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How To Steer Clear Of Holiday Stress

Every Black Friday for several years, my husband and I spent time dressing up as Mr. & Mrs. Santa with our decked out 17 foot red Mohawk canoe. Red lights, Charlie Brown Christmas tree, and lots of adrenaline rush energized us as we paddled amongst fancily lighted yachts and cruisers. Hundreds cheered in rhythm shouting, “San-ta, San-ta, San-ta” as we honked the horn with the same rhythm. I may have missed shopping deals on Black Friday, but I’ve not regretted past experiences of creative events like this. Although any event or shopping spree can be stressful, we can learn how to steer clear of Holiday stress.

We can learn how to steer clear of Holiday stress. Click To Tweet

Here’s three tendencies to change if you’re overcome with stress.

Tendency to live with perpetual stressors

It’s easy to get used to our stressors without realizing the effect it’s having on us. Whether we’re overcome with finances, relationships, or household clutter, we tend to adapt it as normal.

We need to re-evaluate every 90 days to discover what we need to eliminate from our routines. For example, after years of decorating our canoe, we made a conscious decision to let go of the yearly tradition. We’re thankful for the memories, but have accepted our limits and energy at this season of our lives.

Tendency to be a harsh self critic

If we listened to our automatic thoughts out-loud, we may be shocked to discover how harsh we are with ourselves. We wouldn’t speak to our best friends with the same critical messages in our heads. Do you find yourself being critical when you’ve forgotten or failed at something? Thoughts like,

I should have done this or that or, I could have. . . or, I wished I would have. . . 

If we spend our mental energies thinking the would’a, could’a, should’a; we’ll perpetuate the stress awaiting our attention.

We perpetuate stress by using mental energy to ruminate on would'a, could'a, should'a. Click To Tweet

Tendency to think we can do it all

Many times we measure ourselves with others even though our physical energy and motivations are different. And we make the mistake of measuring our current selves with our past selves.

Although we’d dressed up our canoe and ourselves for the Parade of Lights for several years in a row, we began to realize our tendency to compare our present energy with our past. It took a lot of rowing and concentration along with risks among the larger crafts. It was okay to allow our experiences to become memories and relieve ourselves of the stress.

Each of us have specific situations when it comes to knowing how to steer clear of holiday stress. It’s important to re-evaluate and consider our tendencies to:

  • Live with perpetual stress
  • Be a harsh self critic
  • Think we can do it all

Our ability to steer clear of holiday stress takes just as much concentration, balance, and partnership as Mr. & Mrs. Santa rowing in a lighted canoe in the parade of lights.

Your next step

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Anxiety

Anxiety: How Journal Writing Helps

Anxiety: How Journal Writing Helps.

My first diary may have been pink or blue with flowers or peace signs, I’m not sure. But I know the mounted metal lock and flimsy key made me think it was secure. As a fourth grader who liked a boy in my class, it was a treasure box for my secret desires. It later became a way to process anxiety.

Anxiety Journal

Handwriting in a journal is one of the most intricate and complex things our brains can do. Without an outlet, those neurons can take you on trails of negativity, worry, and harsh self-talk. Even when you write down a list or phrases in a journal, you release those unwanted thoughts and focus on more important things, like the project or task that needs your full attention.

Then you can close the journal and use your mental energy toward living in the moment. The toxic thoughts transfer from your head to the journal.

Learn to live in the moment. Transfer uninvited thoughts from your head to your journal. Click To Tweet

Anxiety Appointment

For those who struggle with anxiety, I encourage them to find a 30 minute time frame at the same time every day to write in a special journal just for those anxious moments. You begin to train your anxious thoughts to associate a physical journal as a place to land.

When anxiety rears it’s ugly head at uninvited times, you can tell it, “I’m busy now. You’ll need to wait for your appointment later today.”

Journal Writing – Growth Beyond Anxiety

When your anxious thoughts are written down and closed up in a physical book, you can put it on the shelf or hide it under the mattress. It’s there when you need it again. Or it’s there when the anxiety is no longer haunting. Or it’s there when you’re far enough removed from it that you can look back and celebrate how far you’ve grown out of them. Like looking at a picture of your immature self that doesn’t even look like you any more.

