Holiday time is here! And… so is the stress.
The very things that can create so much joy during the holidays are the ones that can also bring on the stress: Family gatherings, gift-giving, and non-stop holiday parties.
If you’re feeling stressed, join the crowd: Research says that 70% of us feel a spike in stress during the holidays.
Below are 5 of my fave de-stressing techniques.
Every notice how much you hold your breath when you’re stressed? We all do! And holding breath is a key component to anxiety. Consciously remembering to BREATHE changes everything.
Following is a great breathing exercise that is a fast and easy way to literally alter your nervous system into a calmer state:
• Breathe in for 4 counts (into the lower belly – it extends out as you breathe in)
• Hold for 5 counts
• Breathe out for 6 counts.
Do this for at least 4 times. You’ll FEEL different because it changes your physiology. (Try it right now!).
Remembering to do this anytime you’re feeling frustrated (you get caught in traffic on the way to your family event), disappointed (your food comes out “less than perfect”), angry (your relative gets wasted and obnoxious) – or any other Mind Loop coming on… is the key to letting the magic of your breath smooth things out.
2) The Nasty 4 – Make a Plan.
Watch out for these 4 reactions to stressful events: Victim, Blame, Complain, Gossip.
I call them the Nasty 4 because they can wreak havoc on your nervous system.
We can get SO tangled up during the holidays from expectations (from ourselves or others), people not doing things “our way” (which is the “right way,” naturally), and overcommitting our energy and time, that it’s easy to go into any one of these 4 states of mind. As a result, we feel crummy, exhausted, and resentful.
Make a PLAN of how you will respond differently whenever any of these states show up for you. It will work even better if you visualize yourself having that different response – like seeing yourself leaving the table just as a heated political conversation starts up, or when “that” relative is on their 6th hot toddy and things start getting crazy.
Your Plan to shift from the Nasty 4 may also include the De-Looping Method. Here’s a quick review:
The De-Looping Method (a quick review of the first 4 steps):
Detect that you thinking a negative thought or feeling a negative emotion;
Detach from it by naming it;
Detour your mind/attention to something else;
De-Story it = reframing the situation to something that’s tolerable – and even beneficial.
There is tons of research on the soothing power of music. Because music links to your emotions, it has the power to alter how you’re feeling. Studies have shown that slow, quiet music can even slow your pulse and heart rate, lower your blood pressure, and decrease your levels of stress hormones. (Wow!)
During the holidays (or any other stressful time), people will think, “What?! Take time out to listen to a song? You gotta be kidding. I have way more important things to do!”
I have noticed in my own life that when I say that, it means it’s exactly the right time to do it! Because when we’re less stressed, we’re more productive. And smaller breaks throughout the holidays are the way to keep the stress down (whether those breaks are with music, breathing, meditation, or bursts of exercise).
Here is a tune that has calming properties! It’s me singing one of my favorite holiday songs. I hope it calms and uplifts you. 🙂
We all know that laughing helps to ease tension. If things feel dead serious and irritating as hell, that’s your cue to consciously FIND things to laugh about! There are usually a lot more funny things going on if you make the intention to view life from a humorous lens. Many times after I have de-story’ed a situation, the whole thing suddenly appears hilarious to me.
If that’s feels out of reach though, here’s a technique I love and use when I’m feeling down or stressed:
Consciously bring up a memory when you were laughing hysterically.
For instance… my friend Ricardo and I wore Elvis wigs for 4 days non-stop while staying at the posh Empress Hotel in Victoria B.C. Multiple laughing attacks during those 4 days – especially during High Tea!
What memory do you have of a time when something cracked you up?
Thought of one? Great! Now it’s ready to replay when you get stressed.
Yep, gratitude – again! People mention this one all the time because it WORKS. You can only have one thought at a time. If you’re in the midst of a negative Mind Loop or stressed out about a family gathering, switching into gratitude will quickly put things into perspective.
Studies show that shifting into gratitude can make you happier, lower your stress, protect you from depression, help you sleep better, boost your immune system, and improve your relationships. Not bad.
Here are 3 questions to ask yourself to generate gratitude.
(Choose 1 or all 3 questions):
• What are 3 things I did right today?
• What are 3 things that I really appreciate about today?
• What are 3 things I’m looking forward to today?
Incorporate any or all of these techniques into your holiday season and observe how much better it goes. When YOU feel good, everyone around you will feel better too (and they’ll be more fun to hang out with). 😉
Wishing you a beautiful season!
To your happiness,
Author of the #1 Amazon Kindle Bestseller, How To Stop Negative Thoughts
Contributing author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller, The Transformative Power of Near-Death Experiences