Winter can mean more time with friends and family. But it also means darker days and colder weather that makes it harder to stay happy and energized. This month, Pulse shares tips on how to reclaim focus and positivity all winter long.

by Susanne Cutshall and Debbie Fuehrer

The holidays promise joyful family togetherness, laughter, relaxation, and fun celebrations with friends. When anxiety, stress and hectic activity threaten to hijack the festivities, it helps to scale back and balance unrealistic expectations and perceived lack of control with meaningful activities. Even if we find joy in some aspects of the holidays, we can get swept away into many open files in our minds or “To-Do” lists that lessen the enjoyment of the season. Here are some strategies that may serve as a guide to get through this time of the year with more cheer and less strain on your mental health.

Notice that everyone has struggles and no one is overly appreciated. Begin each day by thinking of five people for whom you are grateful and send them a silent well wish. This will allow you to put your energy and time into those who support you and whose presence makes you happy. It is like giving them a virtual hug.

Take time to show your gratitude in small ways throughout your day. It will create a calming impact on you and maybe even those around you. However, don’t expect others to change. You only have control over your response, but the choices you make will powerfully impact your well-being. Research has shown that the act of being grateful every day has significant physical and mental health benefits. Consider keeping a holiday gratitude journal or gratitude jar. At night before you go to bed, instead of thinking of things that may have irritated you during the day, replace those thoughts with three things that went well, note whether you had anything to do with them and how they made you feel. Reflect on small things such as having warm socks in the winter or getting a phone call from friend. On Sunday night, reflect on these 21 gratitude events instead worrying about the upcoming week and worrying about past problems.

Observe what is going on around you with deeper sense of wonder and curiosity. Pay attention to your surroundings. Admire holiday decorations, slowly taste your meals and enjoy time in nature each day when possible. Walk among the trees and slowly inhale their fragrance, bird watch and notice the animal tracks in the snow. Find the extraordinary in the ordinary. The holidays are often a time to savor small details, but notice them with the curious eyes of a child and without judgment. It’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of the holidays, but take time to take a few deep breaths when standing in line or waiting at a stop light.

Reflect on what is truly important and meaningful in your life. Take a moment each day to gather your thoughts and make a short list of what is important that you have control over. These are your priority items. Then write down what you have control over that isn’t that important. You may wish to complete these at some point. Eliminate items you don’t have control over that aren’t urgent or important. The idea is to decrease the open files in your mind to reduce worry and minimize rumination which can lead to irritability. Worry and rumination also increase the risk of depression, anxiety and even activates the pain network.

Create and maintain social connections. The holidays can be a time when we may feel particularly lonely. Stay connected to friends and plan some time for authentically connecting with others. Participate in activities with a group of people with similar interests. Reach out by volunteering and giving kind attention to others. A great antidote for loneliness is to take part in festive activities with other people who are doing compassionate acts. A simple, but powerful behavior is to give someone at least two minutes of your undivided attention.

Give yourself the gift of self-care. If we drain ourselves by rushing around and checking off our lists, we won’t be available for quality time with our loved ones. Get enough sleep, eat healthy foods and move your body every day for thirty minutes. Time invested in daily self-care will more than pay for itself in the long run. Go for a short walk to reenergize. Take time each day for meditation, prayer or other ways to relax and focus through music, dance, knitting, crafts, or even astronomy. Get outside of your head by externalizing your attention to notice the beauty around you.

Maintain balance. Simplify your activities, don’t overindulge and focus on the events that truly fill your spirit. Connect with others through your creative skills, like writing, artwork, baking, cooking or decorating, with the deliberate intent of keeping them meaningful.

The holidays can put a strain on our mental, physical and emotional health. Schedule what truly gives you joy. Practice compassion for yourself and others to bring out the true joy of the season.

