bit,” having created a memorable connection.
Sprint and recover.
Know your tolerances. Very few people are completely extroverted (getting all their energy from others) or completely introverted (getting all their energy from solitude). You might love the energy of people in the get togethers, yet know that you’ll enjoy it more (and be more enjoyable to others) if you get yourself away from the crowd for a moment of solitude every now and then. You might be pulled by the escape hatch of your phone's feed, yet know that you need to push yourself to engage with folks instead. You know that you can dive into the gluttony of food, drink and football-watching completely, but will feel gross by the end of the weekend if you don't get your body moving significantly, too.
- During the big get-togethers, step outside when nobody’s looking, listen to the quiet, take some deep breaths for a few minutes. You’ll go back in reset, refreshed and ready to re-engage.
- Maybe that run or yoga class is more important on these indulgent days than any other, so your body can get something out of it all, too, and not shut down on you with fatigue.
- Find what truly recharges and resets you, and do that intentionally a few times each day.
- Get perspective. Journal, debrief, do a gratitude exercise… then re-engage with your lens cleared.
Your social and emotional stamina will stretch out, and you can come out of the holiday with more energy- just imagine that!
One of the best ways to get out of your own head of concern is to focus on something bigger than yourself. A person, a cause, an idea, an act that gets your impact out there beyond your normal sphere of influence. Every time it brings perspective and even appreciation back to your world afterward.
- Do something you’d never otherwise do- something out of character. Jump on the trampoline with the kids, initiate a game with the adults, share something personal.
- Find a cause and give something real to it (time, food, some generous act). Even get someone else off the couch to spontaneously go do something positive for others with you.
- Stretch your head, get inspired by a great big idea, and immerse yourself in it. And share it with everyone, instead of the commercial they were watching during the game.
This is when you get to see the best side of those folks around you. Inspire them to go/think/speak bigger, and watch them expand too. You’ll love them even more after.
Intentional of not, we’re all causing ripples wherever we go which you’re often too busy to notice. Now’s a great time to turn up your observation radar and really get the nuance of impact happening all around (or in) you. It’s way too easy to zone out into the feed on your phone (while everyone else does, too), missing the cool, striking, sometimes barely perceptible shift and impact happening all the time in our live interactions, which, put all together creates meaning and indelibly cool memories. So- your phone put away (which will trigger others to put theirs away), awareness zoomed into little things, notice and capture these nuances, which are happening if you look for them…
- an act of true kindness
- the way someone’s face changes when they talk about something they love
- how people (including you) initiate and respond to physical connection (the hug, the lean, the space between you and them on the couch)
- the shift that happens in someones eye color and voice when they shift from smalltalk to depth
- a moment that makes you stop and really think differently about something (stay open for it)
This is when you start to really get the beauty and the intricacies of people and what really links us to one another.
So.. in this season of opposites, call them out, go to the ends of each spectrum fully, and try on some new opposites. Create and soak up the moments, snapshots and soundtracks of it all.
And… know that you’re one sentence, one gesture, one conversation away from awesome, stirring connection with people.
...and yes, I'll get back to you in a few days about your new year. ;)
This post originally appeared 12/24/14, and is being republished for this year's holidays, by special request. :)