The holidays bring up such mixed emotions – there’s joy and hope…and there’s stress and sadness.
When I taught a class on managing holiday stress, participants gave me a long list of stressors that include worries about budget and creating a “perfect” holiday, and feeling sad when remembering loved ones who won’t be here this year.
Find Balance and Watch your Budget
Class members had plenty of ideas for reducing holiday stress. They want to set realistic expectations, create a better balance between personal time and social time, and spend more time with supportive people. Some people talked about reducing financial worries by changing some of their family traditions; instead of buying gifts for everyone in the family, they will have a white elephant exchange or arrange for secret Santa gifts, so that each person only buys one gift.
Stress Reduction Tips
During the holidays, more than at other times, it’s important to manage your stress. This is the time for deep breathing exercises (breathe in for 3 counts, hold for 2, breathe out for 3 counts). Progressive muscle relaxation is super helpful. Sit in a chair with your eyes closed. Tense your right fist; let go. Tense your whole right arm; let go. Do the same on the left side. Then scrunch up your face and hold it tight; let go. Tense your shoulders and your chest; let go. Tense your stomach muscles; let go. Tense your thighs and calves; let go. Tense your toes; let go.
As members of my class completed the exercise and opened their eyes, the energy in the room became light and peaceful.
Help Yourself to Help Others
So, first take care of yourself during the holidays. Then help others. If you take time to volunteer or collect toys to donate, you’ll feel the joy of giving. Plus, when we change the focus from materialism, we reap the benefits of feeling the spirit of the holiday season.
Remember: You have the right to enjoy the holidays and even buy a gift for yourself. You are also entitled to feel all your emotions – from happy to sad. You don’t need to attend every party and eat all the food offered to you. You can design the holiday you want to enjoy. Make some new traditions. What can you do differently this year?
Lately friends have been asking me about my philosophy. They want to know if I have a dogma, or if I’m guided by a self-help guru. The answer is I’m a pragmatist. Over the years, through trial and error, I’ve found a path that works for me. It includes having a balanced life, getting unstuck, pursuing fun leisure activities, keeping healthy, fulfilling my life purpose, sticking to my personal guiding principles, and achieving goals.
In my workshops and coaching, I share this “path” with others. And that feels great. So, as Thanksgiving approaches, I want to talk about how grateful I am to have this opportunity to teach and be a coach. It truly is fulfilling to help people who are feeling uncertain about what next steps to take, and then see them leave at peace, knowing how they want life to look and what they need to do to achieve it.
This work, plus so much more, makes me feel that my life is balanced and full. I am thankful for good health which allows me to enjoy hiking, skiing, cycling, sailing, dance, and yoga. I’m thankful for the amazing friends I’ve made while pursuing these activities. I’m grateful that as a Marin Master Gardener, I can volunteer for the Dig It, Grow It, Eat It program that teaches children about gardening and nutritious foods. I’m thankful that I’m able to travel; this year I went to the East Coast and Canada, while next year I’ll visit New Zealand. And I’m grateful for my small family.
I want to wish you a fulfilling Thanksgiving Holiday. If you have time, write down some of the things you are grateful for. Did you know that a 2012 study found that grateful people have fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier than other people? Spend 10 minutes jotting down a few grateful thoughts before bed, and you may sleep better.
If you have a high school reunion coming up, GO. If it’s your 50th reunion, don’t hesitate. The 50th reunion is probably the last reunion. It’s sad to say, but some of your classmates won’t be alive…or won’t be able to travel in another 10 years.
I just returned from my 50th reunion at Abington High School in a suburb of Philadelphia. When the reunion was announced, I was the first to RSVP. I live 3000 miles from many of my high school friends, and this was a chance to see everyone at once. With Facebook, it’s been great to catch up with so many of my classmates, but it’s not the same as face-to-face. When seeing friends in person, the good memories come flooding back. And, at this stage of life, the bad memories of feeling excluded (by people in some cliques) have long faded away.
The reunion was an opportunity to remember my childhood on the East Coast. I decided to make the event into an adventure by plane, train and subway. I wanted to see the 911 museum in New York and take an in-depth look at Washington D.C. I’m glad I did. Even two weeks was not enough time to see the many monuments, gardens, museums and cultural events on my bucket list.
