Variation of a Buddhist
prayer and my wish for you this Holiday Season
Your Physical and
Emotional Rx for the Holidays, On and Off the Road
December brings a whirl
of activity on and off the road as we celebrate the end-of-year
holidays. Unfortunately, it’s also the time of year when we’re
more vulnerable and at greater risk—for injury, physical illness,
and emotional turmoil.
In a season known more for self-indulgence than self-restraint,
it’s time for a good dose of self-care. Here’s my take
on what you can do to fully enjoy yourself—at home and on the
go—during the holidays. May yours be filled with joy, wonder,
good cheer, good times, and good company. See you in 2004.
Aware and Vigilant: On the Road and at Home
The holidays are
primetime for many types of criminal activity so be extra
cautious and vigilant everywhere you go. Travelers,
who are burdened with luggage and are often traversing unfamiliar
territory—desolate parking lots, empty streets, and isolated
motels—alone and at off-hours, are prime targets.
Don’t think that your age, sex, physical prowess, or location
offer automatic protection from a personal assault or robbery.
Young male athletes walking or traveling in familiar locales can
just as easily become crime victims as petite women and others who
appear physically frail or are seemingly "easy" targets.
Walk quickly and purposefully. Don't lower your guard just
because you're walking with someone else. Don’t talk on a cell
phone or be so involved in a shared conversation that you are
unaware of what’s going on around you. In other words, pay
attention to your surroundings at all times and don’t make
yourself an obvious target.
Don't carry lots of cash or all of your credit cards.
Stash pocket money and credit cards in separate locations on your
person and make sure you have bank contact numbers in case cards
are lost or stolen. Be especially careful where you place smaller
items such as computer cases, briefcases, handbags, and carry-ons,
which can be quickly and easily stolen.
Down on the Road
expensive clothing, accessories, and jewelry and/or toting luxe
luggage make you a big target. Save the designer duds and furs for
With increased traffic
almost everywhere, more easily distracted and fatigued drivers,
and tons of folks driving in unfamiliar areas, you need to be
even more focused on the demands of the road. Forget eating,
drinking, and chatting—-on a cell phone or with other passengers.
Everyone thinks they're great at multitasking. The number of
accidents caused by inattention proves otherwise.
Yourself on Outdoor Sport/Activity Safety
Every holiday brings
news of tragic outdoor accidents. As I write this column, the news
is reporting the deaths of four young girls in a snowmobile
accident. If you’re heading outdoors, make sure you know—and
observe—safety precautions for outdoor activities such as
snowmobiling, sledding, and skiing.
What You're Doing—Especially If You're Tired or Intoxicated!
Cooking, decorating a
tree or the outside of your house, assembling gifts, and other
holiday-related activities, though taxing, shouldn't put your life
and limbs at risk. But it's amazing how even simple tasks can
take a dangerous turn when we're fatigued, intoxicated, or not
paying attention. The many demands of the holidays often leave
us with a short attention span. Focus only on whatever you're
doing. It's the best way to prevent fires, serious cuts,
falls, and a variety of sprains, strains, and fractures that can
result from one moment's inattention.
The holidays deliver a
double whammy when it comes to our physical health: More folks
are sick—with serious colds, respiratory infections, and the
flu—and we spend more time with those sick (or on-the-verge
of being sick) people in crowded venues. With increased exposure,
comes increased risk. The solution: Preventive action.
More Rest, Relaxation, and Sleep
If you do nothing else
this holiday season, make getting a good night’s sleep a
priority. It’ll help protect your immune system (which
helps ward off colds and decreases your risk of infection if
exposed to a nasty bug or virus); increase your physical
strength and stamina; and help you stay calm and less stressed.
Take short naps when needed and avoid sleep-deterrents
such as too much alcohol or heavy snacking and late-night eating.
Need more incentive than improving your health and reducing
your stress levels? Consider your social obligations: Tired,
fatigued folks are neither great hosts nor party guests. And the
sleep-deprived frequently make less-than-amiable dinner companions
and houseguests—not to mention taciturn seatmates in the air or on
Leave Home With a Hangover
If you’re partying the
night before you’re flying, monitor your alcoholic intake—even if
you’re not driving. Drink several glasses of water that night and
the next day to stay hydrated (alcohol dehydrates your system).
Don’t skip breakfast or meals the next day. Flying is tough on
healthy bodies but it’s especially grueling for dehydrated,
Attention to Your Body—and Give It What It Needs
If you’re tired,
overworked, and over-traveled, slow down. Get more sleep. Take a
nap. Say "no" to endless demands on your time and energy. Avoid—or
minimize contact with—people and situations that stress you out.
over-stuff yourself with food or alcohol. And don’t use them as
substitutes for rest, sleep, or peace of mind.
