Tag Archives: making new friends

Tips For Adulthood: Five Ways To Reduce Holiday Stress

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

Well, tis’ the season and all that good stuff. But if you’re anything like me, you’re not exactly gliding into the festivities this year, a glass of eggnog in one hand, some gift wrap in the other and a sprig of holly dangling playfully from your neck.

Rather, you’ve got the disemboweled remains of your daughter’s reindeer christmas cracker in one hand, a to-do list in the other hand that’s so long, the paper has actually begun to curl and some masking tape stuck to the back of your hair which you haven’t washed since last Tuesday.

I just glanced down at my own to-do list – you know, the one that’s meant to get me through this week and next before my family takes off on a two-week trip to the end of the earth (literally) – and it read something like this:

Alongside the sort of monumental, life-changing, BLOCK PRINT, do-or-die tasks like:

*turn in job applications by designated deadlines

*decide whether or not to buy the exquisitely-located-but-slightly-too-expensive-and-slightly-too-small-flat, and

*have that discussion (again) with ten year-old about sex,

I’ve got an equally long list of imminent tasks like:

*sort out food for coffee morning AT MY HOUSE this Friday

*finish buying Xmas gifts for all friends in Argentina (and make sure that there are enough Hanukkah candles for home…where did I buy them again last year?) and

*clean up dog poop in foyer before coffee morning (and we all know how I feel about dog poop…)

In short:  I’m frazzled. And I bet you are as well. Here are five tips for remaining calm during the holidays:

1. Just say no. Gretchen Rubin had a great post over on The Happiness Project recently where she encouraged readers to think of themselves in the third person as a means of taking better care of their own needs. In her own case, for example, she pretended that she was answering phone calls for herself by saying things like “Gretchen gets frantic when she’s really hungry, so she can’t wait too long for dinner” or “Gretchen really feels the cold, so she can’t be outside for too long.” In my own case, I have a terrible tendency to over-schedule my weekends, which just leaves me feeling absolutely wiped out by Sunday night. So particularly during this overly-hectic holiday season, I’ve been trying to remind myself that “Delia needs to chill on the weekends now so that she has energy to enjoy the holidays when they actually arrive.” Externally, this has translated into my canceling some dinners, play dates and even holiday parties so that I can just relax.

2. Accept being invisible. This comes from communications guru Chris Brogran, who has recently made a conscious effort to become not only less busy, but less public in his professional life. Brogan’s basic point is that for many of us, much of our alleged “busyness” is really about responding to our underlying fear that if we aren’t perpetually “out there” getting noticed by others, we’ll no longer be relevant. But that’s not only exhausting, it’s also – ironically – counter-productive, because it draws us away from core focus. Brogan’s talking mainly about bloggers and other heavy consumers of social media, but his point applies equally well in real life, particularly during the holidays where there is such an over-abundance of social gatherings. You don’t need to go to every cocktail party or to be seen at every coffee morning.  You might find that once you show up at fewer holiday parties, far from detracting from your holiday happiness, you’re actually more chipper because you’re spread less thin and investing your time more in those areas that you care about most.

3. Triage. I once wrote a post about productivity in which I suggested that one way to get on top of your to-do list is to divide your list into long-term and short-term items. Each day, you tick off one item from the short-term list. Each week, you take a concrete step towards something on the long-term list. This has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas per se, except that if you’re like me (see above) you’re going to need some extra help “getting sorted” round about this time of year. Translated into my own current set of competing demands, then: dog sh$! now; sex talk later.

4. Do less for your kids. Sure, this is meant to be a season that’s all about giving. But chances are that if you’re a parent  – and particularly if you’re a working parent  – and super-especially if you’re a working mom kind of working parent – you’re already multi-tasking way more than everybody else out there anyway. And enjoying it less.  So by all means, assuming your kids are old enough, hand off as much to them as possible so that you can take care of all those extra items that have quietly found their way onto your to-do list of late. (Did I mention the Hanukkah candles?) Let your kids decorate the tree. Hang a wreath. Cook the latkes. Not a parent? Do less for your spouse or partner. But whoever you are, do more for someone else. It’s a great time of year to volunteer.

5. Do something for yourself. Again, this might seem like a counter-intuitive message for the holiday season. But if you’re feeling stressed out and overwhelmed, think about one simple thing that is entirely yours and which might – amid the chaos – stop time for an hour and help you to relax. It might be something as simple as getting a massage or taking a walk in the park. In my own case, I’ve been working hard over the past few months at making some new friends. So one morning this week – when I had so many deadlines pressing down upon me, I felt like I could barely breathe – I went for a quick coffee with a woman I’d met and we talked about a book we’d both read. So much fun. Afterwards, somehow everything else didn’t seem so onerous after all.