After the “high” I felt in New York city with it’s great energy, I was not let down in Philadelphia. My high school pals have matured into relaxed, interesting, fun-loving older adults. We picked up where we left off so many years ago. Everyone was welcoming.
We’re at a great age. Yes, it’s true that there was a wide variation in how well we aged. I recognized almost everyone I used to “hang with.” They looked energetic and fabulous. The surprise was that some classmates are using canes and walkers.
It’s truly eye-opening to see that even as early as the sixties, if you don’t have good genes and don’t live a healthy lifestyle, your decline will already be apparent. It’s another reminder to stay active and engage with life. And to reinvent yourself.
I recently read the book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink. If you want to know the best time of day to get results and the benefits of napping, this is a must read. He has a chapter on endings, including what he calls “Act Three” of life – where we “sharpen our red pencils and scratch out anyone or anything non-essential.” Research shows that as we age, we edit out people who are less emotionally meaningful.
Here’s something to try when you’re in a slump. Mr. Pink shares a technique he learned from four social psychologists. This process is inspired by the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
- Think about something positive in your life – your relationship, your child, a career achievement, your home
- List all the circumstances that made it possible – a friend’s suggestion, a class you took, a party you attended
- Write down all the events and decisions that might never have happened – you didn’t go to the party or take the class
- Now remind yourself that life did go your way. Think about the happy random events that did happen. Be grateful for your good fortune. Life is pretty wonderful.
Try this technique and post a comment on how it worked for you. I did feel wonderful when I tried it.
Following are some of the topics we discuss in the Reinvent Yourself after 50 workshops. See how many of these tips you can incorporate into your life. Let me know which ones are helping you feel greater joy and fulfillment.
Explore subjects that interest you and see where it leads. Read, use Google, take workshops, attend lectures.
Have a Supportive Community
We all need community. Studies show you’ll live longer and feel better if you have a good social life. Meet people who lift you up and spend time with them. I’ve found that Meetup.com is a good way to meet who enjoy the activities that you enjoy.
Live a Balanced Life
You will be happier if you find the right balance of work (paid or volunteer), relationships, leisure, creativity, learning, and spiritual pursuits. What do you need more of? What do you need less of in life?
Leisure is a vital part of living a balanced life. Take time to relax and recharge. Your brain requires this.
Get outside as often as possible. The sun, greenery and water are all nurturing. My yellow, green and blue logo symbolizes these essential elements of nature.
Be Healthy – stay active and eat well
Exercise releases endorphins which make you feel good. You’ll feel better and be healthier if you keep moving and eat healthy foods (and never smoke).
Each day write down a few of the things you’re grateful for. When you see the good in the world, you feel happier. It’s that simple.
Keep a Bucket List
Pay attention to your ideas about things you’d like to do. (Sometimes feeling jealous of others is an indication of something we need or want to do.) People who write down and follow-up on their bucket lists are more likely to fulfill their dreams. Create a life you’ll love.
New places and cultures (even if they are close to home) introduce us to new ideas and perspectives. Travel beyond your usual stomping ground to feel inspired and energized.
Feel Passion and Purpose
Find time for activities that make a difference to others. This work will add meaning and purpose to your own life.
My friend Harry was laid off from his job at the age of 64. He took some time to think about his future….and then took some more time. His savings were slim, so he said he would look for another job. I’m not sure if he looked. I do know that he spent a lot of time on his computer, going to movies by himself, and watching TV. Mostly he was alone. Then he got sick. Then his cognitive thinking declined. He was depressed and isolated. He is one of the reasons I created the “Reinvent Yourself after 50” workshop. I want to help people feel fulfilled, joyful, and passionate, whether they are working or not.
For many people the most difficult aspect of leaving the workforce is losing daily interaction with work colleagues and the people you meet when you’re at work – the coffee barista, the bus driver, the cashier at the deli. In the workshop we discuss the many benefits of social integration and how to ensure we don’t lose it. This video demonstrates why our relationships are paramount to our longevity and to having fulfilling lives.
What does it take to live for 100 years? These are the surprising predictors of a long, healthy life.
Susan Pinker at TED2017 – The secret to living longer may be your social life