Time with the family can bring up old belief patterns, stress, and anxiety that's not always explainable, but suddenly, it's there. Maybe it's that cooky aunt that always makes you feel bad about yourself, maybe it's aaalll the things you need to get done before the entire family comes over. Maybe it's the ungrateful guest that doesn't help in any way, just expects you to do it all. Maybe it's that feeling you wake up with in the morning that is dread for all of it, you can't pick out one thing that adds to your stress, it's all of it. Or... just maybe... it's all the crap you (or your kids/husband) put into your body over the holidays, not connecting that to your mental health at all, and suddenly there's chaos in the house!
Whatever it is, it's hard to stay focused, peaceful and grateful through the holidays, it's just plain and simple. We're going in 10 directions, making food for parties, making sure all the gifts get bought, making sure the gifts fit into the budget, making sure we still get our vegetables!--trust me I've been there. I've got a few relatives that trigger me, I've got a history with control issues and spending issues, I've got a fiercely introverted personality that just wants to stay home and hide.
So I wanted to provide you with some tools that I've come to trust to help get me out of the fog of holiday anxiety. I hope they serve you as well as they've served me!
1. Plan your self care: whether that's blocking time to spend outside in the woods or soaking in the hot springs, getting a pedicure or taking a yoga class, I plan my self care with consistency. Every week, before my calendar fills with to-dos and appointments, I fill in the things I want to do for me. Usually that's 3 to 5 time blocks of about 90 minutes each. If I know it's going to be a stressful week, I make sure it's more like 5 sessions, and I book an extra special one like a massage. One caveat--if you think "shopping therapy" or food is a version of self care, let me urge you to shift your thinking on that. Self care is something that brings down your blood pressure, is done alone or with just one other person who is taking care of you (massage therapist, esthetician), and it's preferable if it actually helps you breathe deeper, bonus points for outdoor fresh air.
2. Just say no: during this time of year we take on more than we can, because we think it's right to say yes. But it doesn't serve you to say yes, it just makes you less of you, when you fragment yourself off into smaller and smaller pieces, leaving not much of you to be present in everything you do. It's your presence that's the present to others, just being there to listen, nod, love. So say no to 3 things this week. THREE. If someone asks you to take extra hours at work, say "I'm practicing setting my boundaries, Johnny, and while I appreciate you thinking of me, I am going to have to pass on the extra hours this week." If someone asks you to make an extra four pies for the church function, say "I'm so glad you think so highly of my pies, MaryAnne, but I'm going to have to decline, I can only manage the six I'm already bringing. Thanks!" JUST SAY NO! (Graciously.)
3. Smile more: preferably at inappropriate times. This is one of my favorite anti-anxiety tricks. You see, anxiety is the evil twin of your adult self, the grownup self that feels she has to do everything, get it done, be the grownup, be responsible, suck it up. But the Inner Child in you is the one that really wants to PLAY, to smile, to jump, and laugh, and be loved. So one of my favorite hacks to the anxious adult energy is to smile--preferably at inappropriate times. When your eco-warrior relative lays her guilt trip mindset on you about all the paper you're wasting with wrapping paper, instead of getting defensive and grumbling under your breath and maybe storing up that hurt and anger like little cancer cells, think of me, and SMILE. REALLY BIG. Maybe nod too, maybe giggle a little. You don't have to answer, just smile. It's pretty hard to stay mad at someone while smiling.
4. Breathe: This one seems like a no brainer. It's simple, it's automatic. But we live in a space of shortness--we are never quite fully taking deep breaths. So we have to consciously do that. And when we do, we can fully let go. So try it. When you feel the anxiety coming on, take 5 deep breaths, and try adding something like I love you, or Ho'Oponopono (I love you, I forgive you, I'm Sorry, Thank you).
5. Affirmations: If you haven't seen what we've been sharing lately, we just released a wonderful 21 days of Affirmations Mini Series, and we'd love for you to join us for that! In it we cover so many key points of healthy mindset and peace of mind--that all start with affirmations (over 60 of them through this series!). Check it out! It's my foundation for mental health, and has been for over 20 years now!
Wherever you are, and whatever you're doing this holiday, we hope that you work on your own inner peace throughout, so that you can help us cultivate a more peaceful, loving world for generations to come.
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