Over the years, I’ve presented to groups numerous times with the goal of motivating people to quit smoking, join a yoga class, drink filtered water, start meditating and eat real food. It took awhile though, for me to realize that listing all the stress reduction techniques was causing overwhelm and inaction – just the opposite of what I was going for!
Although I certainly stand behind those recommendations, I’d sooner focus on the first most important step required to move towards optimal health. This one simple truth often gets hidden under the “shoulds” we are suffocated by in day-to-day life.
In reality, the last thing people need right now is another so-called authority’s opinion on which habits must absolutely be picked up and what needs to drop in order to feel good again.
What most of us really need is a reminder that we already have what we are looking for – and, you guessed it, it’s inside. We already know what we need to do – what’s right, what’s wrong, what’s good what’s bad. In fact, we are programmed for it.
My goal is to remind you of 3 key ways to release the pressure and harness the stress of the season to pursue joy and health.
Christmas is just around the corner and with it comes a tidal wave of demands. Because I’ve been living away for the better part of the last decade, being home this year is extra special. Primarily due to the fact that I won’t:
1) need to take time away from my studies or my business, buy a thousand dollar plane ticket, and hope for nature to get me across the country; or 2) opt not to fly home and dread hearing the sound of my dear mother’s heart break when I tell her the news.
No, no, not this year! Instead, I have new stresses to deal with!
- First winter without my beloved dog (his favourite season)
- First winter with a house to look after…and keep warm
- Missing my friends and family who aren’t near me this year
I know I’m not alone here. My patients, students, colleagues and friends, even strangers seem easily annoyed and on edge these days. It dawned on me that the holidays, although the hap-happiest season of all, also represent a microcosm of humanities greatest problems.
The flood of emotions when you’re surrounded by family and friends coupled with treats around every corner, maxed out credit cards and copious amounts of alcohol bring out a rawness that’s impossible to hide from. Not to mention the pile of garbage left behind for the planet to deal with.
Throw in extreme weather conditions, power outages and the intense drive to go deep inside, it’s no wonder Seasonal Depression is so common.
When stress enters the human system it causes a cocktail of hormones. The problem is, over long term (ie. more than a few mins or hours) the sets the stage for dysfunction (in the body and all around it). Read this recent article by Aviva Romm MD – who I am a huge fan of – for the dirty details of what anxiety and stress are doing to our bodies and minds.
So should we just succumb? Peace out to a tropical beach or suffer in agony?
Hold on…are those actually our only options? Or could we decide to befriend stress this year, as Kelly McGonical suggests in her TED talk? Could we let the spirit of Christmas shine through us, instead of resisting it and turning into scrooge?
When you think about it, this festive time can actually be an awesome opportunity test yourself – overtly and repeatedly, with important life lessons. Because of the heightened tension in the air, this is an ideal chance to assess your strength and resilience in all 4 dimensions of health – mind, body, health, soul. To learn. To live. To learn to live.
- To smile, when all you want to do is hit someone (perhaps a senile aunt who pointed out your growing army of grey hairs)
- To wave calmly at the driver who just cut you off in a storm
- To say something positive about the weather, in response to a complaint
- To swallow the lump in your throat when it’s not appropriate to grieve
- and to ugly cry when you get some space alone.
Is it really that easy? Yes, but the question to ask is: What is under my control? Let’s have a look at that list of major stresses and see what we have control over:
DIET CHOICES – yes, ultimately it is, even though it feels like it isn’t when we aren’t balanced
GARBAGE – yes, mindful consuming is not as hard as it seems when you block out marketing
FINANCIAL WOES – yes, some costs are unavoidable but we can learn new beliefs that help – sign up for this amazing free webinar tonight with my money coach and one of my faves.
FAMILY – yes & no, you can’t control them but you can choose who you interact with and how you respond
WEATHER – no. Ironically, the one thing we truly have NO control over, seems to be what everyone gets stuck on, and in it, provides the perfect analogy for how we respond to stress.
Just like our reaction to “unfortunate” weather, our reaction to stress can be helpful or not. You can hide from it, but it won’t change the fact that you have to shovel the driveway, or deal with that lingering anger eventually. You can scream at it but that sharp wind, or harsh comment from your partner will still take your breath away.
Alternatively, you can dress appropriately and make the most of it by building a sweet snow fort with your kids or neighbours. Do you see? Everything is a choice. And what goes on around you, is a library of lessons to grow closer to your highest self.
How we respond to situations that are outside of our control is the key to taking action and moving towards health (and wealth). You can do this starting today by gifting yourself and those around you with these:
- Balance – just by becoming more aware of how you respond, you will start to regain balance. Tune into music that soothes your soul, take yourself for a walk in nature. Learn to say no. Gain some awareness of where you spend energy & money. Start reflection rituals.
- A Break – welcome stillness and look inside to discover what you want. You’re trying your best, be kind and compassionate. Lead with love, not fear. Respect your choices, don’t second guess or “should” on yourself & others. Use positive self-talk. Give yourself a break.
- Breath – Lastly I’ll finish with recommending you all try this breathing technique that I learned from an incredible human named Wim Hof. He has scientifically proven that his method resets the body’s stress response and allows you to regain control of your life.
For more info, you can find me on Facebook where I’ll be posting a daily wellness tip everyday from Christmas to New Year. Also keep in mind that you likely have coverage for naturopathic services on your health plan that will renew in January – please schedule an appointment now if you are looking for one-on-one treatment.
I wish you the most peaceful, joyous holidays spent honouring what you want and need most.