Coping with the Holidays…

The holiday season often brings unwelcome guests — stress and depression. And it’s no wonder. The holidays present a dizzying array of demands — parties, shopping, baking, cleaning and entertaining, to name just a few.

But with some practical tips, you can minimize the stress that accompanies the holidays. You may even end up enjoying the holidays more than you thought you would.

Tips to prevent holiday stress and depression

When stress is at its peak, it’s hard to stop and regroup. Try to prevent stress and depression in the first place, especially if the holidays have taken an emotional toll on you in the past.

  1. 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.
  2. Reach out.  If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.
  3. Be realistic.  The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children can’t come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos.
  4. Set aside differences.  Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.
  5. Stick to a budget.  Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don’t try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts.

Try these alternatives:

  • Donate to a charity in someone’s name.
  • Give homemade gifts.
  • Start a family gift exchange.
  1. Plan ahead.  Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That’ll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for party prep and cleanup.
  2. 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. If it’s not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.
  3. Don’t abandon healthy habits.  Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt.

Try these suggestions:

  • Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don’t go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Incorporate regular physical activity into each day.
  1. Take a breather.  Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.

Some options may include:

  • Taking a walk at night and stargazing.
  • Listening to soothing music.
  • Getting a massage.
  • Reading a book.
  1. Seek professional help if you need it.  Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.

Don’t let the holidays become something you dread. Instead, take steps to prevent the stress and depression that can descend during the holidays. Learn to recognize your holiday triggers, such as financial pressures or personal demands, so you can combat them before they lead to a meltdown. With a little planning and some positive thinking, you can find peace and joy during the holidays.

Article written by: The Mayo Clinic Staff

 

 

Four Things That Can Destroy Relationships

According to John Gottman, Ph.D., “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” are behaviors that, if they occur regularly, are very good predictors of either a failed or a terminally unhappy relationship. If you discover that any of these occur often in your relationship, you and your partner are most likely heading for trouble. The “Four Horsemen” are:

  1. Criticism versus Complaint. A complaint addresses only the specific action at which your partner has failed. A criticism is global. It attacks the matefs character or personality. Here is an example: Complaint: “There is no gas in the car. I’m aggravated that you didn’t fill it up like you said you would.” Criticism: “You never remember anything! You can’t be counted on for your word!”
  2. Contempt. Contempt is composed of a set of behaviors that communicate disgust. It includes, but is not limited to: sneering, sarcasm, name calling, eye rolling, mockery, hostile humor and condescension. It is primarily transmitted through non-verbal behaviors. It does not move toward reconciliation and inevitably increases the conflict. It is always disrespectful. Research shows couples that display contempt for each other suffer more illnesses and diseases than respectful couples.
  3. Defensiveness. These behaviors convey the message, “The problem is not me. It’s you.” From this position you imply that, because your partner threw the first stone, they are responsible for the entire conflict. You avoid taking responsibility for your own behavior by pointing to something they did prior to their complaint about you. You do not acknowledge that which is true in what they are saying about your behavior.
  4. Stonewalling. In relationships where intense arguments break out suddenly, and where criticism and contempt lead to defensiveness, and where more contempt leads to more defensiveness, eventually one partner tunes out. This is the beginning of stonewalling. The stonewaller acts as if he (research indicates that 85% of stonewallers in marriages are husbands) couldn’t care less about what the partner is saying or doing. He (sometimes she) turns away from conflict and from the relationship. Any form of disengagement can be stonewalling.

If either you or your partner regularly engages in any of these behaviors during fights, you have some work to do. The Four Horsemen corrode the love that is at the core of an intimate relationship.

What are the antidotes for these problem behaviors? There are many! Here are some suggestions:

  1. Learn how to mirror your partner’s complaints.
  2. Scan for whatever is valid in your partner’s complaint and address that.
  3. Speak respectfully even when angry.
  4. Practice holding yourself and your partner in warm regard, even when feeling distant or during a fight.
  5. Learn the skills of repairing damage in the relationship.
  6. Always live up to your agreements (or renegotiate if you can’t.)
  7. Make all requests of your partner clear, simple and specific.
  8. Practice sharing compliments, appreciations and praise daily.

If you and your partner find it difficult to replace the Four Horsemen with more loving behaviors, therapy can help.  I am an expert at coaching couples in how to re-establish intimacy in damaged relationships. Please contact me if you have questions or would like to schedule an initial consultation for you and your partner.

