Five Ways to Find Rest and Renewal this Holiday Season

Last week I spent an hour with my calendar, not penciling things in, but revisiting pending events and making intentional choices that support a more spacious, restorative winter schedule.

Does the thought of shopping and attending holiday gatherings make you want to grab your sherpa blanket and run for the nearest cave?

This year has been emotionally intense. In addition to the chaos we’ve all been experiencing on a macro level, most of us have felt overwhelmed and unable to unplug. Many of us are navigating big life transitions—and we’ve had little time to digest and integrate these changes. Frankly, we’re exhausted. We’re ready for rest. Not a relaxed evening by the fire, but a serious stretch of long naps, walks in the woods, deep nourishing slumber, and joyful, easy, simple connections with friends and family that feed us emotionally and spiritually. What we most need in the coming weeks is permission to rest, relax, unplug, and do nothing.

However, with all the family expectations, activity, and invitations that come with this season knocking on our door—what are we to do? I challenge you to take the road less traveled and take a radical stand for what you most need this month. Consider the following five ideas to help you do less:

  • Schedule downtime now. Block out periods on your calendar during December for “dedicated relaxation,” where your only job is to unplug and recharge. Schedule half-days, full days, weekends, or an entire week if you can. This might look like a meandering hike, staying in your pajamas all day, setting aside your phone for hours, or sipping hot tea and watching the winter landscape. Make it a priority to schedule deep-to-the-bones self-renewal now.
  • Just say no. Decide what’s most important to you and let everything else go. If it’s not an “absolute yes,” then it’s a no. Don’t want to miss Aunt Tracy’s special New Year’s Eve dinner, but feel exhausted at the thought of attending your neighbor’s cookie exchange? Let it go. Our quality of life is always enhanced when we let go of things-not when we add them.
  • Ask for help. Permission is granted to ask for and receive help: whether it’s around cooking, socializing, or hosting family. Do it differently. Be willing to let go of tradition for the sake of enhanced emotional well-being. Step out of your comfort zone, reach out to friends, neighbors, and coworkers, and ask for their help during the holidays so you can create more space for yourself and your family to just “be.” What are three things you could delegate, outsource, or ask for support around?
  • Do less to experience more. Positive psychology researchers say we’re happiest when we keep things simple and have fewer choices. We create stress when we try and cram too much into our schedules and control everything. Author Joan Borysenko says, “Your to-do list is immortal; it will live on long after you’re dead.” How can you simplify your plans (do you really need to go see the Christmas lights in the next town over, make your mom’s famous cranberry bread, and host your company’s New Year’s dinner)? Popcorn, hot cider, and an evening of soulful conversation with heart-minded friends are hard to beat. Do less, so you can experience more.
  • Unplug and spend time in nature. My friend Richard Louv author of The Nature Principle says, “Time spent in nature is the most cost-effective and powerful way to counteract burnout and depression.” Time in nature is the ultimate antidepressant. If anyone in my family is out of sorts, off to the forest we go. Being in nature offers us nourishment and renewal on all levels—physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental. It is a powerful, restorative, and healing force.

There is an innate push and pull that many of us feel during the winter/holiday season. When we pause and tune in to the natural cycles of nature—and our bodies—we hear the call to slow down, go inward, and contemplate where we’ve been and where we want to go. Counter this with the world around us that is swirling madly with activity and constantly telling us to do, eat, buy, and be more. It can feel quite confusing and exhausting.

Do it differently in December. What do you most need to replenish and restore? If the call to make rest and renewal a priority resonates, make this number one for yourself and for your family. Then, you can flow—instead of crawl–into 2024 present, refreshed and clear on how you want to use your energy in the New Year.

Renée Peterson Trudeau is an internationally recognized transformational coach, speaker, catalyst, founder and president of Career Strategists, and the author of two award-winning books The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal: How to Reclaim, Rejuvenate and Re-Balance Your Life and Nurturing the Soul of Your Family: 10 Ways to Reconnect and Find Peace in Everyday Life.

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