Stress affects everyone, damaging our health and relationships. In honor of International Stress Awareness Day, Nov 1st, Dr. Bradley Nelson, author of “The Emotion Code,” suggests 6 ways to beat stress for the holidays and year round. His tips for reducing stress in your life are:
1. Plan ahead and be flexible about your expectations. Think about your plans for the upcoming holidays. Everyone else has expectations and sometimes they won’t match with yours. Plan for spontaneity. If you allow the plans that others have to be a part of what brings you joy, you’ll have more fun as everyone shares ideas and activities. Be the one who makes the holidays fun for others and it will be more joyful for you.
2. Be aware of what your body needs. This includes healthy food, plenty of water, rest and exercise. So don’t throw your routines out the window when you’re on vacation. Get plenty of exercise so you’ll feel good. Continue eating healthy. You’ll feel better about yourself if you’re really taking care of your body!
3. Decide to take care of yourself emotionally. You may need specific things such as the emotional support of a spouse, a lunch date with a friend or even just some time alone. Decide how busy you want to be – or not be! Say “no” to trying to do too much if it interferes with your health, family time or if it feels like it’ll cause too much stress for you.
4. Communicate with love. If you’re feeling stressed by interactions with family or others, take a breather. You might go outside for a few minutes to get some fresh air. Be kind to everyone, including yourself. Give hugs. Make sure you’re not overreacting. None of us communicate perfectly. Try to see what others are really mean, not just what they say. Give them the benefit of the doubt because it’s likely no offense was meant. Ask for clarification and react appropriately, with kindness, love and forgiveness. Some people really don’t have a handle on their behavior but it doesn’t have to affect how you feel or be your problem.
5. Choose Your Emotions: Most people have this mistaken belief that our emotions choose us; that we are at the mercy of whatever emotions we tend to start feeling. But the reality of it is, no matter what the circumstance is, we always are choosing our own emotions. It’s important to recognize that fact. You don’t always have control over what happens to you but you can choose to respond proactively.
6. Identify and release “trapped emotions,” unresolved feelings from past negative and traumatic events emotional baggage can cause us to make wrong assumptions, react emotionally and contribute to anxiety, depression and most forms of illness.
These tips are especially important for those already fatigued by chronic conditions, especially chronic pain, and the stress of navigating the care system. Start now by taking a deep breath and working through each of the tips to truly prepare for the holidays!