Self-Care to Reduce Holiday Stress
Yesterday I went to physical therapy. Yes, physical therapy. AGAIN.
There were beautiful huge pumpkins decorating the waiting room. One on each side of the door. Today is a day in the last week of September.
Halloween is at the end of next month!
The holidays are coming! Thanksgiving movies are being advertised on television. Christmas music will soon be playing everywhere. Homes, schools, and offices are decorating.
Beautiful mouthwatering candy and cookies are tempting the most patient dieter. “Tis the season to be jolly”. Or is it?
This brings up memories. Happy memories or unhappy ones. Everyone experiences holiday stress. Yet people with unhappy childhoods experience sometimes massive holiday stress.
This blog is for you. I’m writing for each and every one of you whose childhood memories are unhappy ones.
I wish to discuss a myth. This fable suggests that all you need to do is let go. Let go of bad memories. Just decide to forget about it.
That’s not the case. People say, “Just go laugh and play; you’ll feel better.”
Or “Enjoy the moment.”
“Forget the past.”
These false ideas make your holidays more difficult. Stressful.
People expect child abuse to be over when you grow up. You are expected to pick up with grit and a smile. Then carry on from the most stressful memories.
You were invisible before, but now you don’t exist. People expect you to disappear into the mainstream of society and have no problems with life at all.
People assume you will just deal with it all the time, but the pressure on you is worse around the holidays. All around you are expressions of happiness and joy.
Movies, music, stores, and other people are expressing happy feelings. You place expectations on yourself and create more holiday stress. You tell yourself; “be jolly.”
Happiness is an expectation and a pressure on you. Instead, you feel like Scrooge. More stress.
When you laugh and play, you feel your innermost feelings. For a person with a happy fulfilling personal history, this is wonderful. You’ll remember Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Easter and other family holidays past with fond and pleasant memories.
Sure, you have had problems in your life; but the overall picture of your personal history is mellow. You’ll remember smells, sounds, and people with warmth, joy, and feelings of anticipation.
If you grew up in a dysfunctional household, holidays were more likely to be chaotic. You lived holiday stress.
All days were chaotic, but the holidays were worse.
Many people have memories of dad or mom drunk and violent or weepy or sloppy sentimental. There are memories of dire poverty with no food or heat or furniture. Your parents might have traded your Christmas presents for drugs. Or you were beaten senseless by your drunken parent or molested by that weird Uncle So and So.
Christmas and other holidays bring up feelings and memories from the most painful events of your life.
Here are some suggestions to help you take care of yourself.
- Tell yourself your truths.
What truths? You might ask. Your truths are those thoughts and feelings you have in the privacy of your own mind. Your truth is what happened to you in your lifetime.
Your truth consists of your beliefs, needs, wants, and ideas. You probably don’t voice them. You might not even allow yourself to acknowledge them. However, you do hear them.
If you allow yourself to know your truths, you will be able to make a holiday plan that fits your needs. You can make good decisions based on who you are, what you have been through and what exactly you need from yourself.
- Allow yourself to feel how you feel.
Tell yourself that you are normal to feel the way you feel. Acknowledge that you have a right to feel exactly as you feel about these holidays. Remind yourself that anyone with your specific history would feel exactly as you do.
- Try to find ways to give your approval to yourself.
Make yourself right for who you are instead of wrong. If it is normal for you to feel painful feelings during the holidays, you don’t have to pretend to be jolly. If you don’t have to pretend to be jolly, you can find healthy ways to comfort yourself.
- Ask yourself what kind of Holiday you would like.
As an adult, you can do for yourself what you could not do in childhood. You have a wide range of options to choose from.
- You can give yourself a traditional holiday.
- You can ignore the holidays altogether.
- You can spend your holidays in service to others.
- You could spend your holiday with a church of your choice.
- There is no correct way of having holidays.
- You can look at all the different aspects of each celebration; then pick and choose the activities that suit you.
- The point here is to listen to yourself.
