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BR's 13 (Lucky) Tips for De-Stressing Your Holidays

10 Dec

Well, it’s that time of year again, when we get to make ourselves crazy over holiday expectations and familial stress. Indeed, this is the time of year when my erstwhile private practice always exploded with returning clients looking for a quick tune-up, and many new ones appeared, seeking help for anxiety and depression.  

So, how to stay calm, sane and steady, in the face of demands piling on as the holidays draw nigh??  I know you’ve probably seen most of these tips before, in one place or another, but just for a reminder, here’s my own list of how to keep the stress down.

1. Take Care of Your Body
Try to do all those things you know are good for your physical well being: get regular exercise; take it easy on the caffeine, sugar and alcohol; get enough sleep – use imagery and a good mask to keep out light, for heaven’s sake; eat healthy food – you know this stuff. This is the baseline of stress reduction.

2. Track Your Physical Comfort
Take time to check in and see how your body is feeling. Once you notice, you can make small corrections to relieve discomfort before it takes over. Breathe into tight places; stretch and move when your back or neck feels stiff and use your Sombra on achy muscles; look out the window when your eyes are straining at the computer screen; massage your neck and press the acupoints when a headache is lurking. But you have to notice what’s amiss before you can fix it.

3. Learn to Relax at Will
Develop a regular practice to ground and relax you. If possible, start and end the day with guided imagery, yoga, meditation, relaxation, deep breathing, petting the cat in a rocking chair or listening to soothing music or even playing it while doing something else. Even five minutes, twice a day, will give you some protective ballast against the day’s stresses. And if you can’t manage this daily, do it whenever you can.

4. Take a Mini-break When You’re Getting Crazed
When you find yourself starting to lose it, or butting up against your own rigidity or circular thinking, take a quick break. Step away. Go outside for a walk, do some guided imagery, snuggle your favorite toddler, play some music, shake out those ya-yas, call a loving friend or do a couple of yoga stretches. Five minutes of conscious AWOL can clear your mind and give you back your perspective, flexibility, common sense and even your sense of humor.

5. Dose Your Day with Humor
Humor, by its nature, provides instant distance, balance and perspective, if even for a moment. As long as it’s not aimed at mocking others, it allows us to step back and take everything, including ourselves, less seriously. So practice the art of finding the ludicrous, paradoxical and nonsensical in daily events. Loretta LaRoche sure knows how to do this. We could all take some tips from her!  Laughing itself is priceless. A good belly laugh changes biochemistry and clears out emotional gunk like little else.

6. Be Realistic & Know Your Limits
It’s a wonderful thing to know what you can and cannot do. Wrestle your perfectionism to the ground and don’t let idealized expectations press you into doing more than you can realistically manage. Say no. Set limits. Work smart. This is especially important around holiday time, when trying too hard to do too much creates the exact opposite of the holiday feeling you’re striving for, and you morph into the cranky, resentful, martyred, overworked nightmare you swore you’d never be.

7. Manage Your Time
A corollary is to try not to over-commit. If you do, make a list and prioritize. (Just getting these things out of your head and onto a piece of paper can reduce some stress.) If the list is out of control, look it over and assess what has to go – and then cancel, with apologies. Then tackle things you can finish, one at a time if at all possible. Work mindfully at it, and enjoy the satisfaction that comes with getting it done. Procrastination can be a terrible stressor – we’re always aware of what we should be doing while we’re not doing it, and it’s a real joy-killer and energy-sapper. Do a piece of it and check that sucker off!

8. When Scheduling, Give Yourself Room To Breathe
If you find yourself scheduling yourself with back to back meetings, consider the possibility that you’re an adrenaline junkie, running from appointment to appointment to feed your addiction. Leave time between things, to catch your breath, reflect on what’s next, acquaint yourself with a calmer class of neurohormones that return you to equilibrium. Once you get out of the habit of racing, you won’t be so eager to go back to it, I promise.

9. Throw Something Out Every Day
Useless clutter is another low level, subliminal stress-producer. And we all know how quickly a clean surface can attract overwhelming piles of stuff. If you commit to throwing out one or two things a day, it really helps. And if you’re one of those people who need to see your papers spread around you as you work (I am), just contain the surface area you allot to this!

10. Keep Asking Yourself If You’d Rather be Right or Happy

A lot of stress is generated – for ourselves and others – by our need to be right, show we’re right, prove we’re right.  And really, so what if we establish we’re right? We cleanse our psychic pallet and de-gunk our day by letting go of an issue and moving on. Mind you, this is not the same as being a chump. It’s about taking care of ourselves, and therein lies right relationship, clear focus and, yes, happiness.

11. Don’t Be Proud – Get Support When the Chips are Down

Sometimes talking things out with someone you trust will allow you to safely acknowledge your feelings, let off some steam, get you away from circular thinking and rearrange your mislaid perspective. Sometimes friends even have helpful advice to give. Sometimes they actually stop us from doing something really dumb.

12. Practice Staying in the Moment
By mindfully going about your day, putting your awareness into what you are doing at the moment, you will be using even mundane, everyday activities as the focus of meditation, and simple as it sounds, you will regain peace and balance. Yes, peeling potatoes can be a route to spiritual attainment and inner peace!

13. Notice Little Moments of Beauty and Sweetness
This sounds hokey but it works. Notice beauty around you and take a moment to breathe it in … same with a smile, a gracious act, a loving gesture. Practicing gratitude for these lovely bits and pieces of daily life is a potent way to de-stress, and it’s contagious, too.

Okay, that’s all I got. Good luck!
All best,


Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award