Sometimes the weather inside is frightful — the cold front blowing in from your in-laws, the frost creeping up between you and your sister. The chill that settled over your corner of the office when someone wasn’t invited for drinks last Friday.
Brr. That cold feels even worse when juxtaposed to the mediated world we live in, from carefully curated Facebook posts to the department store ads and car commercials (aw… a Hyundai with a big red bow!) to the poppy renditions of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” piped into any establishment with speakers you find yourself in. The expectation is that we should be flanked with holly and twinkling lights, and chummier than we might ever normally be with people, just because it’s December.
In fact, it’s probably easier for you to get ticked off in the first place — what with the expectations set uber-high on the holiday bar. And then, after you cut someone off on the highway en route to Target, you curdle with self-loathing, thinking, I can do better than this.
And you can! Follow these strategies for turning up the thermostat in your personal atmosphere, shifting your mood, and feeling better overall about where you are, right now.
First, it’s worth acknowledging the kind of pressure you’re under right now, especially given the shorter holiday season (which you’re either happy about or furious about or both).
Stop rationalizing or reasoning why you shouldn’t feel this way or that way. This time of year is hell on people’s psyches and constitutions, and maybe you were the one cut off on the highway, have to cook a dinner for 25 people, and missed out on happy hour to boot and you’re still mad about it. You have the right to be mad/upset/hurt/stressed. Until you can own it, you can’t address it.
Practice self compassion.
I went through a particularly tough personal time right around Thanksgiving. I was a weepy, fragile, distractible mess.
A woman I admire said to me that I needed to be much, much kinder to myself. I told her, straight up, that I didn’t deserve it. I was being a big crybaby and, besides that, everyone else was driving me batty and I wanted to throttle them, too.
“Until you can practice real self compassion, Terri, you will not get any of the things you want. Personal or professional. This judgment, of yourself and others, has to stop.”
Boom. She was right. She then forbade me from using any harsh, judgey language about myself or anyone else for three days. I was hurting yes, and resentful and mad, but I couldn’t “fight” my way back by being tougher or meaner. I had to treat myself very much like a child, she said. And so I did. I did it for longer than three days.
I started by putting myself to bed (I was clearly in need of a nap), and then rather than playing whack-a-mole with every sad, unproductive moment I found myself in, slamming myself with self criticism, I said, Well, this is how it’s going to be for a bit. It’s okay. Let’s watch Homeland.
Go easy on everyone else.
I also made it a point to cut down on any of the mean, knee-jerk thoughts I had about other people. What you find though, is once you’re kinder to yourself, it’s easier to extend this to other people, and vice versa.
While I was cradling my hurt self like a baby, which I very much needed, I decided to look at other people like children, too — not because I thought they were unevolved and obstinate (though sometimes I do think that), but because I wanted to recognize their intentions as good, if misled sometimes.
By making it a point to be patient, to listen, to acknowledge good intentions and exhibit gratitude for them, it warmed up my relations considerably. Imagine that! Be kind to others and nine times out of 10, you get it back. Sometimes you need to do it to remind yourself of how that works.
Turns out, rushing around to compensate for the foreshortened holiday season and the ticking clock on 2013 does you no good whatsoever, and can also create more chaos than it solves.
In a recent piece in New York magazine (“Office Stress Is Contagious”), Allison P. Davis reports that the “frenzied pace of ‘the rushers'” — people who dart to and fro and don’t have time to talk to anyone contribute to a negative vibe all around. Everyone else wonders if they should be rushing, and then wonder if they’re worthy of interrupting your busy flow to ask a question, and that makes them feel worse. In short, the rush-rush approach to getting through the day does little more than whip up anxiety in everyone else.
So the next time you feel yourself storming across the room in a series of percussive heel strikes, or basically acting like a house on fire, slow down. Ease up. Rushing is not only notas effective as you think, but it isn’t much of a power position, either. When I think of powerful, in-control people, they’re not usually racing down the hall so fast they’re spilling coffee, or rifling through papers in a panicked way. This looks and sounds like fear (no wonder it’s contagious).
Try doing everything at an even easy pace, and observe how people respond and react to you, how much more calm you are in the face of chaos. You might even enjoy your day. Imagine that.
Terri Trespicio is a lifestyle expert, media personality, and coach. Visit her at Trespicio.com.