Be honest. Which is more likely to be dancing through your head this holiday season: visions of sugarplums or the beginning of a migraine?
“The holidays never seem to live up to their promise, ” “They are way more trouble than they’re worth, ” “I just run, run, run, trying to cram everything in, and I’m completely sick of them by the time it’s all over. ”
The key culprit to the demise of holiday cheer is quite often plain old stress. From the Thanksgiving weekend through to New Years Day our lives are a mad rush of office parties, gatherings of friends, and family obligations. There are presents to buy, food to prepare, and schedules to coordinate. It’s not surprising that many people look forward to the season with anxiety rather than joy.
We all have stress. The question is: what are you going to do about it? Though ongoing stress can wreak havoc on us mentally and physically, the good new is it is manageable. There are many ways to mitigate its effects, even during the frenzy of festivities. A key element to de-stress your life is the mind. Sometimes a little mental shift is all it takes to get us back into the swing of things. And even if changing your behavior is required, the mind can play an important role in helping to make that adjustment.
Get Those Endorphins Moving
Exercise is a proven stress-reducer, yet during the holidays it’s often pushed right off the calendar by the social whirl. For most people it’s hard enough to get motivated to work out, never mind making it a priority when there are so many other tempting offers.
You know how they say great sex starts in the mind? Well it’s true of great workouts too, and the mind can play a vital role in encouraging you to get active. Before you go to sleep at night, imagine yourself working out the next day, feeling great and loving the results. Envision your muscles gaining strength and flexibility. Imagine how energized you are. Come morning, you are much more likely to fit that workout into your day, thanks to inner motivation.
An added benefit of mental exercise is that it actually shows some results. No, you’re not going to get buns of steel by just thinking of pumping iron, but studies show that injured athletes who imagine their workout routine in their minds are able to come up to speed much more quickly. There’s even some research that shows muscles gaining tone and strength with visualized exercise as compared to the muscles of people who did nothing at all. So, if you simply cannot find the time in your day to get a workout in, use a few minutes to imagine yourself doing it. You’ll get stress-busting endorphins flowing and it won’t be so hard to get back on the horse the next time.
Forgoing the Feast
What we eat plays a big role in keeping stress at bay. A well-nourished body is better equipped to combat the effects of stress, and foods also have a direct impact on our moods. Unfortunately, during the holidays high-fat sugary foods seem to be everywhere. Even people who typically eat a well-balance diet can be tempted by the delectables that seem to be gracing every table. However, with the help of your imagination you can make a few small changes that will have a positive impact on in how you approach holiday eating.
Before you attend a food-filled bash, take a few moments to see yourself behaving exactly as you want to during the party. Research shows that by imagining something in your mind, you’re much more likely to act it out. See yourself enjoying the company of others, having such a good time you hardly even notice if food is in the room. Or imagine yourself at the buffet, choosing a small plate, reviewing the food and creating a reasonable meal for yourself. Then march into that party behaving confidently just as you did in your mind.
Sugary foods seem to be particularly plentiful at holiday time. Everywhere you turn some confectionary delight is glittering invitingly. Too much sugar can cause your energy and mood to crash – not helpful when you’re trying to juggle a myriad of holiday activities. Luckily, you can have as many “inner cookies” as you like. Close your eyes and indulge completely in whatever your favorite treat is. Savor it. Enjoy it. Have another if you so desire. Make sure to finish up by feeling highly satisfied. In addition to helping you avoid energy crashes, inner cookies never show up on your hips or thighs.
It’s also easy to overindulge with alcohol during the holidays. And while many people think of alcohol as something that helps us to relax, in larger amounts it actually increases stress by placing extra demands on your body, disrupting sleep, and creating hangovers. Some people also drink because they’re shy, and think a little alcohol will loosen inhibitions and make socializing easier. Unfortunately, too much alcohol can cause many of us to act in ways that are less-than-flattering, and the stress of that will likely follow you long after the holidays are over.
Limiting alcohol can greatly improve how you feel mentally and physically. As with food, visualize yourself behaving exactly as you want to. For example, see yourself ordering sparkling water, or being so enraptured in conversation you don’t even have a drink in hand. Imagine yourself being lively and interesting, while remaining calm and coherent. See yourself waking up the next morning looking and feeling great, with no regrets, ready to face the day.
Take a Mini-Vacation in your Mind
Even someone with a well-balanced diet and exercise routine is likely to encounter increased stress during the holidays. Often the biggest demand is on your time. If you can’t fit in a quick trip to the Bahamas for a little R&R, take a mini-vacation in your mind instead. The technique is deceptively simple: close your eyes, breathe deeply, and imagine yourself in a lovely spot, doing something delightful. Focus on how you feel, imagine the sights and sounds. You’ll be amazed at how a vacation in the mind can help you to refresh and rejuvenate, and prepare you to get back into the real world.
You can fit these mini-vacations into all kinds of empty spots in your day. Commuting on the bus; waiting in a long line at the checkout, even a quick trip to the bathroom will suffice. And the best part is you don’t even have to pack.
Get Out Of Your Own Way
While a focused mind can help to create wonderful relaxation, what goes on in our heads is often the greatest roadblock to a truly enjoyable holiday season. We want everything to be so perfect that we create an unreachable level of anticipation. Or we so dread yet another family brawl that we enter the season with a sense of gloom and foreboding. We plan to be completely organized and efficient, and yet fear that chaos is just around the corner.
When it comes to the holidays, it’s crucial to put things into perspective. If your expectations are of perfection you’re not likely to reach them. Be realistic about what you can get done and rather than focusing on accomplishing every little detail, focus on family and friends. Keep things simple, be prepared, and be willing to be flexible.
For some people, the thought of being required to spend time with people they don’t particularly enjoy, especially family, can be very anxiety provoking. The best remedy is a good attitude. Plan for the positive; make it a game to find one story that makes your crabby Grandma Lou laugh. Promise yourself a lovely reward if you can make it through dinner without throwing something at your obnoxious brother. It takes two to tango, and you get to choose whether you let other people drag you down or not. Focus on the best of what family (or friends, or co-workers) have to offer.
Stress can invade your life at any time of the year, but it can be particularly troublesome during the “season of good cheer. ” How you prepare for and respond to the disruptions determines how quickly you can get back to a sense of calm and get on with your life. The ability to manage stress resides within you; if you don’t take care of it, no one will. When it comes to the holidays, remember the true purpose of season: to revel in loved ones, to enjoy the company of good friends, and to deepen your connection to spirit. All the other things are just details.
Bliss Trips are the creation of Kerstin Sjoquist, who combines her background as a Juilliard-trained actor and Certified Hypnotherapist to produce inner journeys that relax and transform. “In leading my workshops it became clear to me that most of us are in desperate need of a break. Even a brief bit of downtime can do wonders, so I created Bliss Trips to be a fun and inspirational way to give yourself some peace. The CDs are fabulous, because they do all the work for you, but sometimes you just need a bit of inspiration in the moment, and that’s why I created a Bliss-Trip a-Day. You can Bliss in the shower, Bliss on the bus… if you can close your eyes you can Bliss!”
To view today’s Bliss Trip, see samples of previous meditations, copy the syndication code for your own website, or sign up for the free Bliss Trip A Day email service go to: http://www.blisstrips.com