Personal note

In the last week, the air has been filled with swirling irregular shapes in orange, red, and yellow fluttering against a blue-gray sky. The wind whips these falling leaves into patterns that resemble small horizontal tornadoes, scudding across the pavement and finally piling up, ankle deep, on walkways, where they produce crisp, crunching sounds underfoot.

I love this time of year: a walk in the chilly air is followed by the bliss of entering a warm house, cheeks reddened and body tingling, hungry for spiced cider or hot chocolate.

Then pictures of convivial gatherings in cozy corners arise, only to be replaced by images of lists of things that need to be done before those convivial gatherings can actually be scheduled.

We need to consider trimming those lists before we even think of trimming the house or tree. That’s what this week’s article is all about.

(Note: One of the things I learned, as a Stress Solutions Expert who nevertheless had a heart attack, is that we need constant reminders of stress management strategies. Once isn’t enough. That’s why this week’s article is a repeat of the same advice I gave last year; we can all use a refresher course, including me.)

What’s in your bucket?

Icons of black cats with arched backs have disappeared from stores and magazines, replaced by turkeys in all stages, from on-the-hoof to lying down, legs in air wearing a golden brown crust. Can wreaths, holly and jolly fat men in red suits surrounded by elves be far behind?

Your memory bucket is filled with all kinds of associations with these icons, and every year you try to revive the pleasant ones – all of them. Not just for yourself, but for your loved ones, too. And your to-do list is overflowing.

Does this sound like you? Already fatigued, maybe even exhausted, as you contemplate the (anticipated) demands on you?

The hardest thing to do when faced with too much to do is this: pause, breathe, choose. Take the time to contemplate who you really are right now, and what would most bring you joy. Then do those things and throw the others out of your holiday bucket. Horrified at not fulfilling every “tradition” you have set up over the years? Here are some suggestions for, well, coming to your senses.

Enlist the aid of family members to select their favorite memories from the Holiday Bucket, and implement them as best they can. Why is it only your job?

Oppressed by the thought of selecting (and paying for) too many gifts? Anyone you know well enough to exchange gifts with is someone you know well enough to hold a frank conversation with – about finances, time, health and waste. (If you buy somebody a gift because it’s expected, will it really be used, or just add to the enormous pile of waste we seem to generate every year in the U.S.?) How about arranging a pleasant shared experience instead, such as going to hear a concert or see a show?

Do you think you must send out Christmas cards? Send New Year’s cards instead, connecting warmly with old friends and wishing them an inspired year. Your card (and wishes) won’t be lost in the stack on someone else’s mantel or desk. It may cheer someone up in the dark, cold days that typically follow Christmas.

Determined to decorate your home just like the magazines? But wait, first you have to clean it. Or do you? Elaborate decorations may delight the eye, but you can use the power of other senses to evoke warm and wonderful memories. A few candles contribute a warm, soft glow. A pan of mulling spices on the stove, pine-scented candles or spray evoke powerful memories. These tasks don’t take much effort, and in dim light, the house doesn’t have to be perfectly clean. No one will notice dust bunnies under furniture when they are soaking up the nostalgic atmosphere.

When you’re handling too many tasks, you may be feeling more and more irritable – hardly something your loved ones want to experience. Too, you’re setting yourself up for illness, either spoiling your holidays or leaving you with a crushing post-holiday let-down.

Christine Carter, Ph.D., with the Center for Greater Good, was given an assignment by a mentor – imagine you had been told you were going to die. What’s on your bucket list? She found to her surprise, that she gave up ambitious but unrealized projects to opt for the simplest of pleasures.

Read her article (at http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/raising_happiness/post/Living_life_fully/) and consider what you could give up and/or emphasize to make the coming season more memorable.

The Confident Introvert

Another myth I have encountered recently is that introverts are fine with no outside contact whatsoever. No, we enjoy contacts and stimulation that we get outside of our own nests; we just need to control how much we get all at one time.

A great party with lots of people may be very enjoyable for a confident introvert – for a limited time. We’re the ones who leave early when we’ve had enough stimulation, just as some people quit eating when they’ve had enough.

It’s not a reflection on the host. It’s a reflection of the fact that we recognize and pay attention to our inner needs, always a healthy way to live.

Find out more about The Confident Introvert: http://www.ConfidentIntrovert.com.