RECOGNIZING SIGNS OF STRESS
This morning I was craving sweets and caffeine, although I THOUGHT I had slayed my sweet-tooth and had given up coffee for almost a year. Instead of giving in to these urges, I recognized that tightness in my solar plexus and a sense of desperation in my desires…all sure signs of stress. I accepted these cravings as a call for self-care, a red flag to explore what was bothering me, and an invitation to come to my mat to flow and meditate. I discovered I had been in a mode of give-give-give to others and hadn’t taken time to give myself what I needed to recharge my own batteries. I was grateful I had recognized these temptations as signs of stress and chose to feed my soul, instead of my cravings.
THE PRESSURE OF ADJECTIVES
For me, the holidays have historically been stressful due to a multitude of birthdays landing smack during the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons. But, my yoga practice and meditation have taught me to notice my tendency to CREATE more stress by expecting perfection from throwing unforgettable birthday experiences for my daughter, mother, husband and dad within a 19-day period, along with preparing exquisite holiday meals when hosting Thanksgiving and Christmas. Yes, that’s a lot of events in a short timespan but, I’ve learned it’s really the expectations and the adjectives that throw me into a tailspin.
STEER CLEAR OF YOUR EMOTIONAL EARTHQUAKE
As a result of my yoga and meditation practice the actual events that occur don’t necessarily change but, my perception and my way of being is transformed from feeling hectic to just celebrating another holiday season. I come back to myself, choosing my behavior and reactions to be grounded and centered in my truth, rather than feeling unstable when letting my emotions be defined by the reactions or approval of others. I’ve identified that my emotional earthquake is when I try to impress and please others because I desperately want their praise. There’s a freedom in knowing that now because I can catch myself before the ground starts trembling under me. What’s your emotional earthquake? Pin down what puts you on shaky ground then choose your path of solid foundation instead.
LET GO OF THE DELUSION THAT LIFE IS “SUPPOSED TO BE” GRAND, PERFECT, EASY, FAIR
We can trip ourselves up by believing that life is supposed to be hunky-dory, then when life throws us a curve ball we think “What did I do to make this go wrong?” or “Woe is me…”, which just adds to our suffering. Let go of the delusion that life is supposed to be grand, perfect, easy and fair. Instead accept each moment as if it was supposed to be, exactly as it is, and, let go of that habit of self-inflicted emotional-flogging…be gentle with yourself. The reality of life can be hard to accept sometimes but, with practice and changing your mindset to let go of expecting what is “supposed to be” of others and of yourself, your daily journey can take on an ease and lightness with each step.
BREAK THE HABIT OF WALLOWING IN EMOTIONAL YUCK
About self-inflicted emotional flogging…break the habit of wallowing in emotional yuck and press that eject button. “Mayday, mayday! I’m drowning in my own stupid drama! Eject! Eject!” Catch yourself in the act of flogging, get out, and laugh at yourself that you went there (again?) Avoid the double-flogging: “I can’t believe I got stuck in my own dramatic yuck again!!”. Yeah, don’t go there. Let your shallow breath or negative thoughts remind you to get a grip “on just the facts, Stan” and delete the dramatic tone in your voice and body language. Being dramatic can be a craving too. It can be addictive and alluring and a tough habit to break.
WHAT TURNS YOUR SOUL ON?
Make a habit of engaging in activities that make your soul sing and you will feel more centered and become less vunerable to emotional earthquakes, self-criticism, and drama. Give yourself permission to make yourself happy. Give yourself permission to make yourself happy. Intentional repetition added for emphasis because some of us (yes, including me) really need to hear this loud and clear. CHOOSE to make your heart smile and feed your soul with compassion and love. Take a yoga class, sit and meditate, journal, walk your dog, sing or dance like no one is watching, get lost in an artsy creative project, or immerse yourself in a nerdy, mad scientist invention. Create balance in your life and turn your soul on by paying attention to what makes your breath and body relax. It may take practice. It may take breaking habits and thought-patterns. It may seem like a miracle or a complete transformation. But, anything is possible with your intentions and determination.
Stress can crop up daily but yes, what comes up during the holidays can run the gamut, right? It can be that special (spoken with that sarcastic SNL accent) time of year requiring pulling up our rooted boot straps and fortifying ourselves with more food for our soul. The stuff to do, stuff to buy, stuff you can’t afford, the family drama, travel headaches, long lines everywhere. The holidays can be the ultimate test to how well we can handle all kinds of stress. Just remember, the holiday season is just a bunch of days on the calendar. It comes every year. Notice if you’re making more meaning out of what’s happening during each holiday occasion and flip your thoughts towards the positive. Consider changing or deleting one holiday “ritual” which throws you off your game. Shop online instead of in person. Make gifts instead of buying them, maybe writing a thoughtful poem or making an ornament. Let the gift come from the heart and let it be less about money. Host a potluck instead of a full-on spread prepared by yourself. I know changing holiday rituals can seem stressful or even sacrilege but, just consider the possibility and try it. The relief you experience may be worth that scary step. I don’t have all or really any answers for how you can manage holiday stress but, YOU have the answers for yourself. Tune in, be still, and listen. And, know you always have one of the simplest, most powerful balance-restoring tools at your beckon call: just breathe…