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Take it Slow: Five Ways to Have a Happier and More Peaceful Season

A local radio station has been playing Christmas carols since Halloween. While that might be exciting for some people, for many it’s a nerve-wracking reminder that the end of the year is screaming down on us. Between the holidays and trying to wrap up all those year-end work projects, it can be a hectic and chaotic time. But it doesn’t have to be. You, too, can be one of those people that cruises through all of the reports, proposals, cookie-baking, and decorating while seeming to never break a sweat. It just takes a little focus, some guts, and a healthy dose of selfcare.







1. Pace Yourself.
You wouldn’t try to run a marathon at a four-minute mile pace because you’d end up passed out by the side of the road long before you ever reached the finish line. The same is true for the last few months of the year. Realize there are only so many minutes in every day, and you can’t fill all of them with non-stop activity. Prioritize what needs to be done, focus on one thing at a time (sorry, multitaskers), and then move on to the next.

Pomodoro is a simple tool to help get tasks finished. Set a timer for 25 minutes, then work at ONE task until the timer goes off. Take a five-minute break, then repeat. After four cycles, take a 30-minute break to recharge. Depending on what I’m doing, I might set the cycle a little longer, like 30 minutes, or take two-minute breaks. But I always do four cycles and then take a longer break. It works like magic.

Pacing yourself becomes important at those holiday gatherings, too, when you’re tempted to eat every cheesy, chocolaty, sugary morsel that shows up on your plate and drink every drop of libation that appears in your glass. You don’t want to wake up on January 2 fifteen pounds heavier and feeling like you need a week at the detox center. Ignore the tray of cookies in the lunchroom and go for a walk instead.

2. Learn to say no.

This is obvious, but it’s something many of us still struggle with. You get a momentary rush of happy when you say yes, but if you do it too often, you end up overwhelmed, ineffective, and wearing martyrdom on your sleeve. Only say yes to things you know you can get done, that bring you pleasure, and are part of your job description, whether at work or at home.

It’s hard to say no, but start out small and it will get easier. People really won’t hate you—although they may be grumpy with you until they get used to it. They WILL respect you for keeping your commitments, and you’ll feel better, too.

Saying no is especially important when it comes to holiday celebrating. It seems like every weekend from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day is filled with merry-making opportunities. If you’re not up for spending the evening eating bad food and drinking cheap wine with those neighbors you don’t really like, then politely decline the invitation. Pick the events that bring you joy with people you love, or at least like. Spend those other evenings soaking in a hot tub with your own glass of really good wine.

3. Reject consumerism and embrace simplicity

Christmas at my family’s house was always an over-the-top event. I have four sisters, and we all bought gifts for every member of each other’s families, including husbands, kids, and pets. The living room would be so crowded with presents there was no room to sit. It was great fun, but just too much. Several years ago I decided none of us needed more stuff, so, instead of gifts, I started making a charitable contribution on behalf of the family, usually to Heifer International, which gives livestock to families around the world to help them become self-sufficient. I asked the extended family to do something similar for us. We could still be generous, but to people who could benefit from our largesse.

This one act changed my holidays radically. It eliminated the time, money, and stress that go hand-in-hand with gift-giving; it cut down on the enormous amount of waste that comes with wrapping paper, ribbons, and gifts that the recipients never wanted in the first place. Most importantly, it helped us all focus on what’s really important about the season.

It takes nerve to pull the plug on excessive gift-giving, but the no-gift movement is picking up steam. Here’s how they do it in England.

4. Create a new tradition

People very rarely remember the gifts you’ve given them, but they almost always remember the special experiences they’ve shared with you. If you ask my grown kids, they’ll tell you they can’t recall a single toy they got, but they do remember driving from Denver to Tucson singing cowboy Christmas carols all the way, something we did every year.

Whether it’s a tamale-making day with your friends or a night at The Nutcracker and dinner with your sweetheart, find something you all enjoy and get it on the calendar. And then do it again next year. It doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive—maybe it’s as simple as taking a walk around the neighborhood to look at the lights and then drinking hot chocolate at home. It’s about spending time together, enjoying each other’s company, and making memories.

5. Remember to find the joy.

When you open your eyes in the morning, before you start running through your mental checklist and feeling overwhelmed before you even get out of bed, take a few deep breaths and think of the things and people you appreciate. What are you grateful for? Spend five minutes reflecting. Your day will get off to a happier, more manageable start, both mentally and emotionally.

During the day, look for those little moments that give you a thrill—the morning glow on the saguaros when you’re stuck in traffic, the feeling you get when you hit send on that big project, or the lights on your neighbor’s Christmas tree. Let that feeling sit in you for a few seconds before you jump back into the fray.

The end of the year can be productive and exciting, and the holidays really can be fun. You just have to slow down a little, connect with yourself, and remember what’s important.

Happy Holidays!

Marilyn Noble has been the Arizona regional marketing director for CIP Information Service for 16 years. She also served on the board of BILD (formerly SAAEMA) for four years. In addition to her work in the A/E/C industry, she’s a freelance food writer and cookbook author, and one of her recent articles was just included in Best American Food Writing 2019. In her spare time, she serves as the Arizona governor for Slow Food USA, an international movement working toward good, clean, and fair food for all. [email protected], Twitter: @mariwrites FB: marilyn.noble LinkedIn: marilynnoble website:

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