How to get through the silly season without burning out
December 12, 2022
With all the extra curricular activities the holiday season brings, like battling shopping centre crowds, buying the perfect gifts, spending more than future you would appreciate, not to mention managing your overflowing social calendar alongside work commitments and general life admin, you probably feel like time is your enemy and surrendering to the chaos is the only way to get through this season.
I promise you, it’s not. You have a choice.
To help replace the chaos with a little more calm and composure, I want to share my favourite self-care tips to get you through the silly season without burning out.
Create a “no” list before the week begins
This is not about having a rigid mindset or stripping away spontaneity from your life. There’s a time and place to exercise flexibility. There are also seasons of life that call for stronger boundaries.
When life tips toward the busier side of the scale, choosing to say no to extra commitments could actually be the best thing you do for your physical and mental wellbeing.
The best way to create a no list is to review the previous week.
Look at your diary, your planner or your calendar and ask yourself:
What do I wish I said “no” to last week?
Who or what is likely to distract me from my priorities this week?
And with that, you’ll quickly uncover what needs to go on your “no” list.
What this practice does is it prompts you to reflect on your priorities, your goals and your intentions, and the domino effect of your decisions.
Ultimately, saying yes to one thing can affect other areas of your life. Taking time to reflect on this can help you stay committed to what you’ve already defined as important. It also helps you avoid repeating unhealthy patterns which is insanely easy to do since we are all creatures of habit.
Your no list might look like this:
Staying out past 9pm on a weeknight (because you know that it affects your sleep and your energy levels the next day)
Scrolling on my phone after 9pm (because you know that it’ll affect your sleep quality and you won’t feel rested in the morning)
Saying no isn’t always easy—I get it—we often feel obligated and guilty for choosing our needs over others, but having this “no” list can definitely boost your courage and confidence because you’ve already made the decision. Your past self has already made the decision for you. You just need to trust it.
Being selective about the invitations you accept also means that you can show up as your best self for the people and things that are most important to you. Value your time and choose what’s right for you this season. It’s only when you begin respecting your time and energy that others will follow suit.
Visualise a calm setting
Whether you find yourself in a stressful situation, whether you’re feeling overwhelmed by your to-do list or anxious about upcoming family events, you can harness the power of your mind to calm your senses.
Harness your ability to visualise mentally transport yourself to another location, your happy place—a place where you feel safe, where you feel calm and at peace.
For the longest time, I had a very tense relationship with someone close to me and I struggled to stay calm and collected in their presence. I felt so easily triggered and every conversation would often turn into a fight. Naturally, I felt so anxious in the lead up to seeing them.
To help ease my anxiety and tap into a calmer state of mind, my psychologist suggested a visualisation technique where you bring to mind a time and place where you felt at peace. A time and place where you felt completely relaxed. The ideal is to try and recall all the details of this special place.
One of my go-to places for this type of visualisation is a beach in Hoi An that I visited quite frequently in Vietnam. I would bring to mind the temperature of the water, the colour of the sky, and I would visualise myself floating in the water, feeling completely calm without a care in the world.
From my experience, this exercise is effective if you do it before your stress levels hit a certain point. There’s definitely a point of no return which I’m sure we’ve all experienced before.
If you’re keen to try it, think of a time you felt truly relaxed and calm. Maybe you were at the beach watching the waves crash or watching an epic waterfall or holding your baby for the first time or watching your baby sleep.
It might not come to you immediately so give yourself some time and space to reflect. The idea is to know where your peaceful place is so you can instantly visualise it when you feel anything but calm. Don’t wait until you’re feeling stressed to then try and figure out where your special place is. You want to have a destination in mind.
Once you’ve found your special place, stay there for a few minutes. Engage your senses.
What do you see? What can you hear? What can you smell? What can you touch? What can you taste? What’s the temperature like?
Recall all the details of that special place and let the imagery calm your senses. It’s such a powerful way to experience a few moments of peace when you’re feeling anxious, stressed or overwhelmed. The more you practise visualising your peaceful destination, the easier it will be to transport yourself there.
Leverage the power of your breath
Breath work is such a powerful way to regulate your emotions. Through your breath, you can activate your parasympathetic nervous system—the calming response in your body.
It’s the easiest, most accessible form of self-care.
It’s never too late to start using simple breathing exercises to reset your state your mind.
Take a deep, slow and steady breath through your nostrils. Hold it for a second at the top. Slowly exhale with control through both nostrils.
How good did that feel?
That is accessible to you all day, every day. Whether you’re at work, driving home, waiting in line at the supermarket or in between household chores, you have the ability to calm your nervous system. And that’s a pretty powerful skill to have.
Just remember, when you exhale for longer than you inhale, you're relaxing and de-stressing your body. Use your breath to welcome back a sense of ease and calm your overactive mind as often as you need to.
Embrace the silent commute
More often than not, I will listen to a podcast or an audiobook or some music while I’m driving.
However, when life gets extra loud and busy, a silent commute is exactly what I need to rest my overstimulated brain.
The holiday season already brings with it so much noise and stimulation. Don’t get me wrong, it is a beautiful time of year, but the extra noise and stimulation can also become quite overwhelming.
Consciously turning down the volume can give your brain a chance to slow down and take a well deserved break.
In fact, research studies confirm that time spent in silence can help calm racing thoughts, lower blood pressure, reduce cortisol (your stress hormone), stimulate creativity, and improve insomnia just to name a few.
So, while you may feel an impulse to fill the silence or make your drive more productive with an audiobook or a podcast, I urge you to check in with yourself and consider if some quiet time and peace of mind is actually what you need right now. A silent commute might just be the mental downtime you need to recharge and reset before the next thing on your agenda.
Listen to your body, honour your needs and take as many moments as you need to pause and reset because you are worthy of your time.