As you read this I’m relaxing with family trying for a moment to put pain behind me focusing on laughing and having fun! During the coarse of this week I’m trying to stay away from the computer to focus on being with family. I hope those of you that read my blog are having a great Christmas with family and friends. Wishing only the best for you over the holidays and see you in 2015! In the meantime here’s a post that’s been prepared by a blog friend Julie over at “it’s just a bad day, not a bad life”. Like me she is a CRPS sufferer and advocate. Please check out her site in the link below to find out more about her.
When you think of the holidays are you more like Buddy the Elf or Gumpy Cat? Some of us can’t wait for January 1st, whereas others dread January 1st as the season will be over! Which ever you are, getting a handle on your stress with help with flare ups and allow you to enjoy more of the holiday activities!
What can cause stress?
Traditions, high or unrealistic expectations, money, family, disappointing family and friends, traveling, family photos, shopping, not getting enough sleep, drinking and eating too much, forgoing normal patterns, decorating, holiday parties, seeing old friends, perfectionism . . . and I could go on and on!
And you’re probably thinking
“It’s just a little stress . . . right? It doesn’t matter. Once the holidays are over I’ll go back to being healthy and less stressed and things will be fine.”
Your body doesn’t care if it’s a big stress or a little one; if it’s temporary or chronic. It still reacts the same way! Regardless of the stressor, stress can affect our body in many predictable ways. Did you know that there are approximately 1,400 different biochemical events that are fired off when we encounter stress? And we wonder why we get headaches, gain weight, experience aches and pains, why our energy is depleted and why we eat and drink more!
An even scarier fact is that because of our society today, we’ve become mentally numb to many stressors in our lives! We may not even realize how stressed our body really is because we’re so used to life’s pressures and expectations. That is, until we experience a flare up.
But there is a positive fact in all of this!
We have the power to control how we respond to stress! We don’t need to be the victims of our own emotions, thoughts and attitudes. We can control how we respond to stress and we can become more sensitive to stressful situations. There are proven, scientific ways to help rewire our brains! So instead of grabbing that bottle of eggnog, try one of these ideas instead!
Exercise your mind, body and soul!
• Be present in everything you do
• Set alarms on your phone to remind you to slow down and take it all in
• Focus on your breath
• Pick a mantra
• Headspace or similar phone app
• Take a meditation class at a local yoga studio
When you’re running around, stressed beyond belief- STOP and focus on your breath for a few moments. This can help you take a short time out. You could also pick a mantra and whenever you’re feeling frustrated start repeating it. To get you started into meditation, I always recommend the Headspace app or the Buddify app. Both phone applications break meditation down into a way that is SO doable for the average person! Try it out and see for yourself.
So often during the holidays we run run run and aren’t really present. Try to be present in everything you do. Whether it’s eating a cookie, shopping for a present, or driving – really focus your attention on what you’re doing NOT on what you still have to do. An easy exercise to help you get into the moment can be achieved by setting alarms on your phone. Set maybe 2 or 3 of them to go off at random times. When they go off, make a conscious effort to be present in your current activity. The simple act of using your alarm can start to help train yourself to tune in to your life and to become more present.
3. Squash Negativity and Amp Up The Positivity:
Don’t let words like ‘never’, ‘worst’ or ‘ever’ into your vocab! X them out forever! If you’re beginning to feel down about a certain situation, see if you can flip your perspective on it! Maybe you do have 58 more things to do on your To Do list, but hey! You already finished 87 of those things – so you gooooo!!! Recognize your wins and celebrate ALL your victories!I also like to write inspiring quotes on post it notes and stick them all throughout my house. They can make me smile and if I’m in a bad mood or upset, they usually can help me start to flip my perspective.
4. Allow yourself to experience your emotions:
The key to squashing negativity is to allow yourself to feel your emotions. It’s ok if you’re feeling sad, mad, scared, tired, upset, frustrated, overwhelmed – feel the heck out of those emotions! You’re obviously feeling them for a reason. If you take the time to feel them and tune into yourself, you can start to unravel the meaning behind each of those emotions. Once you identify your issue, you can begin to become your own biggest cheerleader! What I do is I agree upon a set period I’m allowed to feel sad or frustrated. During that time I cry, scream, yell, be by myself- whatever I need to do to get it out and completely allow myself to fall apart. Once that period is over, I pick up the pieces off the floor and do my best to move on. I focus on things I love and bring a smile to my face.
5. Set Realistic Expectations:
You know it will happen… Aunt Susan will say something negative about your potato casserole. She ALWAYS does! So, you should expect it. Instead of getting upset at Aunt Susan this year and taking it out on Grandma, decide to change the subject and thank Margie for bringing the Ham. Also lumped into setting realistic expectations is realizing that you CANNOT and DO NOT have to do everything yourself. Get your family to help, be clear on how others can help you! Don’t take the whole season on yourself.
6. Don’t Dwell on ‘What If’:
You’ll never know what would have happened if you got to the store 5 minutes earlier or if you would have bought 4 packets of chicken instead of 3. It’s a game you’ll never win – so why play it? Along with the words ‘never’, ‘worst’ and ‘ever’, X this out of your brain!!!!
