Written by Denise Smith, RiseVT FGI Program Manager

This morning I woke up and immediately started making a list in my mind of what hasn’t been done yet and what I still need to do.  Santa is not the only one who must make his list and check it twice, the problem with my list is that as often as I check it, it continues to get longer.  I don’t know about you, but this time of year creates a lot of stress and I often find it challenging to decompress and de-escalate.  I work extra hard to let things go and be present and not take everything out on my husband or my children.  Time and money are both extra limited and it seems that this is the time of year that we need unlimited amounts of each. 

This morning as I started to escalate and pointed out to my husband for the 100th time that we still don’t have our Christmas tree or lights out and yelled at my children to help me organize the mudroom after another week of running around and all of them just dropping their stuff wherever it landed – I stopped.  I stopped yelling, I stopped complaining, and started breathing.  I looked at my dog
Iris and stated: “It has been awhile since we’ve gone for a walk at the Lake – let’s go.”  She exuberantly agreed, and we left with the chaos of not having anything done and the presence of mind to know that if I did not leave at that moment, I would continue to escalate and berate the people I love the most.

Knowing how to let things go and when to let things go can help decrease the pressure and the stress this time of year, and even improve your physical and mental health.  Below is a list of practices that I have found useful that have helped me learn the art of not sweating the small stuff and, as Elsa from the Movie Frozen says, “Let It Go”:

  1. I have learned to become aware of when I am beginning to get tense or as my husband calls it “escalating” and have learned to pause in the moment.  (Being aware of my physical body, my pulse, and the tension in my head was the first step of knowing when I am starting to sweat).  
  2. I am learning to list what I am grateful for each day instead of what I do not have, what I think I need, and what is not yet done (of course this morning was an epic fail at this practice, hence bullet 3).   
  3. I am teaching myself how to walk away.  Knowing when I need to take care of myself is important and being able to go where I need to go to find solace and peace has been an incredible gift (sometimes this can be a locked bathroom).
  4. I am re-prioritizing the people who matter most and the impact my actions have on them.  I have recognized that I cannot be all things
    to all people and there are some things you just must give up in order to be present for the ones who matter most (this is harder this time of year, so again see bullet 3 and 5).
  5. Just like on the airplane, I know that if I do not put on my breathing mask first, I am not able to help those around me put their masks on.  Self-care is not selfish and do not let anyone tell you it is.  You need self-care to do everything you do for everyone else and you alone know what your self-care is/means to you (don’t let anyone define it for you – if it does not fill your bucket it is not YOUR self-care).

Denise Smith is the Program Manager of RiseVT Franklin-Grand Isle Counties.  She is mother to three active “homo sapiens”
children, and three “fur children” and is married to Tim Smith.  She strives every day to do the best she can with the tools that she has.