2007-11-23 / Community

Coping With Stress At Holiday Time

It's that busy time of year, again. The holidays are upon us. There's so much to do and so little time to do it all. Are you feeling overwhelmed? Is your neck or back bothering you? Are you having difficulty sleeping? All of these can be symptoms related to stress. Don't worry; help is here with some simple, but effective, holiday stressbusting tips.

Focus your Breathing. Focused breathing is the most important tool for calming the body and mind. When we feel anxious or stressed, we automatically breathe with rapid, shallow, inefficient breaths that tend to raise our heart rate and blood pressure. Slow, deep breathing regulates the body back into balance by stimulating the body's natural relaxation response. Inhale through your nose and then exhale through your mouth as if you are slowly blowing out a candle. Make your exhalation longer than the inhalation. Practice this breathing exercise on a regular basis for five slow breaths throughout the day, especially when feeling tense or anxious.

Don't Strive for Perfection. Most stress has to do with agonizing about the past and worrying about the future. Perfectionism induces a state of high stress. Since peace can only exist in the present moment, it vanishes when the need for perfection consumes your effort. Give yourself a gift and enjoy the present with all its natural imperfections.

Remember to Take Care of Yourself. Multi-tasking and juggling your time can be very stressful and tiring. You will be more energized and focused if you feel balanced. During busy holiday time, take some time out for yourself to replenish and renew your spirit. Take a walk, read a book, relax in a soothing bath or sip aromatic tea. Try to spend some time doing something for yourself that you enjoy. Put it on your to-do list and savor the special time set aside just for you. This will give you the oomph to continue to give to others.

Exercise your Inner Resources. During the holidays, family gatherings may stir up some unresolved feelings. Most grievances are due to an "unenforceable rule" which is an expectation that we desire, but we don't have the power to make happen. Anything that you accept fully will bring you into a peaceful state of mind. Intuition is our inner voice of guidance. The more you listen to your "gut," your intuition becomes stronger and more accurate. Sit quietly and ask for assistance in reaching a solution to the holiday problem that you've been facing. Finally, the virtue of patience requires a willingness to allow life to unfold at its own pace. A great opportunity to practice patience is while waiting on a slow-moving line at a store. You'll feel better if you remember to breathe deep, think patient thoughts and smile.

Measure your Level of Stress. Ask yourself, "How much stress are you feeling?" Start with a scale with a rate of 10-as catastrophic stress, such as death, to 1- the stress of a stubbed toe. This helps you place your stress in the perspective of the larger picture. You have two choices for dealing with the holiday stress. First, you can modify your environment to reduce your stress. For example, if you're concerned that the stores will be too busy, you can shop at off-peak hours, such as early in the morning, or budget extra time for long lines. Second, you can change the way you perceive or react to the stressful situation.

Holiday time should be a time when we enjoy the company of family and friends; a time when we reach out to others to spread good will, lend a helping hand and try to make the season enjoyable for others. By utilizing some of the tools provided here, we can also ensure that holidays are enjoyable for ourselves. Find whatever perspective you need to transform your negative holiday stress into grateful, focused energy. Remember to take five deep breaths, flex your inner resource muscles and think positive holiday thoughts.

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