It may be the most wonderful time of the year, but it is also the busiest time of the year. Lists of things to do, people to write, gifts to buy, food to make, and parties to attend grow exponentially longer at this time of year. Unless you thrive on activity, the holidays could create some (or a lot of) anxiety in your life.
They do for me. I know all-too-well how hectic things get during these last couple months of the year.
I have a countdown calendar on my phone telling me how many days until Christmas. When my phone notified me on September 16th that there were 100 days left, I felt like I was facing a looming marathon, while also feeling like it was not long enough. My body immediately became tense.
After listening to others who love Thanksgiving and Christmas, but bemoan all the hustle that comes along with them, I realized I don't experience this feeling alone.
What if this year could be different? What if we could enjoy the holidays and be at rest too?
A while back we introduced The Pause Path. I've come to think that this may be the key to finding rest no matter what is happening. Let me explain.
The Pause Path
At ABP, we've embraced Relax. Refresh. Renew. as our tagline. But so what? What does that even mean? Do we need to take a day off work every time we feel stressed? What about moms?
Financially few of us can take time off work whenever we feel overwhelmed. And, as a former nanny, I know for sure that kids don't ease up on us when we feel like there isn't enough of us to get through the day.
Though I am highly in favor of having a weekend retreat from time to time or a day at the spa, don't think you need to put off self care until you "have time." The Pause Path can help you de-stress in just a couple of minutes.
So let's take a closer look at The Pause Path.
Sounds great. In theory. But just how do you make that happen with deadlines looming overhead or a dirty kitchen and children needing quality time and attention?
This is what I asked myself as I was driving a couple of months ago. I felt overwhelmed by the day's demands. The clock was not working in my favor that day, and neither was traffic. Additionally, appointments, emails, deadlines, and a couple of difficult people were not giving me warm fuzzies.
"Lord, how do I enjoy a beautiful pause when I don't have time to stop?"
(I do a lot of praying in the car! It's my prayer closet.)
That is when the Lord brought to mind Relax. Refresh. Renew.
"Okay...So what???! How do I do that right now?"
After more prayer and meditation, the answer came, "Let go..."
This is where The Pause Path started.
By "let go..." we mean, release "It," whatever "It" is.
Let go of the tension. Let go of the anger. Let go of the negative thoughts. Let go of whatever is standing between you and peace.
Exhale it. Feel it leave your body.
For those who want Biblical terms for this idea, "Cast your cares on the Lord" (Psalm 55:22). Get rid of them. Let them go.
It may be helpful to name what those things are. I often even say aloud, "Lord, I am releasing [name of what is bothering me] to You."
It's never enough to just let go of something. You also need to refresh.
Put another way, once you"let go," something needs to replace that thing. If you don't, all of the tension, negative thoughts, anger--whatever we released--will return.
If you've let go of the tension, you should feel relaxed or peaceful. Fill up on that--"drink deeply..."
Inhale the calm. Feel it fill your body.
If this sound hoaky, remember that tension is a physical thing. Thoughts and emotions affect your physical well being. Your emotions can actually be measured in physical outputs. A medical doctor can physically measure your stress level by taking your blood pressure. A chiropractor or massage therapist can physically tell how tense you are by feeling the muscles in your body.
So, if you let it go, you should physically feel the difference. Your breathing should become easier. your muscles should become more relaxed. Your blood pressure should decrease. (**This is not a medical guide to medical problems. You should see a physician if you have prolonged symptoms of stress.)
When you feel the calm, let it fill you. Breathe in peace, thankfulness, love, joy... Think of this as taking a big drink of refreshing, cool water. Let it penetrate your soul.
This is a result of intentional living. It won't happen if you don't choose it.
The choice to Refresh. (drink deeply...) can be done as a pause in your soul while you are on the go. If you have longer, that's great!
For those who want a Biblical reference: "Let the peace of Christ fill you" (Colossians 3:15).
The purpose of all of this is two-fold. Yes, it is partially for your own benefit. Minimizing stress will put you in a better place to enjoy physical, mental, relational, and spiritual health. That is certainly a good thing.
But something that differentiates The Pause Path from other self-care practices is the next step: Renew. By Renew, we mean "give back..." We don't want to be self-indulgent.
Frequently, the example used to justify self-care is the instructions given before every commercial flight in the US: "If cabin pressure is lost, put on your own oxygen mask first so you can then assist others." Often, in self-care advice, I find that the emphasis is placed on the first part...put your own oxygen mask on first. And I believe that is an important step. After all, you cannot help someone else if you are passed out. But I'm going to emphasize the last part: "so you can assist others."
Before I lose you, let me explain.
Yes, you need to be revived, feel fresh, be filled. You cannot operate well in a depleted state. Not for long. And it isn't healthy.
HOWEVER, you also need to give back. This is the main purpose for everything previous. This is the part that truly keeps you fresh.
A body of water that never empties itself becomes putrid. All kinds of filth and bacteria grow in stagnant water. Likewise, if you are only a taker, not a giver, you will become self-centered, entitled, and eventually, loathsome.
So after letting go of your stress and filling up with calm, you need to get back in the game. Give your best to your work and to your family. Work with energy and efficiency. Bring a smile to people around you. Be a blessing to the world.
Do not skip this step. It is truly the most important of them all because, "S/he who refreshes others will also be refreshed" (Proverbs 11:25).
And then Repeat. Often.
ABP's Gift to You this Christmas
My original question back at the beginning was, "What if this year [the holidays] could be different? What if you could enjoy the holidays