What Are Your Life Jackets?


This week, one of my clients shared with me that in old Japanese, December is called the “Running Month”. She explained that there are two interpretations:

  1. It’s a busy month of running around before the New Year
  2. It’s goes by quickly (like running)

So true, isn’t it?!

She shared this at a perfect time - a morning when I already had a lot on my mind. December has just started and already I’m guilty of getting caught up in all the things I “need” to do for the holidays, end of the year deadlines, and plans for the New Year. 

It doesn’t need to be that way.

December has the potential to bring so much joy, peace, connection, and warmth - if we let it. We get to decide if we get swept up in the busyness of the holidays or if we can find peace amidst the chaos. I want to embrace the latter. 

The other morning, I was (once again) feeling a little overwhelmed with how many new things were getting added to my to-do list. Are you sensing a theme? I felt frustrated that things were always getting added and that there was always more to do. It felt a little like trying to stand in the ocean while one wave after another forcefully pushed me off balance. 

Then I thought, “Of course they are! That’s life.” There will always be more waves in the form of things to do and obstacles to overcome But I can choose to ride the waves instead of resisting them. 

If you put on a life jacket, even big waves don’t feel as intimidating. What are the “life jackets” that help you stay afloat even when things get busy? 

These are the “life jackets” I’m going to prioritize to help me stay afloat during the "Running Month":

1. Practice daily gratitude    

Practicing gratitude keeps me grounded. When I first wake up in the morning, I tend to instantly start thinking about what I need to do that day. I'm now in the habit of interrupting those thoughts and taking the time to think about what I'm grateful for.

Gratitude also helps to keep things in perspective during the day. For example, recently after a massage my car wouldn't start. I needed to call AAA on a day when I had a lot of things I needed to do, and yet another unexpected car expense. Woe is me, right? Instead of focusing on this one inconvenience, I took a moment to appreciate that the number of things I had to be grateful for far outnumbered this one little hiccup. For one thing, I had just had a massage! I was also fortunate that I had AAA, a husband who helped me get the info I needed, the flexility in my schedule to just work later that day, AND that I even had a car in the first place. Amazing what a change in perspective can do...

2. Prioritize quiet moments in my day when I journal or go for a walk

I’m always so tempting to let these be the first things I “don’t have time for”, and yet they’re the most critical tools I have to stay sane and grounded. I never used to be "into" journaling and walking. Journaling seemed like too much effort and walking didn't seem like enough (I wanted to sweat). Turns out, they're just right. I've really embraced both of these this year, and they have been instrumental in letting me let my mind wander and to work through blocks in a really powerful way. Any time I start to feel overwhelmed, I find that I've been neglecting one of these.

3. Schedule non-negotiable downtime and honoring it even if I feel “too busy”

Having my own business (on top of another career), means there's always something I could be doing. Even when I'm not "working", there are lots of other life obligations and adulting tasks I can think of. Filling every minute of the day with productivity is not productive. When I make a point of scheduling non-negotiable downtime, I always show up way more energized, motivated, and inspired in the end. I'm also much happier.  

4. Catch when something that should be bringing me joy isn’t

Here's a recent example: I started to get caught up in wanting to have all of my gifts purchased so that I could check that off my to-do list. That’s sad! I love giving gifts! There’s nothing better than finding a gift that I know will bring joy to someone I care about. That meant it was time to change my approach:

  • The approach that wasn’t bringing me joy: staying up too late online shopping just so I could check everyone off my list.
  • The new approach that will bring me joy: focusing on the act of gift giving rather than seeing it as a task to complete. I’m giving myself time to reflect on what I want to give and I’ll schedule time (not late in the evening) to enjoy holiday music, a warm cozy beverage, and twinkle lights as I find meaningful gifts I'm excited about.

5. Be mindful in the way I’m nourishing my body

Nourishing food is critical for feeling good physically and mentally. When I’m busy, I’ll sometimes find myself standing in the kitchen mindlessly inhaling my meal while multitasking. Or when I’m feeling overwhelmed, I tend to start over snacking or craving sweet things. When I notice this happening, I know that’s a sign that I’m not dealing with stress in the way I need to. Recognizing this helps me to pause, take a deep breath, and deal with the root issue in a more productive way.

6. Continue to remind myself that not everything I feel I “should” do is something I “need” to do

Is it something I think I “should” do because of some story I’ve created in my mind stemming from my high-achieving and perfectionist tendencies? Or is it something I “should” do because I genuinely care about the outcome?  A frequent mindset check is critical for me and one that I practice frequently. 

7. Move my body

Movement every day is absolutely critical for my physical and mental health. It’s time in my day when I can clear my mind, breathe, release stress, and give my body something that it needs. The type of movement varies - sometimes it’s an intense strength or high intensity workout and other days it’s a relaxing yoga flow, hike, or walk in the woods. What doesn’t vary is that it’s a non-negotiable priority in my day that makes me feel good.

8. Meditate

Right now I meditate for 5 minutes every morning. That’s it! And yet, if I skip a day I notice the difference. Any day I think I’m too busy for 5 minutes to meditate, is a day that I 100% need to prioritize it.   

Take some time this week to identify your life jackets. What’s going to help you ride the waves of December (and beyond) rather than get swept away? 


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