 

How about you? What do you do to stay calm during the holidays?

 

Image: Fuck the deliveries by Funky64 via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

 

 

 

Five Reasons Standing In Line Can Be Fun

Well, I’m back from my staycation. I wasn’t sure how I’d get on running around London with both kids for seven days straight while my husband was out-of-town on a business trip. But we had a great time.

We visited Buckingham Palace (or as my daughter calls it “Bucklingham Palace.”) We took a tour of the Houses of Parliament.  We made a special trip up to the Roald Dahl Museum in Buckinghamshire to see the place where this great author did his magic. And we spent a day at the seaside out in East Anglia.

Each of those trips was a lot of fun. But in some ways, the most fun of all was the day we spent…standing in line. Yes, you heard that correctly. We spent the better part of one day just waiting in a long queue with nothing to do but wait.

The occasion was the opening of a new art store in my neighborhood. As a promotional offer, the store was giving out 50 pounds worth of free art supplies to the first 1,000 people who visited last Saturday. And all you had to do was spend 10 pounds at the store to collect the prize.

The doors opened at 10 am and we arrived at 9:50, fresh on the heels of a full English breakfast at our favorite cafe. By that time, the line to get into the store was already snaking around two full city blocks but I figured – meh – the kids don’t have a haircut until 11:00 a.m…what have we got to lose by just hanging out here for an hour and killing some time?

Four hours later, I had good reason to rethink that logic. But the truth is, we *did* have a good time. Here’s what I learned about why standing in lines – even long ones – can be fun:

1. You feel part of a community. One of the nicest parts of standing in a queue all day long in the middle of Hampstead Village was realizing just how many people I know in my neighborhood. I saw friends…neighbors…teachers…merchants. Those of us who formed part of the line saluted one another in solidarity. Those who were just passing by came up to say “hi.” It was such a lovely – an unexpected – reminder of the many different ways we all connect to our respective communities and how broad and diverse those communities are. (Hidden bonus? I have now confirmed my long-held suspicion that should I ever decide to run for mayor of this village, I’ve got it in the bag…)

2. You meet new people. Even more fun than running into old friends and acquaintances was the chance to meet new people. I stood next to a mother from an adjoining neighborhood and an administrator from her daughter’s school and chatted to them for the better part of four hours. By the end, we were already fast friends and had moved on from chit-chat about schools to lengthy discussions about our respective blogs (confirming my suspicion that everyone’s a blogger) and the perils of cell phones for your brain. When I had to say good-bye to them, I actually felt sad!

3. You rethink your surroundings. I’ve long been of the opinion that Brits just don’t get customer service. You have to chase down your waiter when you want your bill. Phone calls to customer service teams go unanswered. Brits also don’t get the whole concept of promotions – a sale here means something like 10% off on a rack of last year’s clothing. So to witness a store actually doing a proper giveaway – where you get something valuable (and four hours or not, the art supplies in that bag were truly something!) – is unheard of. And I’d never seen a line that long anywhere in London – even on the day the iPhone 4 was released! Friends tell me that there were still people there after 6 pm when the store closed. All of which made me realize that things really are changing around here.

4. You grasp group psychology. By the time we were well into the third hour of our wait, I’d forgotten what we were even waiting for. I’m sure I’m not alone. If you stand in front of a door long enough, after a while all you focus on is getting through that door. They could have handed me a toothpick by the time I made it to the front of the queue and I would have been delighted. I’m sure there’s some handy theorem in behavioral economics that can explain the psychology behind this. But there’s no question that the longer I waited, the less I cared about the loot that awaited us. I just wanted to get in.

5. You let go of schedules. This was perhaps the most valuable lesson of all. As a parent, I often have an irrational fear of down-time. I think that I need to schedule in every moment of the day lest…well, I don’t know what “lest.” I’m just driven to fill up their days, especially when my husband is out of town. But my stint standing in line that day taught me that sometimes just hanging out and doing nothing is just as much fun as tackling some major cultural outing. Which is another way of saying that sometimes you just need to throw away the outline.

Everyone who saw me in line that day keeps asking me: Was it worth it?

To which I’d have to say: yes.

Image: The line went around the block! by scary cow via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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