Tracy Faust, MA, -, Master, of, Arts, LPC, SAC, -, Licensed, Professional, Counselor, with, Substance, Abuse, Specialty, Authorization
What’s been preventing you from getting closer to your goals? Is it some holdover inaccurate belief that you’re not good enough, could never realize your potential, can’t live up to others’ expectations? If so, these misguided beliefs are proving toxic to your everyday interactions as well as long-term plans. They’re linked to stress build-up and emotional distress, including increased anxiety and depression. Making a conscious effort to change how you think about things, however, can dramatically eliminate or cut down on acute and acute episodic stress and associated negative emotions. You might benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) from a professional therapist or teach yourself how to change your thought patterns. There’s no better time to reframe how you regard your life than the holidays.
Meditate and pray.
It isn’t necessary to be deeply religious to benefit from prayer. Thinking or saying devotional verses are spiritually uplifting and help dash stress. Similarly, the practice of meditation can provide an immediate release of stress as well as countless other mind-body-spirit benefits. Both meditation and prayer can be practiced alone or with others present. No professional training is required, although learning meditation techniques that work for you may entail checking out instructional videos or step-by-step manuals. Research shows that yoga can reduce stress as well.
When there’s just too much going on during the holidays – and who hasn’t experienced the crush of shopping, meal preparation, decorating, party planning and cleanup – one time-proven method to ease holiday anxiety and stress can be captured with one word: simplify. Ask yourself why you’re doing this? Is all this necessary or can some of the tasks be delegated, eliminated, combined or shared? For example, there’s no need to be a slave in the kitchen, doing everything yourself, including packing and saving leftovers, scraping pots and pans, loading and unloading the dishwasher, taking out the trash, when others can help make the chore lighter and go by faster by lending a hand. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. This gives you more time to spend with loved ones and family members. If decorating gets you down because there’s always something you forgot or needs fixing or you’re just not up to it, pare it back or skip the extra touches this year. You’ll be much less stressed and more relaxed when you start simplifying for the holiday.
Be mindful what you eat and drink.
Speaking of holiday meals and get-togethers, avoid the tendency to overindulge on food and drink by choosing mindful eating. Why wolf down several cookies or an extra-large piece of pecan pie with ice cream and whipped cream when one cookie or a slim slice of pie minus that accompaniments will satisfy your sweet tooth and result in less fat calories consumed? The same holds true for portion size. Go for less on your plate, use a smaller size plate, and no going back for seconds. As for beverages, go light on any alcohol and pass up empty-calorie holiday drinks. When you’re not overstuffed, your body is better able to maintain balance with lower blood pressure and less cholesterol, for example. You’ll sleep better too.
Find common bonds.
When family events during the holiday bring together some family members with whom you or others in your party have had disagreements or a frayed relationship, it can cast a pall on the day. Instead of focusing on what separates you, actively look for what you share. Love of family, deep reverence for a Higher Power, children, long history, activities you enjoy – these are the ingredients of common bonds that can help ensure a more peaceful and loving holiday.
Take a walk before the holiday meal or afterward. Make it a family event while you’re at it. Get those endorphins – the body’s natural feel-good chemical – flowing. This easy-to-do exercise, as well as other forms of exercise, not only improves mood, it also boosts circulation, sooths muscles, gets rid of adrenaline buildup and helps repair some of the damage accumulated stress causes.
Reconnect with friends or geographically-removed family.
Maybe you’re not able to physically be with family this holiday, due to their living far away or not being close enough to visit. Some with whom you have a relationship may be isolated or ill and unable to participate in holiday celebrations. When you think of how blessed you are to have what you do, think too of others who may not be so fortunate. Pick up the phone and talk live with those individuals to bring a little joy into their lives. It’s amazing what a stress-buster such a simple act of kindness produces. You’ll also feel better about yourself and more conscious of strengthening relationship bonds that deserve your attention.