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Break the Cycle of HOLIDAY STRESS

BECOME A PEACEFUL WARRIOR : A person known for having courage and skill, energetically engaged with life, aware, focused and internally at peace no matter what is happening.

Not everyone finds the holidays to be the happiest time of the year. There is a lot of chatter about stress amidst the glitter and frivolity. It's easy to get caught up in the "have to do" lists, feeling a sense of obligation to give gifts to everyone you know, attending every holiday function, and giving to as many humanitarian causes as possible. For others, holidays are a sad time due to loneliness, loss, or even stress associated with family. Even those that look forwards to all the commotion can get overwhelmed. The good news is that many of our stressors are self-induced. Yes, that is the good news!

First, short-term stress gets a bad rap. Stress can be debilitating and brings forth a plethora of physical responses. yet, some stress is actually helpful, stimulating and motivating. While under stress, we sometimes come into our greatness and do amazing things. Recent findings indicate that stress can be good for memory and performance. Short-term stress even stimulates our immune activity. Understanding this side of stress, we might create a healthier stress response for ourselves. There is no greater time to master this concept than around the holidays. Challenge yourself!

Excess stress (chronic stress), on the other hand, creates suffering, and is a pyschosomatic disorder, which has many causes. We may feel anxious, scattered and pressured by deadlines, events or even encounters with certain individuals. Chronic stress can result when our awareness is confined to one area of focus or when we forget to look at the big picture of life. Even when we are consumed by stressthat is from an external source over which we have no control (family,work, ect.) we can still bring ourselves back to the peripheral view of our life. We can make a choice to avoid bein gcompletely consumed by any one set of circumstances .Chronic stress is partially the result of not seeing that one has options in how they format life. This is the time to try new things., and broaden interests and relationships. This is a time to look for all that is going welland all the sacredness in life. There is always something within our control. And, we can still make choices as to how we will respond to our experiences.

In general, excess/chronic stress happens when we are worried about the future, regretting something that happened in the past, or blaming ourselve sfor missing the mark of some imagined obligation in the present. It can, of course, result from trauma. If negative stressors are present over a long period of time, the body begins to storehouse tension and stress at the cellular level. Hence, we become a prime candidate for physical or mental illness.

Secondly, stress is about our perceptions. The attitude with which we percieve all of our experiences and our belif system shape how we handle stress at any given moment. Taking a look at how we perceive the things that "stress us out" and asking ourselve to come up with one way we could improve the situation is an easy first step to cutting stress.

So, how do we break the cycle of holiday stress? How do we challenge ourselves to shift our approach to the stressors that take away from our joy at holiday time?

Doctors and neuroscience specialists, Rick Hanson and Richard Mendius advocate for harnessing the power of attention to enhance our life. They synthesize the ancient insights of the Buddhist traditions with modern discoveries. Their research states that the adult brain remains open to change throughout the lifespan. They contend that our brains biologically preference negativity due to the fight or flight response. The brain constantly scans for the negative in an effort to protect us. If we remember that our tendency is to travel to the negative side first (which creates mental stress), then we can consciously step in and look at the sunny side. Looking for the good first enhances our immune responses.

With our own power of attention and intention, we can let holidays be a time to use our "social organ", the brain, to help us be a peaceful, holiday warrior and avoid the pitfalls of holiday stress. Before reacting, we should first ask ourseles , what is going well here? Or, how can I change this day or this moment, to be more at peace and appreciate this time of celebration? In doing so, we bein gto change the brain and inspire the parasympathetic nervous system to bring up our "calm".

Hanson and Mendius invite us to look for the good experiences, even from the past. If you have a postiive experience past or present, help it sink into old pains. When negative material arises, bring to mind positive emtions and perspectives that will be the antidote. In the practice of Ayurveda, eastern Indian wellness and the science of life, there is a common saying- opposites heal. If you feel anger,what activity or thought might help bring up your joy? If you can make a choice to ceate the opposing emtion you can neutralize your emotional state of discomfort.

HOME REMEDIES for Holiday Stress

1. Massage your feet with warm Sesame Oil (1-2 teaspoons) before bed every night to assure good sleeping and calming for the nervous system. This is traditional Ayurveda ( Eastern Indian Medicine) protocol.

2. Breathe your way through the holidays. Balanced Breathing ( for staying focused and tuned in): let the inhalation and exhalation be of equal duration. Cleansing Breathing (to rid toxins and unnecessary tensions): emphasize exhale over inhale. Energizing Breathing ( to increase energy levels): emphasize the exhale over then inhale.

3. Make a Holiday Tonic to calm the body, soothe the mind, and help bring on deep sleep. Drink it anytime to defray the stress of over-doing.

8 oz. of warm milk of choice ( dairy, almond, rice, soy, coconut, ect.)

Pinch (up to 1/8 teaspoon) of Nutmeg

Add blanched, crushed almonds

A pinch of Cardamom

You can prepare nuts in a nut grinder or coffee grinder. Warm the milk and blend the ingredients. Add a teaspoon of honey or maple syrup (optional), and relax!

First published in The Healing Garden Journal Winter 2013

photo: Instagram: @319c4d68507911e38d10121e089bf167_8.jpg

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