Ho-ho-ho! Bah Humbug! ‘Tis the season of ups and downs, joys and toys. The holiday season is filled with moments of heightened emotional and physical responses. It knocks us out of our regular routines and challenges us with different skill sets. We have increased interaction with others and more demands on our time and cognitive energy.
Which makes it the ideal time for developing mindful self-awareness and identifying what energizes us and what drains us, physically and psychologically.

Instead of battling the stresses and strains of the holiday season, use them to discover what activities drain your cognitive, physical and emotional energies and which ones recharge you, why, and what you can do to change your response and take back control of your time and your life.

And it only takes two questions — and one simple action.

The Gift of Self-Awareness For a Better — More Successful — New Year

  1. Throughout your day ask yourself, “Does this activity physically, emotionally, or intellectually energize or drain me? Why?”
  2. Now ask yourself, “What can I do to make this more energizing, less draining?”

Simply pausing and being aware of your condition in the moment helps you become mindful and in control of your response. To significantly increase your chance of a happier New Year, note the activity, its effect on your energy, why you believe it has that effect on you and what you think you can do to make it more energizing and less draining.

Actually record your thoughts, either digitally or with pen and paper. Just dash off a few words, they don’t even have to be actual sentences. You’re busy right now so simply catch your observations for review later.

Later, when you review your notes. What patterns do you find?

What activities deplete you physically? Emotionally? Intellectually? Why? Are you being pushed outside your comfort zone? Do you feel fear making a mistake? Do you need to strengthen the skill challenged?

What activities invigorate you? Why? Do you feel competent in this activity? Is this tied to one of your core values?

How do you automatically try to solve problems: spend money, do it yourself, or research alternatives? Why? Are you seeking the perfect solution? Or is this a habitual response?

As you begin thinking about what you want to accomplish in the new year, apply your new self-knowledge. When planning strategies and tactics for achieving your goals, look for ways to increase activities that energize you and reduce the impact of draining ones.

Find ways to reframe activities that exhaust you so that you use them to build and strengthen your resilience and problem-solving techniques. Create new responses and routines. Overcome automatic, habitual behaviors that have negative consequences and develop better ones that will move you towards your New Year’s goals.

Case in point, socializing and networking are not my strengths (as friends have repeatedly pointed out) so holiday parties are especially exhausting. Not only do I have the stress of the social event itself but I usually have several weeks of anticipation to dwell on my dread and build resentment on “being forced” to attend. Once I became mindful of my habit of negative thinking and resentment, I revised my approach. I reminded myself that I chose to participate (I could always fake illness), connecting it to a core value and long-term goal (supporting the efforts of my friends and building opportunities by expanding my network), thus reclaiming my autonomy.
Holiday parties became a way to strengthen my social skills, and I treated it as a game by challenging myself to connect with as many people attending as possible (I also rewarded myself various dollar amounts for successful actions that were applied to my vacation fund).

I may never list those holiday parties as a favorite activity but I no longer resent them and, truth be told, find them kind of fun.

What holiday strain can you turn into a gain?

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