Several years ago Ola Budzyńska, widely known as a coach and blogger Master od Time (Pani Swojego Czasu) described on the blog her Christmas preparations. Her selective attitude to pre-Christmas tasks, which we can describe as “I do the things that I find pleasant,” provoked an unusual wave of criticism. Store-bought Christmas dinner and the lack of freshly cleaned windows for many followers equalled with the lack of Christmas atmosphere, and laziness.
After all, Christmas has to be shining clean, elegant, and perfect. At that time we wish one another peace, hoping it will eventually come. Alas, there’s no chance for it with all the family around and all the tasks waiting for you. You need to set the table, it must be glamorous, you need to serve 12 different dishes for Christmas Eve, it has to be traditional, then you must clean it up – you can’t let the guests sit at dirty plates – and don’t forget to serve a homemade cake… And so for years the words “has to” and “must” have created the Christmas atmosphere for many Polish families. How about breaking with tradition at the end of this exceptionally hard year?
December 2020. No traces left of the hope that we had in September, when the kids went back to school and the number of infections dropped. The last few months have past in the atmosphere of nervous waiting. And it wasn’t Christmas we were all waiting for. The perspective of another complete lockdown is ahead, bringing months of working online. After weeks of homeschooling, we will most likely spend the winter break just like we did the last nine months – sitting at home. According to the recently published research by Oracle and Workplace Intelligence, 7 out of 10 corporate employees from all over the world stated 2020 was the most stressful year in their career. As many as 78% of the respondents said the COVID-19 pandemic had a negative impact on their mental health, 25% admitted to be experiencing a burnout, and another 40% – to be having sleeping problems. That is hardly the atmosphere of Christmas.
So if the times are unusual, why don’t we do something unusual this year and… let to, leaving aside all the things we don’t want or don’t need to do?
John Medina, molecular biologist, author of “Brain Rules,” who studies the influence of stress on the brain and its cognitive functions, emphasizes that stress is related to the feeling of lack of control. Long-term stress makes us believe even more that we are incapable of taking control. It leads to the learned helplessness syndrome, when it’s easy to give oneself up to the circumstances without looking for ways to get out of the situation. It then becomes easy to blame external factors for one’s feelings – such as the virus, work, parents, your partner, or your children. We forget that the fear and the stress that we feel are a reaction to the thought coming to our mind which, in turn, forms on the basis of our previous, mostly negative, experience. There are obviously situations more difficult to deal with, ones that require more time and care, or even expert’s help. But in many situations, we do have a choice.
As many as 76% Oracle and Workplace Intelligence respondents believe that employers should put more emphasis on protecting their employees’ mental health, thus shifting the whole responsibility for their well-being onto employers. Mikołaj Winiarski, Senior Manager at Accenture, appreciates his company’s attempts to keep the employees in good mental health, but he takes the whole responsibility for his well-being on himself. “I never say that my job is stressful, because it depends on me how I deal with the pressure,” he says in an interview for MyMeditationSpace. And that’s true for any area of your life, not only professional. Stress is a complex process, related to e.g. the way we were brought up, our personality traits, or the condition of our nervous system. But it is a subjective feeling. If you plunge into Christmas preparations feeling stress and pressure, then it is your personal feeling.
Now that you realize this, letting go of anything that does not serve you doesn’t sound like the worst piece of advice anymore.
Letting go is not an easy thing to do. Mikołaj uses meditation, which for years has been appreciated among stress researchers. It is gradually getting the acceptance of business, which sees it as a necessary tool for effective management. Many people get helped by psychotherapy. But you can even start with the easiest form of working with your breath. Sometimes even a small thing can make the world slow down, and take on new, clear colors. Who knows, maybe 2020 was a sign for us from the world that it’s time for a change?
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