“I’m so hurried at this time of the year, I don’t have time to breathe,”my Caffeinated Corner buddy spouted on and on. What’s a Caffeinated Corner? Oh, that’s the group I see nearly every morning at the local Starbucks where we sit and over coffee and a muffin solve the problems of the world. One recent study of over 2,000 men and women by Lantern found that women will be 11% more stressed than men this holiday season.
“C’mon, of course you have time to breathe, you are breathing right now,” I say more often than the group likes hearing. But they take it with a smile. The holidays are filled with stressful thoughts, images, fears, comparisons and negative predictions. Instead of filling ourselves up with gratitude, positivity, joy, victory and a sense of abundance, we “miserabilize” ourselves.
This affects our work, our relationships, the way we drive, gulp down coffee and eat, and heads off much happiness. Depression, anxiety and anger, the three pernicious emotions in life, often result. What can you do to derail this negative mindset, especially when the media is telling you the world, everyone but you, is joyful? Here are my top four for this holiday season.
1. Meditate, STOP, don’t medicate. We all need time to stop, breathe, gain some perspective on ourselves and our lives, but especially on our thoughts. It’s five to ten minutes of stopping and stepping back from the whirlwind around us. Take a breath, in fact, be aware during your meditative moments of your breaths. It’ll help keep you focused on the present. Observe your thoughts, what words are going through your mind and ask yourself if what you are thinking is true and helpful to you. Perspective will follow and perhaps propel you to find another, more accurate way, of looking at the situation(s) you were negatively ruminating about. See? STOP
2. The National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion tells us that nearly 50% of adults in the U.S. don’t engage in the suggested 30 minutes, five days a week of moderate physical activity or the suggested 20 minutes, three times a week of vigorous activity. There are a wide range of exercises you can do at your desk. Tricep dips, leg lifts, squats on your seat, grip something on your desk very tight and loosen, shoulder raises, even lifting dumbbells that you keep under your desk, will all help loosen you up.
3. Start the day by asking yourself what will go right today and end your day by asking yourself what went right today. Begin each day with a personal intention that’s congruent with you–not someone else. Check your intention meter continuously throughout the day to see how well you are fulfilling your intention(s). Before you leave home, be sure your intention is set and before you get your day going at work, re-commit to it.
4. Catch your “if-then” rules. “If I get the promotion, then I’ll be all right.” “If I finish my gift shopping then I’ll be happy.” “If everyone loves the dinner I made, then I’ll feel good about myself.” Life is very much tied on to the deeply entrenched, often hidden, “if-then” rules buried within our brains that govern our behavior. Catch, challenge and change those rules to allow you to run your own race and avoid the compare and despair syndrome so many stressed out folks experience. Really, there are very few real “if-then” rules in life. Most of them outside of the natural, you make yourself. Those are the ones to eradicate. “If I don’t get enough sleep, then I’ll be tired.” “If I don’t drink enough fluid, then I’ll become ill.” “If I don’t stop eating all of this junk food, then I’ll gain weight.” Those are in the natural. Pay attention to the difference.
5. The single most important thing you can do, the last drop of the lemon, the pivot upon which all angst, stress, anger and impatience rests on, is a single word. Delete this word, and it’s many synonyms, from your vocabulary. The word is should. “Shouldhood leads to sh%)hood.” No, you shouldn’t be like her, no you shouldn’t have what he has, no you shouldn’t be what they are, no you shouldn’t have a party like your neighbors, no you shouldn’t drive what he does, and no you shouldn’t have the same body as she does. Should, ought, must, demands, insistences, expectations–they are killers of life and happiness. Perfect is for pitiful people. Acceptance is for powerful people.
Sylvia Plath observed, “There must be quite a few things that a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them.” I guess that’d be number 6. Ahhhh.