During the winter and the holiday season, despite our best intentions, things can get a bit tense. Between family and out-of-town guests, rich food, shopping, social obligations, and expectations we may find ourselves growing tense, anxious, and irritable. So much for a joyous season! Here I’d like to suggest ways in which you can best be prepared to deal with the hoopla. I’d also like to share some techniques you can use to get back to a calm state after you find yourself “worked up.”
Preparation: There are a few things you can do to reconnect with yourself and what you need—for you! This may be the greatest gift we can give to ourselves and by proxy to our families. When we are more connected with ourselves we are able to give to our families from the heart without resentment. In other words, when we feel taken care of, we live and interact with others from a feeling fullness. Children especially sense when we are less than 100%…they can sense when we are tired, distracted by “things” at this time they tend to demand more attention at that moment. Begin: the snowball effect. Starting the day in the right frame of mind—from a state of fullness–is important to face whatever the day brings. Part of your morning routine should be acknowledging and “wearing” the best part of yourself for others to see…even if it is still asleep or you don’t feel particularly lovely about yourself at the moment. It may take some practice, but acknowledging yourself as a strong, capable, and good person who has something of value to contribute will change how people perceive and treat you as well as how you feel about yourself.
Sleep: More and more studies stress the importance of good nights sleep. With those of us in care giving roles, a 40+hour work week, or with young children that may seem laughably impossible. Try to take a nap if you can. If that still seems comical, try lying on your right side for 10 minutes. In Chinese medical theory the liver is where the blood gets replenished. By lying on your right side the blood can “pool” there thus increasing restorative powers. Try lying down with your baby/child for 10 minutes of his/her nap, shut the door to your office and find a corner to curl up for a few minutes. At the very least, shut your eyes while sitting in your chair, take 10 deep breaths–out breath equal to the in breath …then get back to it! Insomnia? That is a topic for another post. But of particular note during the season of celebrating (or stressing) is about alcohol. Alcohol may seem to help us fall asleep quicker, but sleep will be disturbed and less restorative, another reason to drink responsibly!
Drink water: Other options to drinking water are non-caffeinated teas. Coffee can increase feelings of anxiety or stress. If you are a die hard coffee drinker try substituting one or more cups of coffee to a green or black tea. There are so many wonderful teas available now. Jasmine green tea is my particular favorite. Your body may respond very differently to the caffeinated tea than coffee. Iced drinks are not recommended: room temperature or hot. Our bodies need to be hydrated to help our immunity ward off colds and flu not to mention, the dry weather and forced air.
Eating Soups and stews are the best choices at this time of year because a soup packed with veggies and legumes (or meat) make it easy for our bodies to easily absorb their nutrients. Slow cookers make meal preparation really easy: chop, add water, add a few spices and turn it on before you run out the door in the morning (any of you laughing?) Parties and holiday treats can weigh us down leading to bowel changes, bloating, abdominal discomfort, feelings of sluggishness and lethargy, and even mood changes. Make note of these reactions and try to figure the culprit(s). This information puts you in charge…you can make a choice of “momentary” enjoyment or the consequence. You may be experiencing “food intolerance.” You may want to consider a rotation diet if not an elimination diet…if there is interest in this you can call me for a consultation.
Exercise: Walk, run, ride, swim, go to the gym…get that body moving. When you move your body, Chinese medical theory says that you “move congested liver qi” in other words, you relieve stress, depression, help clear toxins out the body. Just listen to your body and listen for it’s messages about its limitations. Consult your doctor before beginning any new exercise routine and exercise smart. This includes changing out of wet exercise clothes and take a warm shower after you are done…you don’t want to get a chill!
Connect through a passion: Whether playing an instrument, running, hiking, listening to music, gardening, painting or sculpting—connect with some activity that gives you more energy and a sense of deep satisfaction. This will help bring clarity and peace to your deepest levels.
You have found yourself upset..what to do now.
During the situation: the triangle One of my favorite techniques to use with a difficult person is to visualize a triangle between that person and myself. It can be any size; you can shrink it and enlarge it during the situation. This triangle is a black hole. I had a client with narcissistic sister. Her sister, using their past closeness and sense of sisterly obligation, tried to get my client to bail her out of another tough spot. My client, knowing that by helping her out was enabling this dynamic to continue, “placed’ the triangle between them. By doing this, my client disengaged and was not drawn in by her sister. She was able to sympathize with her sister’s predicament and yet not take it on.
The aftermath of a situation: Whether you are dealing with a minor fender bender, a heated family confrontation, or a “scare/near miss,” your body has been changed physiologically. Your heart rate may be accelerated, you may notice you are perspiring; a feeling of anxiousness won’t seem to leave even though the “danger” is over. It is important to take your body out of “high alert” status. Here are a few techniques. Do something physical: Go for a run, brisk walk, dance, or ride, whatever it is to do the “flight” after the fright. Fully engage your respiratory system. Really take deep breaths and consciously breathe the situation out—visualize it leaving you. Can’t leave the kids/work to go do something physical: Put on some crazy music and dance it out with your kids or listen to your Ipod. Madly paint/chalk the sidewalk/butcher paper or scribble on a pad of paper.
Change how you look at the situation and change your emotion:
I was riding my bike in a dedicated bike lane when someone opened a door immediately in front of me. Shock, horror, fear gripped me as I sailed through the air over the door, I was able to tuck and roll and shortly stood up to the amazement of the crowded sidewalk and drivers. Anger welled up in me “Never….open…the….door…into….a….bike….lane.” I said to the woman through gritted teeth. My bike frame was cracked and I could have been severely injured by someone being careless. Her child looked at me, clearly scarred. My perspective changed. I was immediately glad it was I who was hit. Children ride that route all the time, as do parents with children on the backs of their bikes, they would not have cleared the door thus certainly be hurt. There could have been bikes following me creating an awful pile up. I was so thankful that I wasn’t the one that opened the door. Relief, thankfulness flooded through me. “Look, I’m okay, I’m not hurt,” I said to the kid turning my arms to show him that not even my clothes looked worse for the wear. Granted, I was still in shock and I took large doses of trauma herbs and topical liniments for the next few days, but in the end, I am not upset with the lady who did something dumb. We all do dumb things thoughtlessly. I was thankful of the reminder to be mindful and not to have a broken bone!
That’s the short course. Hope it helps and I hope the holidays are restorative and full of good company and joy.
Best of the season to you and yours,
Kathleen Hiatt Cutter