The holiday season often involves a lot of rushing around–rushing to shop, rushing to eat, rushing to various holiday parties and events, and rushing to get our work done in time for vacation. Moving quickly can help us feel more effective, but we often end up moving at a pace that’s rapid to the point of being frantic and unhelpful. What’s more, rather than decreasing stress levels, moving quickly often serves to increase our subjective level of stress.

How does this work?

We all know there’s a connection between our mind and body. When our mind says “Get a move on! Hurry up! You can fit in one more errand!” our body responds by picking up the pace: we bustle around the office, zoom around slow walkers on the street, and run from room to room at home. When our mind flashes a neon sign saying URGENT URGENT URGENT, the body gets the message. Unfortunately, rapid movement sends a message back to the mind, confirming the mind’s interpretation of our situation (e.g., we need to get home from work and feed the kids dinner and rush back out to our partner’s work Christmas party) is an URGENT EMERGENCY. The mind and body then enter a cycle, reinforcing the message back and forth until both are frantic and exhausted.

Getting our work done, getting our shopping done, and attending various social events are important but they aren’t emergencies. To break the mind/body stress cycle, try simply moving your body more slowly and deliberately. In so doing, you’re sending yourself a new message: There’s no emergency. Your mind may initially continue to send you URGENT EMERGENCY ALERT signals, but it will eventually get the message and you’ll be able to relax.