I recently overheard a mom at my daughter’s school say something about December being the busiest month of the year. I cringed, not at her statement, but at what was behind it. Our bodies aren’t meant to go this fast, this hard, all year, let alone during winter. This is a question that women, especially, often have – and particularly have at this time of year – “how do I slow down?”
Look around – the birds, the animals, the trees have all gone quiet for the winter (at least in the colder climates). Or think about how many of us turn to nourishing comfort foods in the winter, such as soups, stews, and seasonal vegetables. We have these urges because we are supposed to. Our bodies are intimately connected with the earth and her seasons. This should be a time of slowing down, even while we celebrate light and community in the dark days.
But our culture discourages this by keeping us busy and over-scheduled. I would argue that it is this culture – that which prioritizes money and consumerism above connection, social support, and wellness – that is at the root of so many of the challenges we face today, from declining mental and physical health to environmental degradation.
Claiming the right to slow down leads to both intimate, personal benefit as well as far-reaching positive consequences for our world. It is an act of resistance.
I’m sure many of us would like to experience the holidays (as well as life, in general) without so much stress, overwhelm, and exhaustion. Here are a few things that I think are important to make this happen, at least a little:
1) Make more meaning, rather than mindlessly going through the routine of your day. This can look a million different ways and will depend on what is important to you. Maybe it’s a weekend family dinner. Maybe it’s a ritual of lighting a candle each night leading up to the solstice on December 21. Maybe it’s finding a new, intimate Christmas tradition for your family that isn’t focused on consumerism. It may just be keeping a quiet home in the evening with no screens. When we are disconnected from our lives, when we go through our day simply meeting obligations and schedules, then time flies and we don’t know where it went. We miss out on meaningful connections with other people and ourselves. We make fewer memories. Making meaning anchors us more fully in our individual lives and in the flow of Life with a capital “L.”
2) Prioritize joy. So many of us go through the holidays on autopilot, or we even hate this time of year. What can you adjust in the direction of actual enjoyment? Think about the season and what it means (or could mean) to you, whether that’s about celebrating a holiday, creating intentions for the new year, or enjoying more cozy time indoors. Give yourself permission do something that brings you joy. There are few things that connect us both to ourselves and our divine nature than true joy.
3) Be intentional about experiencing beauty in the small moments of your day. Notice the light in the clouds and be with it for thirty or sixty seconds. Make a point of dimming the lights and sit with your lit Christmas tree or menorah for ten minutes each night. Recently, as I sat in traffic I was struck by the bare, black silhouette of a stand of trees against the twilight sky. Let yourself notice the lovely world around you. This will give you more space to breathe and be in your body, and will bring more gratitude to your day.
4) Say ‘no’ more. What don’t you want to do this month? What thing do you do because you feel obligated, even though it gets in the way of your joy? What do you do even though it robs you of real meaning during the holidays? Say no to that.
Ultimately what these things – meaning, joy, boundaries – do for us is create spaciousness in our lives and give us a greater sense of presence. In this way, we slow down time and anchor more deeply into the lives we lead with purpose and fulfillment.