7. Practice Gratitude:
I could talk for 15 hours on why practicing gratitude is one of the greatest things you could do for yourself. Being thankful for what you DO have really can put a situation in perspective. Each night before bed, I write in my journal what I’m thankful for. It could have been my ability to get out of bed that morning or maybe it was for the ability to stay in bed all day and rest. No matter how many negatives you encounter in a day, there are ALWAYS positives that you can be thankful for!
You can also practice giving gratitude to others while you’re out and about this holiday season. For instance, be thankful for the person leaving the mall and letting you take their parking space, send love and thanks to those volunteering their time to help the less fortunate, and try to do small random acts of kindness. I bet you’ll even end up leaving the holiday season feeling so much better after beginning a gratitude practice!
8. Keep up with your regular exercise program (as best you can)
If you already have a regular yoga, running, cycling, crossfit or weight training program – try to keep up with it. Your body is already in a routine and when you disrupt your rhythm you can end up causing a lot of issues – one major one being a flare! So say YES to that yoga session, even if it ends up being 10-15 minutes long. Every little bit helps!
9. Eat a Balanced Diet
Make sure you’re receiving your proper nutrients this holiday season. And don’t forget to drink your water! I’m not saying don’t enjoy yourself; I’m always of the opinion that we should live by the 80/20 rule. 80% of the time we should eat clean and 20% of the time enjoy ourselves! But if you know that gluten is an inflammation trigger for you or that eating dairy makes your nerves go crazy, try to be cognizant of what you’re eating and pick and choose what’s best for your body.
10. Maintain A Regular Sleep Schedule
Disruptive sleep schedules can wreck havoc on our body’s immune system. And if our immune systems are already compromised then we’re really in trouble! The ironic thing about sleep is that even though we need it so much, often pain and fatigue keep us UP! How can we battle back? The two meditation apps I spoke about earlier have sleep meditations that help relax your body and get your ready for bed. There are different yoga sequences that can help you get into the mood – like legs up the wall, child’s pose, and forward bend. Meditation and yoga sequences are the 2 major players I use to combat the pain that’s keeping me up! Whenever I’m having a really high pain day, I concentrate on breathing into the area of my body that is ailing me. To do this, I’ll take a deep breath in and visualize my breath traveling to my knee (that’s what bothers me the most). Then when I exhale, I visualize my breath diffusing my pain way. As I keep breathing in and out, eventually I ‘diffuse’ the pain enough to where I fall asleep or I get so relaxed and caught up in watching my breath that the relaxation puts me to sleep!
Everything in our environment plays a part in our stress levels – even background noise! Do you have a favorite song or artist? If you’re in a bad mood, put it on! I always say there are 2 sure fire ways to get me in a good mood- Celine Dion or Christmas music! I found an infograph that’s actually kind of funny. They took a poll on which Christmas songs people thought were the most relaxing and the most stressful. Take a look at it and remember to steer clear of the ‘stressful’ ones!
The last 2 years I’ve really been into using essential oils to combat my health and mood. There are so many scents that can help uplift our mood! Make sure you get PURE essential oils (like from doTERRA), NOT fragrance. Fake scents like ‘fragrance’ can actually cause headaches, immune responses and a whole host of problems. Do yourself a favor and steer clear of these. (If you look on the back of perfumes, candles, lotions, shampoos, body wash, etc you’ll see ‘natural fragrance’ or ‘fragrance’ listed quite often. No matter how ‘natural’ they claim they are, if they list fragrance as an ingredient – don’t buy it! It’s not worth the health issues.) And if you don’t have any essential oils try this: put a pot of water on the stove, slice up some oranges, lemons, throw in a few cinnamon sticks, a splash of vanilla extract and whatever else you may have. Let simmer on the stove and your house will smell delicious (and will uplift the spirits of your family!)
Examples of mood elevating oils:
Lemon – uplifting, anti-depressant
Orange – mood-elevating
Peppermint – refreshing, mental stimulant
Rosemary – invigorating
Thyme – refreshing, purifying, herbal
And lastly, don’t forget the reason for the season! It doesn’t matter if you celebrate Christmas or Chanukah, there is a huge spirituality aspect of the season. We get so caught up in the big box store’s version of the holiday season that sometimes we forget the actual reason that we’re celebrating. Don’t forget it. In fact, make it a point to FOCUS on the reason this year. I bet you’ll end up enjoying it so much more!
There are many things we can do to help manage our stress, but there are factors that are out of our control. What we can do is try to arm ourselves with a strong toolbox of proven tools that we can call upon when we’re thrust into a stressful situation. Don’t get discouraged either! We didn’t learn to be stressed out overnight, and we’re not going to completely change our thought patterns overnight either. As you work on it, it will start to become second nature. Unfortunately, it is something we’ll have to focus on for the rest of our lives – but if you find techniques that you enjoy, it can add some fun and light to your day!
What kinds of techniques do you pull out when you’re in a stressful situation? Comment below so we can all draw on each other’s experiences!!
Wishing You A Pain Free Day!