Mindful Checklist: Stay Present in the Middle of Overwhelm

It’s that magical time of the year when twinkle lights tickle our fancy and an air of excitement and expectation swirl through each day. Holiday season brings out the best and worst. Sometimes we fantasize about just skipping the whole thing and heading to a warm beach or lake and pretend its summer again. The thought floats through the mind, “wake me up when it’s over so I can get back to my  routine.”

Feeling overwhelmed arises at various times of life, but increases at the holidays. Expectations increase at work, home, school, and community, and sweep you up causing a disconnect from what is most important. Some of these expectations are real and some are self-imposed. It’s valuable to create time to pause and consider what is necessary versus what would be nice.

One thing to be on the look-out for is the energy that overwhelm brings. One side of the overwhelm coin can be  high energy that feels addictive as you go and go some more, and keep going never pausing to take a breath. This can also be contagious when you gather and hear everyone swapping stories about how busy they are. This energy can also be transmitted  when you compare yourself to others and then try to keep up.

Another side of the coin, is paralysis, where the feeling of overwhelm stays inside your thoughts and keep you from acting. The to-do list gets longer and longer and yet you can’t find the energy to take action. This is highly stressful!

The feeling of overwhelm shows up in many facets of life during the holidays; family, finances, traditions, travel, eating, drinking, and friendships. If left to exist outside awareness, it can lead to stress related illnesses.

Overwhelm does not have to be par for the course at the holiday season. What can you do to stay grounded and connected during this season of increased expectations? Use this mindful checklist and discover ways to remain present and true to intention of the season, the payoff might be increased joy.

  • First things first; take a few slow deep breaths, paying attention to the exhale as tension is released from the body.

  • Notice if you complain or voice feelings of overwhelm to friends and family. This could be a sign you are off track.

  • Notice if you compare yourself to others.

  • Be intentional. This applies to eating, drinking, shopping, spending, family, travel and community and work obligations. This means being in touch with how you want to be in relationship to these things rather than unconsciously reacting. Setting intention in this way will set your brain to seek out what you intend.

  • Be kind to yourself. There are increased expectations that impact your schedule and take more energy.

  • Get plenty of sleep. A crucial and often overlooked resource.

  • Set boundaries and say no. Easier said than done, but you can pause and decide if this is truly something that you want and/or need to do. The key here is the pause. Ask yourself, “what do I want to contribute and experience?  Do I have the time and the resources?  

  • Notice if you are trying to take care of too many people. Friends, family and co-workers are often more capable than we think they are.

  • Remember the intent behind the season. It is a time of celebration and reflection. Make room in your schedule to listen for silence.

“Many of us feel stress and get overwhelmed not because we’re taking on too much, but because we’re taking on too little of what really strengthens us. “ - Marcus Buckingham

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