Wishing you well, good health and much joy this holiday season!

by Jamison Stoike

Self-care might be something frequently preached in the spa industry, but its practice is far more uncommon. According to the 2018 ISPA Spa Workforce Study, spa managers, directors and operators frequently work 45-50 hour workweeks, and nearly one in six employees left their previous employer due to a poor work/life balance.

Don’t think that you can’t practice self-care in winter just because the temperature is lower and the skies are bleaker —in fact, the season’s emphasis on bundling up inside with friends and family make it a great time to take time for yourself. Use these tips to help stay focused, purposeful and energized for the entire winter season.

1.Start a Goal Planner

Keeping New Year’s resolutions is tough; make it easier by setting up a goal planner before January comes. Whether you make your own or use one of the many options available in stores—popular options include PowerSheets, the Passion Planner and the SELF journal—a goal planner makes it fun to organize your life while helping you notch out time for the things that really matter.

2.Visit the Spa

Most spa managers, directors and operators could stand to have a good massage. In fact, a Snapshot Survey in 2014 found that the average ISPA member only gets one or two treatments per each month, despite themselves being advocates for the benefits of spa. This winter, take time to be mindful and enjoy a day at the spa being pampered and reconnecting with yourself and with others.

If you’re worried about not being able to get your mind off of work, don’t be afraid to visit a competitor’s spa in your area. When receiving a treatment at your own spa, you may find it difficult to fully unplug and enjoy the experience, says William Myers, regional director of spa for Chuan Spa at the Langham Chicago. Going to a different spa could allow you to fully immerse yourself in the experience.

3.Change Your Tech Habits

Daymond John is a big advocate for the power of unplugging, despite his high-powered role as an entrepreneur and business guru. Changing your tech habits can lead to a more fulfilling life, but it’s tough to quit cold-turkey. In his keynote address at the 2018 ISPA Conference & Expo, Daymond suggested staying off the phone for the first hour after you wake up. This is a simple, realistic change that can have a big impact on your creativity, mood and relationships.

For those looking to go even further, try to avoid using your phone when it’s dark outside. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the light emitted by cellphone screens disrupts production of melatonin and the body’s circadian rhythm, making it more difficult to fall asleep and keeping the brain alert longer than it should be. If you’re a spa director, staying off your email can be hard—but the reward is better sleep and a recharged, more creative mind.

4.Use Your Green Thumb

Cold weather outside is the perfect excuse to grow plants inside. There’s more to growing indoor potted plants than just looking good—they’re proven to improve concentration, reduce stress and, according to NASA research, remove large amounts of toxins from indoor air. Succulents in particular thrive in the dry air common indoors during winter.

5.Go Outside

Yes, the weather outside is frightful, but getting out during the winter can be an invigorating, inspiring way to connect with an important step in the cycle of seasons. According to the Mayo Clinic, alking boosts your mood, and you shouldn’t stop just because it’s cold. Whether your local climate features extreme snow, drizzly rains or a simple dip in temperature, going for a winter walk is a great way to energize yourself. Bundle up, get cozy and head outdoors for a walk. Pay attention to the sound of silence, the calmness of the world, and use your walk as a time to reflect.


Anxiety is a year-round struggle for millions of people, but it can be exacerbated by short winter days and time spent snowed in. John Forsyth, Ph.D. and Georg Eifert, Ph.D., authors of Anxiety Happens: 52 Ways to Find Peace of Mind, shared with Pulse their top strategy for centering yourself and overcoming anxiety:

“Use ‘I am’ meditation. This meditation teaches us, in a disarmingly simple way, that we are not what our mind constantly tells us. If you can learn to watch thinking as thinking, what we ultimately come back to is a simple ‘I am.’ Not ‘I am anxious.’ Those are words—the mind describing the person and their emotional experience. But the words are not the person.”

So, the next time you feel like you’re in a spiral of negativity, take a few minutes to repeat “I am” to yourself. Focus on what you actually are—a person that exists in the present moment—and not what your mind says you are.