I was invited to a wonderful Christmas Friendship luncheon recently with lots of fabulous, smart, interesting, beautiful women. Most had been friends of mine for quite some time and some were new friends. It is one of my favorite Holiday events as I don’t always get an opportunity to see these women as often as I wished. One of the hostesses mentioned to me that she had a friend say to her, “I’m so overwhelmed I don’st think I can breathe.” Knowing how crazy this time of year can be and how busy and stressed she knew some of these women were, she asked me to speak to the group about the importance of breathing and simply, just taking a breath.
Well, I was a little honored to be asked and a a little nervous. You know how it is when you get up in front of your peers. I think speaking in front of even a few folks you know is more nerve-wracking than speaking to an auditorium filled with strangers. However, knowing exactly what it feels like to be completely overwhelmed with the busyness and craziness of the Holiday, I truly wanted to share a wee bit of what I have learned. So, I’d like to share here also, the gift that you can give yourself this Season . . .the gift of breath.
When my boys were much younger and underfoot I had a full time job practicing law. There was little flexibility in the job and the stress that comes along with the work. There was plenty on my plate at the time. Then the Holidays would come and I felt like I had taken on another full-time job that was left entirely up to me to accomplish. Somehow I had to do all the shopping for the families, wrap all those gifts, handle the shopping and hiding for my little boys, plan the meals, bake the special goods, get out the Christmas cards, plan to host some Christmas events and attend every Holiday invitation on our calendar. All this while still working, keeping house and being the wife and mom. You get the picture. It’s the same thing you all are doing out there – whether you have a job outside of the home or not, Christmas can become a whirlwind of “have to’s” that quickly suck all the joy out of the Season. It’s no wonder some women forget to even breathe.
At some point during the last couple of years I have made a wonderful discovery. There are no perfect Norman Rockwell Christmases. Thankfully, I lowered my bar and took that expectation out of the picture. Then I discovered that keeping that knot in my stomach that came whenever we discussed how we were going to split the Holiday between the families did not help matters. I could just take a deep breath and do the best we could to see everyone when we could. And, most recently, I have discovered that most of the Holiday angst, hurriedness, stress, pressure to do it all, was entirely self-inflicted. I also look back and regret much of the worry, frustration and unhappiness that all of that brought. I wish I’d taken the time for more conversations with my mom and family. I realize that I was the one who decided that we had to have Christmas cards that were hand done, hand addressed and signed individually; I was the one who decided to hose events in our home; I was the one who decided that all the neighbors had to have hand-made treats, tied up and personalized; I was the one who decided that the children had to attend every event and that they and to be dressed for the occasion; I was the one who decided we couldn’t say no to any invitation. It was all on me.
This year I have taken the time to filter through what we do as a family, what I do personally, and what brings the joy of the Season. Some of my extended family obligations have been taken off my plate, leaving me more time to breathe and evaluate what really needs to be done and what we want to do. I told the group of women at the luncheon that I had decided that I would not send out Christmas cards this year. I made that decision and actually did not feel guilty about it. (I will confess that while fine with the decision, I found I had the time to do them, they basically fell into my lap, and were not out of a sense of obligation this time.) That made a huge difference.
If you are a woman reading this, I tell you this: You are a Superwoman. I mean you are a super woman and you do not need to feel as if you need to be Superwoman. Leave that to the comics. Give yourself a gift this year of picking and choosing what you have the time and energy for. Know that Christmas will come and you will have a wonderful time with family and friends whether the cards are mailed, whether or not that extra gift is bought or whether you have handmade bows on your mailbox. My brother always said, “It is what it is” and this is a perfect time to know that it will all be okay. Celebrate and love and breathe.
This year I have given myself the gift of breath and want to give it to you, too. I also have given myself the gift of “no” and want to give that gift to you. Breathing is so very important for us physically, mentally and emotionally. Filling your lungs with oxygen and blowing it all out, all the way down to the abdomen, physically relaxes the body. It gives you that needed moment to decompress, slow down, re-boot your body and your thinking. Whether you are sitting in terrible traffic, already late for your event, whether you are nagging your child to study for exams, or whether you are trying to coordinate with relatives, take a moment to breathe in deeply and breathe out just as deeply. Feel yourself relax. Perhaps you repeat a favorite mantra while you breathe. “It’ll all be okay”, “It is what it is”, “Just relax”, or say a prayer. Whatever connects you to your breath and your thinking to what can bring you back to your joy.
Your breath is your built in stress reliever. It automatically brings calmness, energy and a mental re-set, as well as a host of scientifically proven benefits. If you don’t believe me, check out this article here. There are also some reminders I found after doing a quick search. So, if you know of someone or you need a reminder to BREATHE here are some gifts of breath. Look at Amazon for these:
This Season, give yourself a gift. Just breathe. You can choose what is important and what will bring you the joy of the Season that you want and are waiting for. All will be okay. This year just breathe and enjoy, enjoy and enjoy! It’s a new Season!
Merry, Merry this Season and Wishes for you to give yourself this gift!