3 ways to stay sane this season
It’s the season of peace, love and joy. But the high level of stress during the holidays is enough to make anyone occasionally feel a bit Grinchy. It’s hard to say no to parties, gift exchanges, family traditions, charities and the never-ending supply of sweets and alcohol, but it’s important to remember to take time for yourself.
If additional obligations are leaving you cranky, you are not alone. Setting personal boundaries, getting adequate sleep and budgeting your time are great ways to help keep you balanced.
Fortunately, I have three more suggestions you may want to use this holiday season. Consider them my gift to you. Fortunately, the keys to inner peace keep giving all year long. Whenever you start to feel stressed or overwhelmed, try one of these three techniques:
Deep breathing exercises
Deep breathing expands the lungs to increase the flow of oxygen and convert energy into fuel. This means that not only will deep breathing relax you, but it will also give you more energy. Everyone needs more energy to get through the holiday season.
If you’re unfamiliar with deep breathing exercises, many yoga instructors will happily guide you through a single session to get you started. However, anyone can master deep breathing with minimal instruction.
First, find a quiet space where you can get comfortable. Deep breathing exercises are generally done while sitting upright because this position allows air to flow easily through the body. Clear your mind and focus on breathing in through your nose and out of your mouth or nose, whichever is more comfortable.
Once you are able to relax a bit, breathe in even more deeply and hold the breath for a few seconds before exhaling. Experiment with breathing patterns and holding times. For instance, completely fill your lungs with air and hold your breath as long as you can before exhaling through your nose. Exhale slowly at times, but also exhale forcefully on occasion.
It’s also important to work on exhaling short, deep breaths through your nose. This opens up the nasal passageways. Try to spend about 20 minutes a day on deep breathing exercises. You can break this up into two 10-minute sessions if that works for your schedule.
You will notice a difference in your attitude and stress level immediately. Once you’ve opened your lungs, you will continue to breathe more deeply throughout the day. Most people who start deep breathing exercises will notice that they are less likely to become irritable and have a bit more energy.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation combines the power of deep breathing exercises with intentional muscle contraction and dilation. This technique is likely to put you in a very relaxed state, so do not complete progressive muscle relaxation when you have many things on your schedule. You may want to nap afterward.
Start the progressive muscle relaxation exercise by making yourself comfortable in a quiet place. Focus on your breathing and close your eyes. Beginning with your extremities, contract one muscle group at a time while breathing in deeply. For instance, make a tight fist.
Hold your breath until it becomes uncomfortable, and then exhale through your mouth while also allowing that muscle group to relax. Feel that? Notice how differently you feel when the muscle is contracted. When people get stressed, their muscles contract. The added tension only exacerbates the negative feelings associated with stress.
When doing progressive muscle relaxation, you may find yourself resisting the idea of contracting the muscle because it’s not as relaxing. This means you’re doing it right. Many people do progressive muscle relaxation before bed because it’s easy to drift off to sleep after you have worked several muscle groups and opened your lungs.
Positive Thinking and Affirmations
Never underestimate the power of positive thinking and affirmations. Every day, we feed ourselves negative thoughts. For example, we may feed ourselves negative thoughts about our appearance or our intelligence. It may be so ingrained that we don’t even recognize we are doing it.
Ideas such as, “I’m not smart enough to understand this instruction manual” or “I’m not thin enough to wear a dress like this to the office party” can erode our self-confidence. Sometimes, the negative self-talk may be a way of shielding ourselves from other people’s judgment. But, this negative dialogue can also sabotage any chance of a positive outcome.
What if you tried putting that bicycle together and saved yourself $100 in labor costs? What if you look incredibly stylish and professional in that outfit, decide to go to the work party and make a new career connection?
Stop telling yourself what you aren’t and start reminding yourself who you are. You are a human being who has made it this far in life and, more than likely, you’ve achieved quite a bit. Consider your good fortune, and avoid focusing on the negative. Still, you can improve your life and positive affirmations can help.
Rather than telling yourself you aren’t smart enough, remind yourself that it’s never too late to learn. Putting that bicycle together may be challenging, but you will figure it out. You may have to call the customer service number or a friend to walk you through some of it. But you can do it. Once you learn how to put that bike together, you can successfully put other things together: “I don’t know if I can assemble this picnic table; however, I did put that bicycle together last month, so I’ll try.” Research shows positive affirmations even increase problem-solving skills.
The great thing about positive thinking and positive affirmations is that they work on others too. Maybe one of your relatives likes to insult your cooking during the holidays. Have you tried complimenting their cooking? Have you considered asking them to teach you how to make that amazing cornbread dressing the whole family loves? When you’re working with someone or complimenting someone, they are less likely to be negative toward you.
In addition to positive thinking, affirmations are a great way to start the day. Search for a positive quote or choose a sentence that reminds you that you’re worthy of happiness.
Try using deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and positive thinking and affirmations to help you through the stressful holiday season. Take time for yourself to balance and get re-centered. You will enjoy the holidays so much more when you go into the season with a plan to stay more peaceful within.