December 2015 Article

Preserve Your “Peace and Balance” During the Holiday Season

The holidays and the days building up to the holiday season can be a whirlwind of experiences and stress. If you or people you love experience stress or anxiety on a continuing basis, this time of the year can intensify those feelings. However, with a little planning and some positive thinking, you can find peace and balance during the holidays.

Hello, my name is Veronica Leybourne, I am one of the two Clinical Social Workers at the Lambeth Chiropractic & Wellness Centre. My passion is helping people empower themselves to cope better with their anxiety and stress. With great joy I am writing this article as I hope it will help you feel more peace and balance in your life.

The secret to handling any stress or anxiety is to be clearly aware of yourself and be in charge of your breath and your thoughts. Notice your breathing, observe your thoughts… am I breathing deeply? Am I thinking positive thoughts?

So # 1 coping strategy is: breathe, breathe, and breathe some more. I mean a deep, cleansing, diaphragmatic breath, where you inhale as your stomach rises and you exhale and your lungs empty completely! And do so anytime you notice your breathing. Most of us breathe shallow, quick breaths in our busy, rushed day. Take charge of your breathing… try to deep breathe at least 10 breaths every hour.

# 2 coping strategy is: Focus your mind on loving, hopeful, peaceful thoughts. Many of us find our mind focuses on problems, criticisms, judgements and fears. No wonder we are breathing as if our life is in danger! Take charge of your thoughts.. try to notice a small miracle, contemplate a grateful moment, send a loving reflection to someone, smile to yourself, remember a funny moment, recall a peaceful memory… try to think a positive thought once every hour.

Many professionals have lists of suggestions to help us enjoy a peaceful, meaningful holiday. I have included some of their recommendations ~ but please ~ remember to breathe deeply and guide your mind toward positive thoughts while you are trying these “tips”! Try this: Pick two of your favourites and write them down. Keep it in your pocket, wallet, car, or somewhere you will see it and be reminded over the next two months.

  1. Take time for yourself. Remember that you’re only one person and can only accomplish certain things. Sometimes self-care is the best thing you can do — others will benefit when you are stress-free.
  2.  Remember what’s important. What makes a great celebration is loved ones. Relax, sit down, and enjoy time with those people who truly matter to you, and who support and care about you. Make your genuine and compassionate presence your present this holiday season.
  3. Seek support. Talk about your anxiety with your friends and family. Getting things out in the open can help you navigate your feelings and work toward a solution for your stress. — 1-3  American Psychological Association
  4. Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.
  5. Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. In fact, ask for help. Review your to-do list and let others share the responsibilities. Many family members and friends will be happy to help – they may feel honoured to be included in the preparations.
  6. Continue your healthy habits. Now more than ever, you need to nurture yourself with breath work, meditation, exercise, massage, sleep, chiropractic treatment, reflexology, foot care, and all those wonderful self-care routines! — 4-6  the Mayo Clinic
  7. Set realistic expectations about what you can accomplish. Try to establish some balance between what you do for others and what you do for yourself. If family-time is stressful for you, set limits on the amount of time you spend with them. — From the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
  8. Reflect on experiences, events, and people that have given you pleasure in the past. Be grateful. Understand that others may be stressed out. Don’t take rudeness or irritability too personally. — From “Anxiety and OCD Exposed”:
  9. Do recognize your personal rhythms and preferences: If you’re an introvert, make sure to set aside sufficient time to be alone. While extroverts tend to gain energy from socializing, people who are more introverted need time by themselves to recharge.
  10. Practice effective stress/anxiety management by taking at least a few minutes each day to sit quietly and to recalibrate your body, mind, and emotions. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and release your hold on your thoughts. Allow yourself to just be. Restore your sense of inner calm. Or do an activity that brings you out of your head and into your body, where you can be completely calm and in the present, not worrying about what you need to do: walk, dance, music.
  11. If parties tend to overwhelm you, try speaking one-on-one, attend smaller get-togethers, or remind yourself that you can leave early if you are really uncomfortable.
  12. Get sufficient rest. 7-8 to hours of sleep a night is a healthy amount for most people. Sleep deprivation can be the catalyst for stress and anxiety. —  9-12  Rachel Fintzy, MA, MFT

If any of these suggestions seem too difficult or overwhelming please consider seeking support. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling sad or anxious, irritated by physical complaints, unable to sleep, frustrated and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your health practitioner or a mental health professional.

The Holiday Season can be a difficult and taxing time.. and it can be wonderful and inspirational. Focus on being as genuine and real as you can be. Try to be here… in the present… connecting with yourself and with the people you love and care about. Remember to be compassionate with yourself and others… to breathe and think positively of yourself and send loving thoughts to others… this will help you have a more peaceful and balanced season… it is a gift for yourself, and a gift to others.

Happy Holidays everyone!!

Breathe : )

Veronica Leybourne, MSW, RSW

Clinical Social Worker and Psychotherapist