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Don’t Celebrate Stressmas

Don’t Celebrate Stressmas

Christmas can be an extremely stressful time. You’re surrounded by sentimentalized marketing messages, based on perfect families having a perfect time together. Peace is everywhere; everyone loves their gifts, the Christmas meal is perfectly cooked and no one suffers indigestion or drinks too much. Children are always good and never become over-excited and uncontrollable.

That’s the problem. Real life is far from perfect. Some families don’t get on well together. This maybe the one time of the year they meet, and still they expect nothing to go wrong. Then people eat or drink too much, voices are raised and tempers flare. Maybe there’s a gap this year: a loved one has died, or is far away. Maybe there are no loved ones. People sometimes have to spend Christmas alone. For many people, Christmas will bring more pain than joy; pain made far worse by feeling everyone else is having a good time.

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Christmas comes but once a year, and when it comes it brings…wildly unrealistic expectations. There’s a strong sense of how things—and people—ought to be. Everyone ought to be happy. They ought to get along. You ought to be enjoying yourself; and there must be something wrong with you if you aren’t. Along with such crazy expectations come guilt and blame. So people quarrel, and because everyone ought not to be quarreling at Christmas, it’s someone’s fault they aren’t happy.


When this happens, don’t ever be tempted to feel guilty about your emotions, let alone accept responsibility for anyone else’s. Even if you don’t show how you feel, you still feel it. “What’s wrong with me?” you ask yourself. “It’s Christmas. I should be happy. I should be thinking how much I love my family, not focussing on how much Uncle Fred’s drinking upsets me; or how much I’d rather be at home than sitting here, trying to eat my mother-in-law’s inedible turkey; or feeling that if Cousin Jane doesn’t stop her revolting children from behaving like animals, I’m going to scream.”

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Here’s the truth. No one can control their emotions. You cannot make yourself feel happy or cheerful by an act of willpower, any more than you can stop yourself from feeling angry or resentful or sad. Emotions simply arise by a natural process. They come as and when they wish, just as thoughts come into our minds unbidden and sometimes unwanted. All you can control is whether or not you act on those emotions. If someone irritates you, but you hold back from showing it to avoid spoiling everyone’s evening, that’s a praiseworthy act. It’s not your fault you felt irritated. It just happened. There’s neither cause for guilt nor blame.

Christmas is a wonderful time of year to practice forgiveness, and especially to forgive yourself. The old year is coming to an end. As it dies, forgive yourself for all the times in this year you destroyed your own hopes and expectations; for the ways you let yourself down; for behaving badly; for messing up. Forgive others for all the ways they disappointed you. Forgive life itself for whatever bad things it brought. Let it all go with the year that is passing. And when the New Year comes, let your first resolution be to stop setting yourself and others so many unreal goals and expectations based on perfection.

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Whatever the marketing guys and the media try to tell you, life is messy, unpredictable and frequently unpleasant. That’s just how it is. No one is to blame, least of all you. Buying products won’t change it. Nor will the time of year, however many carols are sung and Santas appear in the stores. Christmas lights aren’t magic talismans against pain, upset or hurt. Just because it’s a holiday season doesn’t mean you ought to feel happy. There’s no reason you should ever feel some particular way; and no way to try to make it happen if it doesn’t come about naturally.

Walk into the New Year with an open mind and a hopeful attitude. Let go of all the baggage you’re carrying. Simply drop it and walk away. All the possibilities of the coming twelve months are before you, so pause on the threshold and enjoy a few moments of anticipation. Then step confidently into your future. While you can’t make that future better than it will be, you can always hope for the best. Who knows? This year you may be right. It sure beats facing the future full of grim expectation of misery and disappointment.

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This will be my last posting on this site until January, so I wish you all a calm, relaxed and baggage-free holiday period. And whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or no particular festival at this time, I hope you manage to give Stressmas a miss this year.

Adrian Savage is an Englishman and a retired business executive who lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his thoughts most days at Slow Leadership, the site for anyone who wants to bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership, and The Coyote Within.

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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