Take a Break!

Take a Break!

More work, less time, more shopping, less money: Are you feeling overwhelmed at this crazy time of year? You need these simple suggestions to give yourself a time-out—preferably with a friend.

When life speeds up, as it tends to do during the holiday season, and you’re extra-busy with both wonderful things (parties! presents!) and not-so-wonderful ones (party stress! bills!), you can easily get to the end of the day and realize you barely had time to think, much less have a few moments to sit down for a tête-à-tête with a friend, family member, or colleague.

But the truth is that it’s exactly during these most hectic times that you most need to interact meaningfully with those nearest and dearest to you, says Sue Johnson, author of Love Sense. “Our brains are hardwired to find moments of connection with the people we love. They restore our emotional balance, calm us down, and bring us back to center.”

Looking for connection? E-mails and texts are nice but not really enough, and big parties and family holiday gatherings are often low on opportunities to really talk to those you’re in the room with. The solution is to find small ways to cut through the hubbub and take a breather on a regular basis. Here’s how to work simple, connection-building breaks into your busy day.

Go shopping with a friend. Cross off items on your to-do list—with a friend. This is the good kind of multitasking: Arrange to meet up with friends to accomplish chores like running to the supermarket or picking out gifts.

Pick a card, any card. Each morning, take a look at all the holiday cards displayed on your mantel. Choose one and call the friend or relative who sent it. Designate a time later that day when you know you’ll have a few free minutes, such as right after lunch or in the five minutes before you leave work. Start with this: “I got your card yesterday. It’s beautiful! I have just a few minutes, but I wanted to say hello.…”

Meet a friend for a meal. You may think you have no time for a lunch hour these days, but who says it has to be an hour? And everyone has to eat, right? Call a friend who has proclaimed that like you, she is busy to the max, and suggest a fast lunch. Tip: Use the Rapid Pick-Up service at Panera Bread® to order yourself and your pal a lunch you can grab at a prearranged time, so you don’t waste valuable eating-and-talking time waiting in line. You can also plan to meet a friend for coffee at the mall while you’re both shopping, or an early Sunday dinner so you can both wind down and gear up for a new week.

Make eye contact. When you’re running from store to store trying to pick up the latest gizmo to put under the tree, don’t just bury yourself in your smartphone; say hello to the person in front of you in line, smile at the woman wrapping your presents, give a nod to the Salvation Army guy. That type of face-to-face connection takes no time out of your day but can make a world of difference in how you feel.

Volunteer at a local soup kitchen. Block out a Sunday morning to reach out to people who are having a rough go of it. Yes, you can write a check to your favorite charity, but volunteering your time gives you an opportunity to connect with others over a common cause. .

Make a date for a walk. Exercise is more important during this season than ever. (Oh, the Christmas cookies!) Get double benefits by asking a friend to take a walk with you. Put it on the calendar (in pen) so neither of you backs out. Go to a new part of town and admire the holiday decorations while you’re at it.