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The holiday season…a time to reflect, relax, and recharge!

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- With Halloween past us, my attention now turns to the upcoming holiday season. It can be a stressful season with decorating, cooking, hosting the influx of house guests, and the pressure to find the perfect gifts for all our loved ones. Despite all this, it is still my favorite time of year! I look forward to seeing family and friends, seeing the joy on my children’s faces as we enjoy our family traditions, and the break from our normal routine and obligations. However, amidst all the festivities it is easy to forget to actually rest! Be present and mindful in your choices this holiday season and try a few of my favorite ways to relax and re-charge.

JUST SAY NO…TO WORK
Resist the urge to check email, drop in the office “really quickly”or get ahead on waiting work between scheduled activities. Just enjoy this well-deserved time away from the office. Preparing before you leave the office for vacation is critical: prioritize work and avoid leaving important tasks to the day before your vacation, look ahead for when you return in order to anticipate and prepare in advance, delegate important tasks that need to be accomplished during your absence, and establish rules of engagement with coworkers while you are away. Depending upon your job and responsibilities this may be easier for some; if you absolutely must attend to work during vacation, set some limits for yourself.

SLOW DOWN
We do not always need to be busy, busy, busy. Make a conscious decision to not overschedule your days with endless to-do lists. Kids and adults both need time to unwind, appreciate the meaningful things in life, and enjoy the day without racing from one moment to the next. For the parents reading this, don’t stress about finding the perfect activities to keep the kids entertained during school break; it’s okay for our kids to be bored…boredom helps stimulate creativity.

SPEND QUALITY TIME WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY
Speaking of meaningful things in life…make the important people in your life a priority. The holidays are a great time to reconnect with friends and family. If you can’t be physically with them, take the time to send a handwritten letter that lets loved ones know you are thinking of them. If you are lucky enough to spend time with a loved one, make the time count- put the phone away, make eye-contact, and be present.

SHOW GRATITUDE
I love this quote by William Arthur Ward, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” Showing gratitude is a simple practice that has tremendous social and psychological benefits. While this practice is often easier with the ones we love, don’t forget, this holiday season, to show gratitude to those that challenge you. A few simple ways to show gratitude include: actively listening to others, giving genuine compliments, being thoughtful with your words and actions, showing patience with those that drive you crazy, and performing small acts of kindness.

EXERCISE
The holidays typically bring extra eating that leaves us feeling sluggish…both physically and mentally. Physical experiences are intimately linked to our emotional state; exercise is a great way to energize the brain. So pass on the extra cup of coffee, get off the couch, and move your body. Just 10 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise is all you need to re-charge your brain.

GET OUTSIDE IN THE FRESH AIR
Substitute screen time for outdoor time. Spending time in nature has amazing physical and mental benefits—personally I find nothing to be more energizing than breathing in the crisp cool air and soaking in the sunshine. Living in Colorado makes it so simple…take advantage of the abundance of hiking trails, parks, and outdoor activities at our fingertips.

REST
For those that are introverted like me, the demands of social gatherings can be absolutely exhausting. I need to prepare, and recover, by having “quiet time.” For me, this may be binge watching my new favorite Netflix show, sitting quietly in front of the fireplace reading a book or magazine, listening to my favorite music, or even taking a mid-day nap. As a working parent/wife, there is little time for these “luxuries” the rest of the year so I am intentional in carving out some time to treat myself!

INTENTIONAL REFLECTION
In this day and age it is so easy to take for granted all the good things in your life. Take time to reflect on the meaningful events of the past year, the important relationships, and your personal accomplishments. It is so important to appreciate all that you have before you. As you prepare to return to work, reflect on your “why”… your clear sense of purpose that drives and inspires you both at work and home.

Our most valuable assets are the people in our organizations. We, as an Air Force, cannot reach our full potential without each of you being at 100 percent. So I challenge you to find time during the holiday season to find the activities that energize you; give yourself permission to enjoy the time away from the daily grind. You, your family, and the Air Force will be better for the effort!