Give yourself permission to take a breath

Tangled Christmas Banner

One night after the dinner dishes were cleared, I sat back down at the kitchen table and started untangling a “Merry Christmas” banner that my young daughter had put together a week earlier. The letters and twine were wrapped around each other, which is why we still hadn’t hung it.

I said to my husband, “I’m untangling Christmas, but it’s taking longer than I thought. It’s not the most productive thing I could be doing right now, but it’s very therapeutic.”

“You’re untangling Christmas,” he replied, echoing my unintended metaphor and making me — literally — laugh out loud.

It happens every year: I set an intention for a simple, festive, joyful season, and things still get crazy. It’s as if everyone is in deadline mode, wrapping up presents and the year in general, trying to get everything done. And as the minutes and hours pass (often while sitting in traffic) many of us realize that everything will not get done.

Despite my best intentions, the best I’ve been able to accomplish during the holiday season is mostly crazy with some peace and joy sprinkled in. But this year, I paid close attention to the things that quickly brought me back to center and made note of them. And here’s the good part: They work all year round.

Get some perspective. I’m constantly saying to myself, “This is not a problem.” It’s true that sitting in traffic, missing a deadline or having too many things to do can feel like a really big problem, but in the grand scheme of life, it’s not. Trying to live up to sky-high expectations (our own and other people’s) is not worth the mental and emotional stress. 

Do something unproductive. Sometimes the trick is to do the opposite of what you think you should be doing. Take an hour to have coffee with a friend or get a manicure instead of addressing Christmas cards (and when they ask you if you want a party nail, say, “Yes.”)

Indulge, without guilt. Eat the cookie and have the wine, if you want it. Celebrate your life, however that looks to you.


Make time for the healthy habits that make you feel better overall. The busiest times are the most important times to remember self-care. Don’t stay up all night. Go to bed and take on the new day with a clear mind. Exercise. When things are super busy, I do a 20-minute interval run on the treadmill and it makes all the difference. And please, drink more water. It’s easy and essential.

Vent to someone you trust. I’ve learned that saying out loud, “I’m so overwhelmed I’m about to cry,” relieves just enough pressure to ward off a total meltdown.

Do one thing at a time. Author Emily Freeman said something in her podcast that has stayed with me. “I give myself permission to do one thing at a time.” Of course you can do several things at once. You’re awesome. But that doesn’t mean you have to do several things at once.

Do it with love. If you decide to send Christmas cards, do it with love. If you go the extra mile for someone, do it with love. It’s a game changer.

Let it go with love. If you decide not to send Christmas cards, let it go with love. If you can’t go the extra mile for someone, decline with love. This is also a game changer.

Here’s the point:

It’s all about practicing the art of taking a breath. Stress is not only caused by lack of time; it’s caused by a lack of energy. When you suddenly feel more peaceful, centered, or relieved, take a moment to identify what caused the shift and file it away for next time. These are your secret weapons; handfuls of fairy dust to help you through the day.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman


Angie Mizzell is a writer, TV spokesperson, and mom of three. She is also the co-founder of Charleston Storytellers and blogs about creating a life...

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