The holiday season is upon us. Such a joyous time as we indulge in get-togethers with family, friends, and co-workers. However, it can also be a stressful time as we juggle attending parties, shopping for gifts, and planning, cooking, and hosting events. On top of that it is the year-end for many organizations, which often means extra work. What if we could reduce that stress just a wee bit? I am sharing a few tips and practices for you to use during the holiday season and all year round. After all, stress doesn’t just come once a year.
Often, we need to start with ourselves and reflect on our actions, behaviours, and feelings as a starting point. Taking just a few minutes for reflection provides you with the information you need to determine where changes can be made.
Of key importance to reducing stress is identifying the causes, our frame of mind, and what we want to accomplish. The purpose of the information being presented is to accomplish a decrease in stress during the holiday season and into the new year.
I am using HeartMath™ resources for the tips I am sharing with you.
If you are reading this, you are demonstrating hope. You have identified something you want and are taking steps to achieve what you want. You have hope for change in your future. Hope is a positive emotion, and we want to have as many positive thoughts and feelings as possible. Where our mind goes, our energy flows (I don’t know the original author of this, but Tony Robbins did say something similar). Let your mind go to love, calm, and peace.
Start the Day Right
“Someone got up on the wrong side of the bed, today.” Most of us have been told that once or twice in our life. Some days it is hard to be positive. I have some chronic health challenges and it is not unusual for me to wake up in pain. I am always grateful to wake up, and on the days I wake up pain free I am extra grateful. Unfortunately, that is not how every day starts. On the good days it is easy to be grateful and have a positive outlook for the day ahead. On the not so good days I need to take some time to focus on heart feelings. Heart feelings, as described by HeartMath™ include gratitude, appreciation, care, kindness, and compassion; you might be able to add more, but those are good starters. Before you get out of bed identify two or three things for which you are grateful. Examples: I am alive, I have food available for breakfast, the sun is shining, or we are getting some much-needed rain. Put a smile on your face, even if just for a few seconds.
Take a couple of minutes to do some focused breathing:
- Choose a heart feeling such as kindness, gratitude, love, compassion, calm.
- As you breathe visualize your breath flowing in and out of your heart and chest area. Breathe in kindness. As you exhale, exhale kindness to all around you.
- Repeat this a few times and throughout the day if negative thoughts enter your mind.
Every day we make numerous choices; from what to have for breakfast, to the route we take to work, plus financial and work-related choices too numerous to list. What we want to remember is these are choices, and we are in control.
When we are stressed, we don’t make good decisions. Think about this – after an argument have you ever thought to yourself “why didn’t I say…?” or even “why didn’t I walk away?” Learn to take a moment to choose your response rather than react. Between stimulus and response there is a time for a brief pause – a gap, where we can choose what to say or do. Make use of the moment. Did your mom ever tell you to count to 10 before you say something? I know my mom certainly did as I often blurted out what I thought only to land myself in trouble. I still need to be diligent to remember to do this. We can’t take back words. Once spoken they are out there and can cause hurt, anger, or happiness and deep thought. Choose wisely.
What is the outcome you want from a specific situation or event? Can you get the outcome you want? Of course, you can. You might have to do a bit of work, though. How?
Example: You have a recurring meeting that is often challenging with much disagreement and little accomplishment. Many of the attendees disagree and don’t seem to be able to reach any sort of consensus. You find yourself becoming increasingly stressed and anxious just thinking about these regular meetings. The outcome you want is to not dread the meeting, not be stressed or anxious. The solution: take time before the meeting (or other pending stressful situation) to put yourself in a positive frame of mind. I suggest using Heart-Focused BreathingTM a HeartMathTM Technique.
Focus your attention in the area of your heart. Imagine your breath is flowing in and out of your heart or chest area. Breathe a little slower and deeper than usual. Find a rhythm that is comfortable for you.
As you continue breathing imagine yourself in the ‘situation’.
Now, radiate love and positive energy into this upcoming event or situation. This creates a positive energy field.
