Holiday Blues

It’s that time of year: family visits, twinkling lights, coffee & cocoa, and all sorts of schedule disruptions.

I’ve been feeling a little scrooge-y this holiday season, as you may have guessed by my absence recently. Trying to wrap up (heh, Christmas pun) the year, figure out presents (since for the first time ever, we won’t be present) and keep a regular daily work schedule has worn me out.

Holiday BluesFor anyone else out there who’s trying to keep it simple and finding it difficult: I am too. Trying to fight the commercial holiday stress brings its own stresses.

So, today’s post is as much for me as it is for you.

Keeping the holidays merry and bright

These can be applied year-round, but are always my must-haves in times of stress. Here is what I’m going to be focusing on this next month, since I’ve overlooked these for the past few weeks.

Eliminate the nonessential

Are there things you think you need to do, but that you really don’t want to do? Consider each commitment carefully and respect your time enough to say no when you feel that’s the best option.

Going with the flow can turn into getting carried away in the current, and Christmas isn’t about trying to avoid rapids and sharp rocks. Keep the holidays on your terms.

Eat, drink and be healthy

Hangovers in college were terrible. Hangovers after college are the worst – every emotion comes flooding out and piles on top of an unproductive day. Add in the holidays and…well, it’s not pretty.

If this applies to you, find the least emotionally-wrecking booze for you and drink moderately. Me + wine = sadness, so I try to steer clear of it.

But this doesn’t just apply to alcohol – eat your veggies any chance you get. I toss back a veggie-heavy smoothie or two every day to make sure I get my greens.

Progress, not perfection

This is something I see shared around the fitness community, and I find it powerfully relevant in all aspects of life. Especially as this year comes to an end.

A dear friend of mine understands the workings of my mind, and advised me to take a moment and write down all the things I have accomplished or improved upon this year. If you try this too, be generous with yourself and note that any progress is positive.

This helps me put 2015 into perspective and encourages a positive attitude for the start of 2016.

And a note on perfection: don’t let the stress of creating a perfect holiday or finding the perfect gift ruin your time with family and friends.

Kindness is key

Being kind to others goes without saying, but especially remember to be kind to yourself.

Be patient with yourself when you stray from the path you wanted to follow. Be kind to yourself so you can flourish. Allow yourself a few moments of solitude, or extra minutes of sleeping in, or skip a chore and go for a walk instead.

Or, if you’re in an area that has Stumptown Coffee, grab a little Winter Cheer. You won’t regret it.

Holiday Blues Coffee

Winter Cheer cold brew from Stumptown is actually all I want for Christmas.

So take a moment to check in on yourself: how are you doing?

If you’re struggling, pay attention to where the balance has shifted. What can you do to restore your joy this holiday season?

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Adjusting the Tension

This past weekend I pulled my sewing machine out from my greatly diminished craft chest and wondered why I hadn’t gotten rid of it along with my other supplies. I haven’t sewn since high school – the summer before college, I discovered everything I sewed started to look like a manic episode with an etch-a-sketch.

The bottom half of the thread would bunch up into unmanageable bundles and soon the machine would stop moving forward. I gave up on my machine, and away it went. For years.

And when I got it back out this weekend, the machine and the thread still bunched, and it still jammed up. Only this time I actually stopped to think about why it was happening.

Pillowcase

A five-minute YouTube video taught me that it was a matter of tension. I had never adjusted the bobbin (bottom thread) tension, and to adjust the top tension I often just turned the dial to a random, sounds-good-to-me number.

So, I adjusted the tension the right way. And it worked.

After that, I sailed through the pillowcase project that’s been on my mind for weeks. I found myself immersed in a hobby I had forgotten so long ago, and rode a creative high for the rest of the weekend. I felt energized and encouraged by nothing more than a simple, beautiful clean stitch.

Good tension and bad tension

I realized that to get those straight stitches I had to add just enough tension to make it right – note that there’s still some tension needed.

To keep balanced we all need to find the right level of tension, and I think many of us, young and old, stretch ourselves too far and wind ourselves up too tightly. We pack our schedules just so we can feel busy and important, without stopping to focus on what’s actually important (the link, by the way, is a must-read).

So, what’s bad tension?

  • Credit card debt
  • A cluttered home
  • Procrastination
  • A hostile work environment
  • Unhealthy relationships
  • Overflowing schedule

And what’s good?

  • Reasonable deadlines (and less procrastination)
  • Structured, well thought-out goals
  • A daily habit – such as journaling, reading, or even flossing
  • Healthy competition (I love this one – just careful to not overdo it)
  • Spending uninterrupted, focused time with loved ones

These seem obvious, but so many nuances lie between them that sometimes it’s easy to mistake bad tension as acceptable and healthy. It’s even easy to see the positive tension as overwhelming when we’re already stretched to our limits.

So next time you’re feeling tangled up and close to a complete shutdown, stop and examine the tensions you currently have in your life. Write them down – both home and work tensions – and carefully consider each one. Is it necessary? Can it be adjusted?

Ease up on some of the bad tensions, and put a little more stress on what’s healthy and important. You’ll come away with the beautiful feeling that everything is back in it’s proper place.