Are you in a holiday rut? Did it start with the “casserole complex” at Thanksgiving leaving you un-motivated and with cloudy thinking? Do you have positive intentions for yourself but find yourself leaving behind the exercise, the healthy eating and being overly busy? IF you do things or these things sound familiar, understand you are part of the large percentage of Americans that experience holiday stress that they allow to take a toll on the rest of their lives.
Depending on where you look, Americans each year experience holiday related stress. According to the American Psychological Association, 76 percent of Americans experience financial stress and 61 percent of Americans report experiencing holiday stress, according to American Psychological Association. Fifty-two percent of us report being more irritable at this time of year, and 68 percent of us say we are more fatigued, (APA Survey Raises Concern about Health Impact of Stress on Children and Families | 2010 Stress in America Report (PDF, 3.1MB).
So, how do you combat holiday stress and NOT let it take its toll on your body? Many sources give great advice about slowing down, prioritizing, helping others etc. but what if all of that good, common sense advice is not enough? What we can do beyond conscious brain logic and common sense is to train the brain to recognize serious stress (life-threatening; which usually is only a stress at the very moment it is occurring) and train the brain to recognize demand stress (traffic, running late, the in-laws, the bad mood of a co-worker or boss, extra bills, crying baby, etc). This brain training otherwise known as self hypnosis plays a HUGE role in keeping the sympathetic nervous system that controls blood pressure, blood sugar, heart rate and communication along the hypothalmic pituitary axis which controls whether we go into immediate fight-flight or freeze mode and feel stressed.
This first starts with recognizing the feeling and what stress feels like for you as an individual. Is it a tight chest, a business in the mind or cloudy thinking or do you find yourself making unhealthy lifestyle choices before even knowing your are stressed? Identify what your obvious triggers are first and then you will have the awareness to begin helping yourself. When you catch yourself in that place you can quickly and easily identify between demand stress (the stuff of life) or life threatening stress. The VAST majority of the time you will identify you are in demand stress and can remind yourself that all stress comes from fear and fear does not live in the present. Its is almost always (except in those life threatening situations), comes from past experiences and comparisons to them or to imagining how future experiences COULD go. Pay attention to the COULD. We have fear as a natural function of the sub conscious mind that is set to keep us safe, but if we separate our safety mechanism from what is real and what is in the present that we can better use this function (and save our adrenals and our waistlines) for when it is really needed.
Self talk self hypnosis that comes from within and brings you back to the present is one of the best recommendations for in the moment self hypnosis. For example this person says, ” I am so stressed my in laws will complain again about the food, the kids being loud, etc. and that will make me feel angry and I may overeat, drink, feel bad, etc.” This person’s fear is a demand stress that they are concerned about that is happening in the future. They can self talk themselves out of it by assuring themselves that the in-laws may do their usual complaining but when that happens I can just chalk it up to their usual routine and know it is for a short period and they will not have to assume a negative behavior or thought pattern stays around because of it!
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