I was planning to write a post about how to handle stress during the holidays. I changed my mind. A number of people I have been talking with lately have been telling me about the actions they are taking to simplify their lives. It could be that a lot of people in my life are in a place where they may be thinking about simplifying; but I believe simplification is a helpful thought to hold in our minds during the busy holiday season.
You may have noticed that my writing has been sporadic this fall. This was a conscious decision on my part. I had been stressed about wanting to keep to my weekly intention around posting. However, having had a particularly busy and stressful couple of months moving my Dad out of his home and into a seniors’ residence, I decided I needed to listen to what I needed and take breaks. Simplifying my schedule to do so.
While all of this moving was going on, I was in discussions with Dana Zaruba about taking her on as an associate in my counselling practice. I had to deliberate with myself for a period of time before deciding that having Dana on board would effectively make my life simpler. I also realized that I was really looking forward to having someone, Dana in particular, join the practice to liaise with and to share clients. I am thrilled to have her working with me and I hope it is a long, positive, prosperous relationship. Welcome Dana!
As I have been contemplating simplicity in my day-to-day activities, I have also been considering simplicity in my life plan. I have spent the last several years in a striving, acquiring mode. It has led me to where I am today, for which I am grateful; but it has been truly exhausting. I want to catch my breath. As I pause and look around me I am able to appreciate where I am, what I have, and who I have in my life. I feel as though I really have no needs at the moment that aren’t being met. For that I feel grateful. I am hoping this holiday season will be filled with clearing out the old or unused and sharing things we no longer need with others as well as enjoying and appreciating what we have. I was surprised to learn that my older two children really had no big Christmas wishes. They need some shoes and clothes, which we are fortunate enough to be able to provide, but seem otherwise content. My youngest, of course wants Lego and Nerf guns but such is the life of a 9 year old. I want them to enjoy their holiday and hopefully some of that will involve spending time with us.
As for what you can do to simplify this holiday, I want to mention some of the things my friends have spoken of to me. They have been cleaning out their closets of items they no longer love. They are paring down the things in their lives in general. My friends are looking around them at all the ‘stuff’ they have accumulated over the years and realizing they don’t need 10 pots for cooking or zillions of glasses or millions of towels. Removing clutter can be remarkably freeing. At a time of year when we are told minute by minute how much we need, to be letting go of possessions can be liberating.
Perhaps taking a break from all those ads telling you the latest and greatest items for purchase is a way to simplify. Consider spending time with the people you love and showing them you love them rather than fulfilling a gift quota. Take time for the people and activities you enjoy and that fulfill you. Relieve yourself of the pressure of social engagements. Choose how you spend your time and value how you spend it. Our time is at such a premium. Take care of yourself by knowing when you need to take a break.
The literature says that giving to others is one way to increase our happiness. Receiving gifts only feels good for a short while; whereas giving to someone has a more lasting effect. I would say that giving to someone in a meaningful way has a more lasting effect. Giving does feel good but when we are fulfilling a quota it can lose the ‘giving feeling’. Taking time to give a meaningful gift has a much more sustained feeling of goodwill, as does giving to those in need.
Best wishes to you navigating this season of social activity and giving. I invite you to challenge yourself in the midst of it all to simplify and to clear away the clutter to discover what is really meaningful for you this holiday.