As the meeting or situation progresses you can practice this again if you feel things are not going well; you can reset the energy field and restore harmony.
How do you spend your time between events? What goes on in your head as you drive to work, or waiting in line for whatever, going for a walk, or exercising? Use this time to consider practicing heart qualities such as kindness, compassion, care, love, or appreciation.
Use the Heart-Focused BreathingTM Technique from the Outcomes section and radiate one or more of the heart qualities to people for whom you care. This practice will benefit you and those for whom you care. Remember, where the mind goes the energy flows.
This is something to do a few times during the day. Stop and consider where you are really at with your thoughts, feelings, and attitudes – your mood. Where is your energy being directed? Is your energy being drained or boosted? What we often consider the normal, little annoyances of routine can be extremely energy-draining. Frustration, annoyance, and impatience all drain our energy. What can you do about this?
- 1. Identify the drain.
- 2. Do Heart-Focused BreathingTM .
- 3. Picture a more positive response to the situation.
While stuck in traffic I have begun focusing on my breathing and listening to uplifting music. Afterall, there is nothing I can do about the actual situation. Consider your perceptions; is your glass half full, half empty, or refillable?
Making Important Decisions
We often worry about upcoming decisions or events, frequently without foundation. Think about what benefits you have received from worry. Probably none. So why do we allow ourselves to get into that worry state? Habit? The result is usually accumulated stress. Worry and stress aren’t conducive to creative solutions to our concerns or problems.
The big concern related to constant worry and negative thoughts is the accumulation of stress and its associated outcomes. Chronic stress over time eats away at our resilience, ability to be creative, and choose appropriate solutions eventually affecting our health mental, emotional, and physical. But how do we stop these things occurring? Traffic is out of our control, we won’t get along with everyone, and sometimes our jobs are on the line if we don’t attend those annoying meetings: so, what do we do? Make Heart-Focused Breathing™ part of your daily routine. This will help reset your baseline, help you shift your perception of the events, and over time you will be better able to handle and come back from those stressful situations. Additionally, our world needs more love, compassion, and kindness and taking this small amount of help will help you develop those qualities.
Make your decisions from a place of calm, love, and kindness when you are in control of your emotions.
Relationships – Getting Along
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all get along? Think of John Lennon’s Imagine – living life in peace, sharing all the world. The answer is love. Learning to love one another is possible. We don’t have to agree with everyone, we might even choose to not associate with some people, but we can still share love from our hearts.
We can set aside judgment, biases, and different beliefs. Be open, learn, and listen. The more you practice love, forgiveness, and kindness the easier it will flow to those around you. Start with self-love, self-compassion, and self-forgiveness. This might take some time, be gentle with yourself, one small step at a time. Don’t be ruled by stress and the fear that is so easily spread through the media; learn to think for yourself. Heed the advice of Stephen Covey “seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
What is your purpose in this life? Many of us ask this question, others just go with the flow. What were you meant to do that no one else on earth can do? You might find your purpose or what you want to do changes over time – that is ok, you are living and learning. Listen to your heart and to your intuition. Examine your desires, wishes, and values to determine what is most important in your life. From there you might just find your purpose.
Changes – Together We Can Change the World
We see wars and chaos everywhere. News and social media are filled with tragedy and fear. Kindness is free, give it openly. Gracefully accept kindness from others. Be kind to yourself. Learn to love yourself so you can love others. Learn to forgive yourself so you can forgive others. Share your wealth. Make note of all for which you can be grateful each day.
Wrap it all Together!
Make small changes toward reducing your stress and improving your life. Gratitude is a great starter – no matter how bad the situation there is something for which to be thankful. Know your small acts of kindness, compassion, caring, and love can make a huge difference to you and those with whom you interact.
I encourage you to check out HeartMath™ Resources at Resources | HeartMath Institute for additional information to find ways to reduce your stress all year long. If you need additional guidance to get your stress under control and find the beautiful life you deserve, give me a shout; I’m always available to chat.