The busiest time of the year is both reality and self-fulfilling prophecy. There is no reason why you can’t recharge your batteries instead of pulling out your charge card or chaining yourself to a keyboard, steering wheel, or shopping cart. Take just a few hours to color outside the holiday lines. At a minimum, these moments of refreshment will give you something to talk about other than how stressed you are.

Look up:  There are few better ways to put things in perspective than by gazing at the night sky. Most cities and many small communities have organizations that gather not only for the heavenly headlines and awe-inspiring courses (celestial mechanics!) but also just to revel in what the clear winter nights have to offer.

738px-Van_Gogh_-_Sternennacht_über_der_RhôneStarry Night Over the Rhone, by Vincent Van Gogh.

Change Pews:  Hanukkah ends on December 5.  There will be Advent and Christmas concerts, tree lightings, and church services all month long.  Kwanzaa  will be celebrated from December 26 to January 1.  You might be surprised how uplifting it is to participate in a tradition that is not your own.

Shop on your bookshelf.  Take down a book you love and read just two pages every morning.  Even if it is going to take you months to finish it, you will have begun to reacquaint yourself with an old and dear friend.

Sing:  There are plenty of sing-along opportunities of the non-Karaoke variety at this time of the year. (Ah, those glorious Messiah sing-ins!) There aren’t many things more effective than singing for filling your brain with joy-producing endorphins and resetting your personal rhythm from warp speed to waltz.

Joyful noise (“Hallelujah!”) at Macy’s in Philadelphia. (Courtesy of Opera Company of Philadelphia.)

Dance:  No kidding. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing it to one of the oldies or something from a newbie indie group.  Just do your own version of that classic scene in Risky Business.  Boogie around your living room once a day, and you’ll be more aerobically fit and more fun to be with.

Take a Break—via YouTube: Yes, YouTube!  It’s more than kittens and Miley Cyrus. You can find Guided Meditation, Music for Relaxation and Chanting on YouTube. You can find poets, cellists, Klezmer clarinetists. You can spot violinists infiltrating a Danish train station, ready to strike up Beethoven’s mighty “Ode to Joy”—or grin along with “Only You” as it’s rendered by a beaming flashmob in a South African shopping mall. You can marvel at the majesty of nature and the beauty of man’s handiwork (belles-rues-dans-le-monde-diana-1)  or download stunning combinations of the two (AmazingWorldPhotos-1).

Have a Remote Cocktail or Mocktail with a friend.Drinking alone is good for nothing.  But visiting with a friend through Skype, FaceTime, or one of those other one services we haven’t tried yet doesn’t count as being alone.

Green_City  Up on the roof, Lower Manhattan.

Look up (the daytime version): If you just can’t break the thinking-about-gift-giving habit, take an hour or two to use your cellphone to photograph architectural elements on the tops of buildings around your city or town. You might be surprised at how many perfect photographic gifts you produce.

 

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