If your body feels like
its frozen in place from lack of movement, gently stretch and warm
up. Then take a brisk walk, ride a bike, or begin some
not-too-taxing stretching or cardio exercises.
Extra Vigilant With Personal Hygiene
Nasty germs and viruses
are lurking on the many shared surfaces that we touch. Use
antibacterial handwipes and wash your hands frequently, but always
after shaking hands, handling money, or visiting a restroom and
before eating. Most important, keep your unwashed hands away
from your mouth, eyes, and nose. Many people unconsciously
touch these areas, which can spread germs and viruses and provide
easy entry to our system.
Your Immune System
Aside from good
hygiene, there's nothing like a strong immune system to reduce
your risk of catching whatever is "flying" around. If you
tend to get a lot of colds, try taking immune-boosting herbs
such as Siberian ginseng, echinacea, and astragalus. (To learn
more about the power of herbs, consult a certified herbalist or
Herbal Defense by Robyn Landis and Karta Purkh Singh
Up Close and Personal With Nature
Instead of constantly
cocooning in your home or hotel room, go outside and spend time
in a park or wooded area. "Listen" to the air and the trees,
observe the sky—especially at night. There’s a reason that folks
who spend time outdoors with nature are calm and easy-going.
Skip Meals—or Fast
Some people who want to
savor high-calorie food and drink at parties and festive meals
later in the day, cut out breakfast or lunch. Bad idea. You’ll end
up hungry and starving—which makes you more likely to overeat.
Eat less and eat fewer high-calorie foods, but don’t skip a
Fasting can wreak havoc
on your body’s blood sugar levels, physically weaken you, and
create unanticipated (and often serious) health problems. It’s
best to start a fast under a doctor’s supervision and when you can
rest or are on a more sedentary schedule. Avoid fasting when
you’re physically active or traveling.
It’s cold. You’re busy.
You’re tired. All the more reason to exercise—if only a brisk,
20-minute walk—each day. Work out with family and friends. Hit the
treadmill or lift weights at a hotel fitness center. Swim laps.
You’ll be calmer and have more energy. (FYI: Shopping does
not count as exercise.)
Carry—a Winter ‘Comfort’ Kit
To up your comfort on
the go—and minimize your symptoms once stricken with a cold or the
flu, be sure to pack:
► New Toothbrushes.
Once you've recovered from a cold or flu, ditch the one you were
using while you were sick.
homeopathic cold, flu, and allergy remedies
►Fever blister and
cold sore remedies
► A lubricating hand
lotion or cream and lip balm to prevent dryness and chapping.
Keeping skin smooth isn't just self-pampering. Preventing
cracked, peeling skin reduces your chances of infection.
►Facial tissues that
contain soothing ingredients such as aloe. They're lifesavers
and well worth the extra cost. (You can use them nonstop and your
nose will still remain soft with none of that telltale "I’m sick
and miserable" redness.)
Your Energy Level: Don't Overindulge
we choose to ingest either adds to our energy—or drains us.
Too much food and alcohol (especially high-fat,
calorie and sugar-laden foods) can really slow you down. You don’t
have to bypass favorites: Opt for one or two chocolates or a small
desert, a single glass of wine.
excessive drinking may provide some temporary relief and escape
from your anxiety, stress, and concerns. But how much worse
will you feel, when the lethargy and a hangover set in? When you
don’t have physical or mental energy to do what you’d like?
You can go along with
the holidays and their maddening pace and commitments. Or, you can
choose a more meaningful—and
mindful—approach to celebrating the season.
Let a Calendar—or
Your Life: Celebrate Your Way
spouse/partner/friends have planned a whirl of activities.
Unfortunately, you're mentally and physically depleted—and you're
not sure you can even make it home for half of what's been
Holiday rituals and
routines can be comforting and stabilizing moments in an insecure
world. But you may have less resources—time, money, energy,
interest—for the usual flurry of decorating, partying, holiday
visits, and shopping. To avoid disappointments, hurt feelings,
and worse, be honest about what you can comfortably commit to at
Leaving hearth and home
when you are so rarely there may seem like an odd holiday-survival
strategy. But some families literally have to leave their
neighborhoods to secure some needed peace and privacy at a
"neutral" location. As little as three or four days away, with
no interruptions or externally imposed schedules, can do wonders
for your spirit and relationships.
Down the Chaos
You life on the road is
filled with crowds, lines, traffic, and chaos. Why seek it out on
your precious downtime? Avoid the mall, sports stadiums, the
movieplex—and other crowded venues. Consider limiting your
partying to small-scale get-togethers that allow for more intimate
and low-key socializing.