The Importance of Expressing Gratitude

With Thanksgiving just behind us, the Holiday season has officially began.  Giving thanks for what we have can be the best gift that we can provide ourselves.  This article is an excellent reminder of how expressing gratitude can truly change your life.

 

Monday Motivation…

“You have this one life. How do you want to spend it? Apologizing? Regretting? Questioning? Hating yourself? Dieting? Running after people who don’t see you? Be brave. Believe in yourself. Do what feels good. Take risks. You have this one life. Make yourself proud.”

-Beardsley Jones

What is Healthy Eating?

Healthy Eating is about Freedom. It is about whether you feel free to choose what you are going to eat, how much, and when.

Healthy Eating is about feeling great, having energy, and keeping yourself in a “healthy” state of mind and body.

Healthy Eating is about giving yourself permission to eat because the food “tastes” good and to continue eating until you feel satisfied.

Healthy Eating is eating three meals a day plus snacks or perhaps choosing to munch along. It is having two cookies and making a free and conscious decision to eat a third for any reason—because they taste good, because they are freshly baked, how rarely you have them, or it is leaving more cookies on the plate because you know you can have some again tomorrow.

Healthy Eating is being able to choose foods that provide your body with the vitamins and nutrients it needs—for ENERGY, but not being so restrictive that you miss out on pleasurable foods.

Healthy Eating is allowing yourself to eat sometimes because you are happy, sad, bored, or because it just feels good—and not beating yourself up afterwards.

Healthy Eating is overeating at times: feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. It is also under eating at times and wishing you had more.

Healthy Eating is trusting that your body will BALANCE everything out.

Healthy Eating may take some time and energy, but it should only be one small component of your life.

Ultimately, Healthy Eating is not about strict nutrition philosophies. It should be flexible, changing in response to your hunger, your emotions, your schedule and your proximity to food.

 

Saying “Oh, I’ve already ruined my good eating today; I’ll just eat crap” is like saying, “Oh, I dropped my phone on the floor; I’ll just smash it until it breaks.”

Do Introverts Need Help?

Many of us are quieter types who keep to ourselves, preferring not to socialize too much. We can feel quite uncomfortable in large crowds, preferring small groups and intimate settings. We have a rich internal world that we find very satisfying.  Although, we feel strongly about what makes us uncomfortable, we can also feel that there is something a bit wrong with us when we do.

One difficulty that commonly arises, is that introverts are often drawn to extroverts and can end up in relationships with them. This is pretty understandable – all of us seek out people who seem to have qualities we don’t have, but some extroverts have a very difficult time understanding introverts. Because extroverts like to be outgoing and social (and less focused on their interior worlds) it can sometimes be difficult for them to understand the world of the introvert, who doesn’t like to do these things. As is often the case, when we don’t understand something it can start seem like an aberration.

If you’re an introvert you might be getting the message from an extrovert close to you that there is something wrong with you and you need to go to therapy to sort yourself out. You may have been hearing this for a while and are starting to wonder if it is true. If so, I’d suggest reading this article with your extroverted partner to help make sense of your differences: http://holykaw.alltop.com/understanding-your-introvert-chart?tu2=1

Ultimately, people are frequently unaware that they’re introverts -– especially if they’re not shy — because they may not realize that being an introvert is about more than just cultivating time alone. Instead, it can be more instructive to pay attention to whether you’re losing or gaining energy from being around others, even if the company of friends gives you pleasure.

Let’s embrace who we are, not what people expect us to be…and appreciate each other’s differences.

Be yourself, because an original is worth more than a copy.

– Unknown

How Practicing Mindfulness for Just 5 Minutes a Day Can Improve Health…

Practicing mindfulness has been shown to have numerous positive effects on well-being. Decades of research supports what has been known for thousands of years by cultures that practice mindfulness. Engaging in a practice even for just a few minutes a day can lower stress and anxiety, relieve feelings of depression and pain, and boost the immune system. Cultivating mindfulness helps us become more aware of our thoughts and feelings, which promotes emotional balance and self-awareness.

Here are some great online resources for guided meditations.  They’re a great place to start if you want to try out meditation for the first time, or if you’re an experienced practitioner and enjoy guided meditations.

Feel the feeling, but don’t become the emotion.  Witness it.  Allow it.  Release it.

-Buddhist quote, Anonymous