Handwriting in a journal is one of the most intricate and complex things our brains can do for well-being. Click To Tweet

From Anxiety to Gratitude 

The authors of The Five Minute Journal consider daily journal-writing as good for your mental health as brushing and flossing your teeth is for your dental hygiene. You build up plaque in your brain if you go days without writing what you’re thankful for.

The mind is so intricately complicated and we can’t possibly be aware of every automatic thought that takes us on a trail of negative ruminations. But we can direct our thoughts that serve us well. The habit of writing down what we’re thankful for every morning primes our brains before starting our day. We learn to look for amazing things as we reflect and write them down right before going to sleep at night.

Write for Well-being

Our minds are now more complex and stressed with patterns of thinking than our ten year old selves. We’ve outgrown our fourth grade anxieties and diaries with peace signs and flimsy locks. Let’s continue to outgrow our current worries. Let’s appoint a time to write and give our ourselves the well-being to live fully in the present.

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Family Stress

5 Ways to Relieve Family Stress During Holidays

Family stress during holidays can range from mildly challenging to overbearing.  Sometimes it’s traumatic losses such as  divorce, death, or past trauma. Or invisible tension from emotional abuse, arrogance, manipulation, negativity or other issues.  Our personal history can make us vulnerable to reactions and old relationship wounds. We end up with feelings of dread.

These five ways to relieve family stress takes courage, practice, and planning. For some, it takes professional help. If you find yourself overly stressed at the thoughts of being with family, here’s five things to consider.

  1. Be open and curious about different perspectives.

We’re not even aware when we bring our internal stories and judgments into our heads about others and ourselves.  We all desire to be heard, understood, and validated. It’s challenging for us to hold the viewpoints and experiences of another when theirs is radically different from our own.  

It takes being intentional to be curious about another who is different than we are. Being open and curious instead of an “I’m-right-and-you’re-wrong” attitude. Curiosity and openness is the beginning of humility and understanding. Click To Tweet

  1. Take deep breaths.  

When someone does or says something that instantly stirs your insides, take three deep long breathes – easier said than done. We’re triggered by an embarrassing comment or an unintentional put down. Without knowing it, your brain tells you wordless messages like: “Youre not safe. Youd better walk away. . . or fight.  Stand your ground. They are the enemy.  Heart rate and blood pressure rises. The fight, flight, or freeze reaction strikes like lightning.

Deep breathing slows all this down. It only takes 90 seconds for the neuro-pathways to connect with the reasoning part of the brain. Three or four deep belly breaths help make this happen.

Rational thoughts about the same offense may sound like, “I must have been misunderstood . . . they may not be aware of how I just experienced them .  . . I’ve said impulsive things before . . . this reminds me of _______ . . . I wonder what’s really going on. . .”

  1. Be intentional about positive thoughts and actions.

We need about eight positive interactions to cancel out one negative. You’d be surprised at how contagious our thoughts and actions are. Most of us don’t realize how we invite others to respond negatively to us. We’re unaware of our own facial expressions, mood, and tone.  Our internal thoughts affect others. Attitudes show up like a proud peacock.  

  1.  Look for divine encounters.

Be willing to look for a loving and welcoming God in the midst of relationships. I believe divine encounters happen in the present moment and among relationships with others.

My favorite way of doing this is being with my little grandchildren and seeing the world through their eyes. It’s easy to be with them because they’ve not developed the defenses that grown adults have learned. Of course, it’s challenging to see the little girl or boy inside a grown adult’s body.

When we see a hurt child underneath another’s stern gestures, we can choose to make loving eye-contact. Too often our own child wounds keep our gaze away in fear.

Imagine allowing conflict with another to be an invitation from the Holy Spirit to grow and heal. Honor the other person with the viewpoint of meeting God in the interaction. You open yourself up to transformation!

  1. Be willing to say “no thank you.”

In some cases, family stress can be poisonous to one’s emotional and mental well-being. If you struggle with overwhelming anxiety, it’s necessary and appropriate to say “no thank-you” to family gatherings. Some situations are so severe that it’s important to get professional counseling. Get help with how to say no and make alternate plans in a way that nurtures your soul.  

Remember to practice: be open, take deep breaths, have positive thoughts, look for divine encounters, and say “no thank you.” May your family stress be turned into opportunities for awareness, positivity, and personal growth. 

Questions to Ponder

What has been most challenging to you in the past?

What is one take-away for you from this list of 5 ways?