Your Emotional Energy: Set Limits
Think carefully before
you commit your time and energy. You don’t have to show up at
every party to which you’re invited; you don’t have to spend days
shopping for the "perfect" present, or decorating your house. Life
is not a bunch of "Martha Moments." Most importantly, you don’t
have to overextend yourself physically or emotionally. If you do,
you'll only shortchange your holiday spirit.
Try to Cram a Year Into a Few Days in December
You feel bad about
being away so much and you want to make up for lost time.
Unfortunately, you can’t make up for lengthy or extended absences
by filling your holidays with a round of activities.
Instead of scheduling every
waking minute with your family, be selective about what you commit
to. Suggest activities that can be scheduled throughout the
Room for Magic and Serendipity
Memories are not
scripted or planned. Enjoy quiet times and spontaneous activities
as they arise.
You're Planning a Family Trip, Make Sure Your Family is 'Road
What’s routine for you
is anything but for them. Make sure they don't wait till the last
minute to pack. Most importantly, don’t schedule activities too
close to departure time and allow extra time to get to, and
navigate, the airport.
In Sync With Friends and Family
Life continued while
you were on the road and you may feel like a stranger who is
visiting your home. Take the initiative to reconnect with your
via one-on-one shared activities and good old-fashioned
conversation. Actively listen and
find ways that they appreciate to demonstrate your love and
Your Personal and Professional Schedules
One of the most
common—and easily avoided—holiday-related problems is
cross-scheduling. And despite e-mail, text messaging, and
constant cell-phone chattering, we often fail to inform our
friends and family of important schedule details—and changes.
Unless you’ve got a clone or a personal doppelganger, you
can’t be in two places—say, a client’s office in Cleveland and
your spouse’s office party in Tampa—at the same time. (Yea, I
know there is some scientific theory that says matter can exist
simultaneously in two places. But have you been able to do
that?) The client meeting got shifted but that detail was not
shared with your spouse. So now, both your spouse and the
client are expecting you. It seems simple and obvious: Make
sure you update your family and friends in real time. (As we
age, we think we’ve had those conversations when we haven’t.)
There’s something about
the holidays that turns even the most laid-back folks into
list-driven, multitaskers who hurl themselves through a seemingly
nonstop whirl of activities and events that even Laura Bush
couldn’t navigate with a staff of 100.
Holidays can be
emotionally, as well as physically, draining. Identify your
personal "blackholes"—people or events that leave you stressed,
miserable, and hard-pressed to feel joyous or grateful.
Avoid—or minimize—one-on-one interaction with people or situations
that trigger bad feelings.
‘Em Hard—and Often
If you’ve been away,
it’s what you—as well as your friends and family—may have missed
the most: Hugging and being hugged. Physical contact is one of our
primal—and often overlooked—human needs. Embrace
enthusiastically where appropriate and welcome. And in the spirit
of the season, consider giving a big hug to someone who seems
emotionally adrift or aloof. They may need it more than they know.
Time to Do NOTHING
If you do nothing else
but slow down, put the brakes on multitasking, and be present in
the moment, you’ll be able to more fully savor the wonder of this
time of the year.
If your spirit and
sanity are truly challenged by the holiday whirl, try silence
and solitude. They’re the ultimate anti-stress solutions.
Sit quietly, sans music, TV, or other distractions. Take a
solitary walk in the park. Take a few deep breaths.
If you’re constantly
on the move, ask yourself what you’re rushing to avoid. If you
find that you don’t want to spend quiet time alone (or with family
and friends), ask yourself what you’re afraid of.
Time for ‘Presence’ Not Presents
Many time-starved folks
will spend hours shopping for the perfect gift. One-on-one time
with those you love might be a better use of your—and their—time.
watching and game playing, attending sports events and parties
can be bonding activities. But a lot of times they’re just
mindless activities that do nothing to help us re-connect or
create new memories or rituals.
To truly know what is
going on with someone, you need time, preferably alone and
one-on-one, to just hang out and enjoy each other’s company
without interruptions or distractions.
Mix Guilt and Gifts
Presents are no
substitute for your "presence." You can’t buy your way back
into the lives of your family and friends if you’ve seriously
neglected them during the year—although your children and some
spouses/partners will happily tell you otherwise.
as Much as You Can
sure-fire de-stressor that’s good for your body and your spirit.
Find your personal triggers—people; a book or video; listening to
a radio show or TV performer; talking to a friend; replaying your
children’s voice-mail messages when you're on the road, whatever.
If you’re not laughing every day, you’re not really living.
Easy on Yourself
The end-of-the year
often triggers negative and unproductive self-reflection. Instead
of rehashing the low points and beating yourself up, use the
knowledge you gained when things didn’t go as planned to regroup
and move forward.