This week there’s an end of year catch-up with family friends, a son’s birthday, a work wind-up, a kinder Christmas show, next week another son’s birthday, more work wind-ups, parents arrive from overseas, present buying, a car to service, loose ends to tie, more goodbyes, more drinks, late gifts, groceries, packing, wrapping, ringing ……
It happens like this every year and it should be good because it’s all about celebrating and giving and family and friends and having a relaxing break but it’s not, it really isn’t. It’s an out of control vortex spinning at ever increasing speeds, sucking in more and more commitments into a smaller and smaller window of time until in the final days before Christmas we’ve been wound so tight that it’s not surprising that there’s a Yuletide tsunami of mental illness crashing through our city. Now apart from leaving the country or becoming a recluse how does a person cope? How do we avoid being completely overwhelmed? Traditionally there have been two approaches;
1. Rising above it all. This really is the gold standard of stress reduction; being able to assume a Llama-like state of continuous bliss mixed with a simultaneous cognition of emptiness and the acceptance of the true ephemeral nature of our material world. Normally this would be awesome but due to the constraints of time most of us are too late to get up to enlightenment speed this year.
2. Strict time management. Taking on the Tim Ferriss, 4 Hour Working Week approach, whereby applying the Parento Principle we dramatically reduce our stress levels by attending to only the top 20% of our most productive festive and family commitments and then outsourcing the other 80% to virtual assistants based in the Philippines and India. Good if you want to reduce the number of family members, friends and colleagues who currently talk to you but probably not if you want to avoid being seen as some kind of sociopath.
Which really just leaves us with Jackie Stewart. In the 1970’s Scotsman Jackie Stewart dominated Formula One car racing, first as a triple world championship winning driver and then as an omnipresent TV commentator. Now I’m not into motor racing (though if any of my family are reading this I’d really like a jumpsuit like Jackie’s this Christmas). Anyway I once read an interview where Jackie talked about the meditative state he was able to attain during races helping him slow time down. That’s right, Jackie Stewart slowed down time, so that when he was driving at 300kmh it was like driving to the shops, well maybe not the shops, but a lot slower that 300k’s. The benefit was in the high stress environment of competitive motor racing while under incredible pressure Jackie was able to create extra time to make clear, and in his case, race winning decisions.
Jackie described his approach as mind management – he would focus upon the present with a relaxed yet laser-like concentration and he found time would just begin to stretch out. Now imagine applying such a skill to the standard impossible list of Christmas related tasks and how refreshed and unbothered you’d feel at the end of a stressful day where it seemed like you had twice as long as normal. And so, over the next three weeks, while I’m holding on for dear life at the edge of the pre-Christmas vortex, I will be listening for Jackie’s calm Scottish words, “Focus laddie. Focus and slow it down….slow it down…. slow it down…..”