I’ve been surprised at how many people are coming in totally stressed out the past week or so. I mean, I do normally hear about patients being stressed out, but now they are REALLY stressed out. And then I remembered, oh, yay, it’s the holidays. Isn’t it sad that this time of celebration, togetherness, light and love has gotten so stressful? Everyone worrying about buying presents, sending cards, making it to yet another holiday party, how much they’re going to spend, etc, etc?
Last year, I posted a link to a great article about avoiding stress at the holidays. It might be worth it to check it out, either again, or for the first time. The advice is good. Basically it’s saying, create your own traditions and memories and only do what you enjoy doing. Don’t feel obligated to do what you don’t really enjoy, or for everything to be perfect. If you really enjoy making cookies, do it. If not, don’t. If you really enjoy decorating the tree, great, but maybe it doesn’t have to be perfect, maybe it’s ok if the kids or a bunch of friends and neighbors help. We could go through a long list like that, but I think you get the idea.
Another idea I would offer is to make time to take care of yourself. I see too many people end up getting sick or burned out over the holidays because they didn’t. Schedule time for a nice massage, manicure, acupuncture, or quiet walk and make it sacred. You are part of the sacredness we are celebrating. Your body is your temple, you need it, you may not feel that you love it, but try saying that you do. Try saying out loud, “You are my temple, body, I love you.” Does it feel difficult? Silly? Do you come close to tears? Or are you laughing? Any of which may show that we just don’t take this seriously enough, so we’ve even grown to think of it as ridiculous, or we’ve neglected ourselves so much that it makes us cry. I know this is what can come up because I go through this myself. And I know if I’m saying those words out loud and I start to cry, it’s time to schedule some acupuncture or massage, or at least some alone time.
Lastly, I’d like to emphasize once again the importance of deep relaxation, as I mentioned in my post about the free therapies last spring. My favorite form of deep relaxation is meditation. Taking at least 15 minutes a day to just sit quietly and do nothing but focus on my breath may seem like nothing, but has been everything to me. First of all, it just gets me to slow down. Once I’ve done some meditation, I move through the next part of my day more slowly and consciously. This also means my heart rate has slowed, I’m not tensing as many muscles unnecessarily and most likely I’m not pumpin’ the adrenalin. It also brings clarity. Sometimes my mind is racing so fast, I can’t even see clearly. After pausing for a bit, I can suddenly see what’s important and what’s not. It becomes easier to make decisions and I become more efficient.
Part of the clarity is seeing what I do to myself. Since I am trying to focus on my breath, I sometimes really notice what thoughts do come up (not always, of course, there are times I get lost in thought even in meditation, but noticing that and coming back is a form of awareness in itself). I see how hard I’m being on myself. That my mind is full of ‘shoulds’ and ‘to dos’ and it all comes down to that I’m not good enough somehow. On some days, I just cry about that. On some days, I notice it and go on. And on some days, more and more as the years go by, I’m able to not only notice it, but then to say to myself, you know what, I AM good enough. Do you know how good that feels? I think that is the single best thing that calms me the most. Because when we’re not feeling good enough, we sure are going to be tense. And stressed. All I can ask is that you give it a try. Give yourself that present this holiday season. At first, it may feel difficult and it may seem like you’re thinking more, just because you’re noticing it. In the long run, the benefits are endless and full of light. Like the holidays.