HOLIDAY STRESS: Tools To Support Emotional Stability In Times Of Stress, Overwhelm And Anxiety

Diffuse holiday stress

Diffuse Holiday Stress

The holiday season can bring emotional turmoil.

Sure there can be the enjoyable moments of family fun, beautiful twinkly lights and decorations, and coming together to celebrate.

But the flipside can be the holiday stress of trying to get it all done. Holiday preparation and shopping adds to your overwhelm. Resentment of being stuck in the kitchen all day while others in the household sit on the couch watching football. And anxiety creeps in as you anticipate old patterns being triggered, yet again, as the family comes together.

Just this morning I got a call from a friend I’m visiting in North Carolina mid-month. She informed me that her husband’s extended family would be having their annual holiday gathering during my time there. “Would I be horrified to have to attend?” she asked. I, of course, don’t have any emotion around the event. But just by her question and phrasing I picked up that she had holiday stress!

A special brew of holiday stress this year. Particularly with the emotions still raging high with the election and the uncertainly of what it means for the future, my clients are coming in with higher stress, anxiety and deep grief about where our society is at. Add the holidays into the mix and the emotions are stewing in a pot of sticky goo.

You can change your response. You cannot often change the outer world. You cannot change the behavior of a family member. But you CAN change your response to the outer stress triggers.

Keep it simple with three tools to support holiday stress and emotional stability. There are endless possibilities of tools you could use to stabilize your calm center. But I don’t want to add to the overload! Certainly keep using what is tried and true for you. And if you’re looking for a couple new resources, check out these three.

  1. Use your breath to balance the bubbling over emotions. Pranayama, breath exercise, helps to move the flow of prana or life force. What doesn’t flow gets stuck, becomes stagnant and can lead to mental and physical stress.

You want to move that energy of the emotion through your body instead.

One of my favorite pranayama for this is “Perspective & Emotional Balance”. Excellent to do before bed to let go of the stress and worries of the day, allow new perspectives, and establish balance and calmness after periods of intense stress or shock.

To do, sit in a comfortable position with a tall, straight spine.

  • Close the eyes and gently press them up by focusing at the point just above and in between the eyes, or the Brow Point.
  • Use the right thumb and pinkie finger to close off the alternate nostrils.
  • First, close off the right nostril with the right thumb and inhale deeply through the left nostril.
  • When the breath if full (without straining), close off the left nostril with the pinkie finger and exhale smoothly through the right nostril.
  • Continue in this rhythm of inhaling through the left and exhaling out the right.
  • The breath should be smooth, continuous and complete without any pauses in between.

10 minutes is a great start. Practicing 15 minutes will turn the exercise into a deep meditation. 22 minutes creates an inner state that the mind can use as a resource to support you in daily life. And after a period of practice or if you are already experienced, doing 31 minutes will cleanse the body and restore the nervous system of the effects of shocks. For the deepest effects, work up to 31 minutes then hold daily for 40 days.

  1. Switch the tape. Yogic science offers all sorts of wisdom and tools on how to channel the racing, out of control mind. This is helpful if you are stuck in the emotions or if you can’t get your mind to take a break from its looping story.

My favorite way to flip negativity, especially if other people are involved, is with a meditation for loving kindness, called Metta Meditation. There are numerous variations of these meditations but all usually involve offering the energy first to yourself and then outward to either multiple groups or to the world at large.

Metta is great because it offers positive energy out to counter the fear and hate with love and compassion. Here are two variations to try.

  • May I be happy, May I be peaceful, May I be liberated. Repeat at least 3 times. May all beings be happy, May all beings be peaceful, May all beings be liberated. Repeat at least 3 times.
  • Offer the 4 lines first to yourself then to a teacher, a loved one, a neutral person, and an enemy (or someone you are having problems with or have negativity towards). May I/ you be filled with loving kindness, May I/ you be well, May I/you be peaceful and at ease, May I/you be happy.

 You could do this daily as you go to bed or as you start your day. Or anytime the negative loop kicks in, you can simply put this in place of the old narrative.

  1. Give yourself some extra TLC. But be mindful of the form of TLC you give yourself.

When you are feeling emotionally vulnerable or overloaded, your tendency will be to turn to old comfort tools. Unfortunately, those quick fix tools – emotional eating, having a cigarette, taking the edge off with that extra glass of wine – are not the ones that will give you true support.

Have your TLC really be nurturing.

  • Give yourself the gift of a massage or energy balancing session.
  • Take a lavender scented bath with candles. Locked door with notice given to your family to not be disturbed please!
  • Get together with a positive friend for a walk in the woods.
  • Watch a comedy or uplifting movie.
  • Go to your favorite teahouse and sit for an hour or two with a good book.

Be gentle with yourself. There is no perfection so let it go. If it doesn’t go as planned, when has judging yourself or beating yourself up ever made you feel better or changed the outcome? Don’t completely go off track with your positive self-care, but give yourself a little flexibility and leeway. Especially if traveling for the holidays, pick a couple routines to anchor you then let go of the others and create more time to just be – with yourself and those you there to enjoy.

©2016, Jamie Durner, Ayurvedic Practitioner and Certified Life Coach at Abundant You Coaching

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