It’s that time of year again! The holidays are here!
What is supposed to be a time for celebration, joy, and family can really be a time of overcommitment, excess stress, and disconnect.
Not really the makings of a Christmas song in that truth.
However, there are ways to feel more connected to your loved ones without stretching yourself further. Here are some tips for making use of micro-connections during a busy holiday season.
Use of Touch:
If you have a family member who is receptive to touch as an expression of love, then this is a natural one to try. A hug, kiss, or hand squeeze can be a quick way to reconnect with a loved one physically. Developing a special handshake or fist bump with a child can add a layer of “specialness” to physical touch without feeling too overwhelming.
There’s also research that shows physical touch can help decrease our stress levels. According to researcher Tiffany Field at the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, touch helps to lower cortisol levels, especially when it is applied with a moderate amount of pressure. So, give your loved one a squeeze of their hand, shoulder, or a whole hug to help the both of you feel less stressed and more connected.
Make a habit of a moment of connection that can fit into a daily routine.
This could involve physical touch, like a moment of greeting the first time you see your child after school. It could be conversational, such as going around the dinner table and having everyone say one good thing and challenging thing about their day. It’s also possible to feel connected to someone in a moment of quiet or reflection. If you and your spouse have the ability in your schedule, try winding down together by doing a five-minute meditation like this one from UCLA Health.org.
However you choose to connect through ritual, the important thing is consistency. So choose something that feels easy for you to do regularly. You could also identify areas in your day where you already have rituals and perform them in a more mindful way. For example, taking time to be fully present when saying goodbye to your children each day before school.
There are so many things in our daily lives that we take for granted.
Cultivating a sense of gratitude can help us feel more connected to what we currently have in our lives and ground us at a time when we feel overwhelmed. I have personally used the practice of setting an alarm on my phone with the label “I am grateful for…” and the challenge was to complete the sentence with whatever popped into my mind at the time. It got to the point when my co-workers even knew what I was doing and would say “Did you feel grateful yet?” It was eye-opening to me what I would find at that moment each day to appreciate, and I often felt less stressed after. Sometimes I could only be grateful for something right in front of me (think, “I am grateful for this pen because it makes my handwriting look nice”) because I felt so drained. Yet, the practice would switch the thoughts in my head in a more positive and appreciative direction.
That change in my automatic thinking could then shift my mood.
Capitalizing On When You Think of Them:
Seizing the moment can be the key to connection.
It’s easy to feel like we are constantly in touch with people through social media, even though we haven’t actually talked to them in a while. So, if you catch yourself wondering about someone or thinking of them, don’t limit yourself to checking out their Instagram. Send them a text or DM at that moment. It could be as simple as “Hey, I was just thinking of you. Hope you’re having a good day!” You could also share a memory or an inside joke. If you see something while shopping this season and it reminds you of your friend, take a picture and text it to them with a little note. Stick a Post-It note with a heart on it in your partner’s bag, or leave a silly drawing for your kid to find when they go to bed. The point is to take your thought of someone and translate it into an act of connection, even if it’s something as simple as sending a meme. (I may be biased on that last one, however. Memes are my love language.)
Time for Yourself:
Did you just laugh out loud? I know, I know. When are you supposed to find time for yourself?
That’s the point; you can’t give what you don’t have. In order to connect to others, you need to be connected to yourself. So, schedule at least 5 minutes a day for yourself. Perhaps this looks like time in the car during your commute, where instead of thinking about work, you listen to your favorite music and sing out loud. Or this could be a time in the shower, where you stand still and use mindfulness to pay attention to the sensation of water hitting you. Maybe it’s a time at your desk when you can put your earbuds in and just dim the noise around you for a bit.
Even small moments of connection to yourself can center and prepare you for the rest of the day. The key is to schedule these times so that you follow through. Even if it’s not on your Outlook calendar (although you could add 5 mystery minutes to that meeting, right?), it can be something you hold in your mind as a task you want to accomplish.
If you don’t think you can fit it in, then try this. Next time you’re scrolling on your phone, set a timer for 5 minutes at the start. When it goes off, if you’re still scrolling, then it turns out you did have that time to spare for yourself after all. And there could have been a more connected way to use it.
Here’s hoping this holiday season provides you with plenty of opportunities to feel connected to yourself and others. But if it doesn’t, see how many of the above you can try out. You might be surprised what a big payoff a micro-connection can have.
By Morgan Teachworth White