Back when I was a bookseller, the December chaos usually got the best of me. Helping customers nonstop, answering the endlessly ringing phone, and cleaning up a huge mess at the end of it all nearly drained my holiday spirit. In short, I took up smoking.
But there's a better way to deal with holiday stress, right?
Andy Baggott, author of Blissology: The Art & Science of Happiness, shares guidance on how to keep your cool throughout the busy holiday season.
For other ways to combat holiday stress, check out "Joy to the Store: 5 Keys to a Happy, Sane, and Prosperous Holiday Season" by Tess Whitehurst and "Enjoy A Ten-Minute Bliss Break This Holiday Season" by Kala Ambrose.
by Andy Baggott
For many people in the book trade, holiday time means extra work and lots of stress. But stress doesn’t have to get us down if we have the tools to handle it. Often the simplest things are the most effective.
Here is a quick tool that is guaranteed to make coping with any stressful situation a little easier. It’s an ancient Taoist breathing technique that helps the body to relax and the mind to become clearer. I call it “Three relaxing breaths,” and you can use it whenever to meet a stressful situation.
Exercise: Three relaxing breaths
- Sit or stand with your mouth closed and your tongue gently resting on your upper palate.
- Take a slow, deep breath in through your nose. Breathe right down into your abdomen, feeling it expand your lungs completely.
- Hold the breath for a moment.
- Exhale slowly through your nose. As you exhale, imagine any stress flowing easily out of your body.
- Hold your lungs empty for a moment.
- Repeat steps 2 through 5 twice.
- Say to yourself, “I am calm and alert.”
Imagine you own a highly successful independent bookstore. You not only sell new books, but also deal in rare books. You have a great team working for you and the star of your company is Helen. She is passionate about books and has an amazing ability to track down rare books with consummate ease. No matter how rare the book, Helen always comes through and finds a copy quickly and efficiently.
One morning, right in the middle of a very busy holiday season, you get a telephone call from your best customer. He is a rare book collector. Over the years, he has spent many thousands of dollars on books Helen has found for him. This morning he says that he wants to buy his wife an exceedingly rare book and that he needs it within 72 hours. This means that you will have to locate the book today and have it couriered overnight. “No problem,” you say with complete confidence, “I’ll get Helen on it straight away.”
You know Helen loves a challenge and so you dial her extension to tell her the good news. There’s no answer. You walk to her office and discover that, for the first time ever, she has not turned up to work. Suddenly you are faced with a challenge. You do not want to let down your best customer, but cannot see how to locate this book without your star worker. At this point you have a clear choice. Either you step into trust or take hold of anxiety.
Here’s how stepping into trust might feel: “Well this is interesting,” you say to yourself. You go back to your office, sit for a moment and take three relaxing breaths. Then, trusting in your own resourcefulness, you imagine a solution coming to you in an unexpected and thrilling way. “Wouldn’t it be great if I managed to locate this book quickly and easily even without Helen’s help?”
You know that the better you feel, the quicker solutions manifest; so next you decide to connect with some good feelings. You think about the holidays last year. You had such a great time visiting friends in that quaint little town. You recall the feasting and laughter and then you remember the trip you all took to the mall. “Around the corner was that lovely antiquarian bookshop. It had some real gems.”
Outcome: Total success with absolute ease
Stress caused: 0/10
Time taken: 15 minutes
This is the potential we can tap into every time we face a challenge. If we relax and trust in our own magnificence, remarkable and magnificent solutions come running to find us. However, many people choose a different path.
Here’s how taking hold of anxiety might feel:
“Oh my goodness!” you think, “Where the hell is Helen? How can she do this to me? I hate it when people let me down.” You spend the next hour trying to find Helen. You ask all your staff, you phone her home, you even track down her boyfriend but nobody knows where she is. Finally you reluctantly accept that you are going to have to solve this problem yourself.
You go onto Helen’s computer and email all the rare book dealers in her contact list. You impatiently sit for an hour waiting for an answer to come, all the time worrying more and more that you might fail. When no replies arrive, you decide that the only way you will find this book is if you phone every dealer one by one.
You spend the next 6 hours on the phone getting more and more stressed as each hour passes. You miss your lunch, other work begins to pile up and you start to feel overwhelmed. Right at the end, when you have decided that you will never find that damn book, you make one final call. To your great relief, the dealer has a copy. You arrange for it to be picked up and then phone your customer back to tell him the good news.
Although you feel relieved, you also feel a tinge of anger. “The universe has a twisted sense of humor,” you say to yourself. “How irritatingly ironic that the place I found the book was in the very shop I visited on my last holiday."
Outcome: Total success after a lot of hard work
Stress caused: 10/10
Time taken: 8 hours
You never need to work hard to find a solution. If you relax and trust in yourself, a solution will always come and find you. What you attract into your life is always a match to the feelings you hold within you. When you consistently connect with good feelings, every solution to every problem arrives in a thrilling and delicious way. This is the potential of every human being.
So the next time you face a challenge, rather than getting stressed, why not take three relaxing breaths and step into trust. You will be surprised at just how much fun you can have watching the solution arrive gracefully at your feet.
The Art & Science
Andy Baggott on his favorite metaphysical store:
My favorite metaphysical bookstore is Watkins in London - I used to visit it regularly when first on my path and found some really great books there.
Please tell us your own strategies—good and bad—for getting through the holiday madness. A relaxing bubble bath? Swapping stories over apps and beer with co-workers? Popping chocolate throughout the day? Zoning out to re-runs of “The Office?"