- Take care of yourself based on your truth, your feelings and what you want.
Decide to parent yourself. Comfort yourself with what you need.
Keep yourself safe from harm. Be kind to yourself. This may be the most difficult step in self-care.
- Whenever you make any change in your behavior, you will run into resistance.
Resistance is sneaky. Sometimes it’s just a sense of irritation. Other times, it’s a nightmare. I often feel sick when getting ready to do something difficult. Resistance is within yourself and also from other people. This too is normal.
Accept that you will fight yourself when taking care of you. And, then proceed to do just that. Fight yourself to take care of you.
- Taking care of yourself is a long learning process.
All that is required is that you make an attempt. Each effort, each trial for self-care is progress. Your attempts will help you relieve your holiday stress. You can create new memories for yourself. Memories that suit you and meet your needs.
Best wishes to you. Stay safe!
Do you have thoughts about how you can reduce your upcoming holiday stress?
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You can have a weight problem and NOT have a medical disorder, a diagnosable mental condition, or an addiction. Chances are good that you could change one or more of your behaviors and achieve your goals with life coaching.
Some people simply eat too much food or too much of the wrong kinds of foods and gain weight. For you, the solution is to go on a healthy diet and increase your exercise. You can obtain a healthy diet from your medical professional, a dietician or nutritionist. Life coaching can help you make your choices as well as keep your motivation high.
Many people find that they can simply increase their exercise by walking or riding a bicycle instead of driving. Maybe you’d like to take a dance class, join a health club, or plan for a marathon. This too is about your drive to reach your goals. Life coaching is all about your goals.
Then there is our modern lifestyle. We work long hours, so we don’t cook the healthier simple foods. Instead, we eat on the run. The foods we eat are loaded with empty calories: Sugar, white flour, and fat. Healthier foods are labor intensive and often require an hour or two to prepare. This is a very difficult activity after a long hard day working on your job. There are several solutions to this. Your answers depend on your values and personal decisions. A life coach helps you hear yourself and make those decisions in a self-enhancing way.
Our modern lifestyle contributes to health and weight problems. People a multitude of labor saving devices. And technology. I love this. Machines, appliances, computers, phones, tablets, and more. It does seem as if our lives are easier than they were 150 years ago. We shop online and no longer walk from store to store. We have appliances to do a lot of the activities that keep our lives functional.
Unfortunately, there have been what are called unintended consequences. One is that we simply use less energy in our day. And we consume fewer calories. Less activity, the same calorie consumption leads to less physical fitness and weight gain.
Then, we are often expected to do much more sedentary work. These days more people are doing work that involves using our minds rather than their bodies. We are less active and we have less time for the physical activities needed by our bodies. This is a real dilemma most people face daily.
It might seem like you just inhale food and calories from the air, gaining weight. But there are many behaviors in most people’s life that defeat their desire to be trim and healthy. And this requires behavior changes.
Our lives are busier and it’s more difficult to set your priorities. Pre-packaged, unhealthy foods abound in the grocery. And fast food is available almost on every corner. People work hard and eat at their desks.
Other people are thought to have an allergy to certain food or the chemicals in foods. A gazillion books have been written about the problems with sugar, white flour, and processed foods. They are not healthy, cause massive weight gain and, in some people, create a craving for more.
There are some excellent workbooks out there on behavior change. Charts and graphs to complete where you examine your behavior. And organized programs to help you do just that. The one catch is that these programs decide for you where you begin and which behaviors you should change.
Unfortunately, each worksheet, every program, and all the choices require time and effort. The effort of self-examination and the effort of participating in the program. And the important effort of the behavior change you need to make. Life coaching starts where you are. In a life coaching relationship, you select the behaviors you see as problematic and make your own plans to change them. You progress at your own pace. You put your effort where you feel it will do the most good.
Then there is the difficulty people have due to chronic dieting. Some researchers have proposed that there is a normal weight setpoint for each person. This means that the weight you are right now might be the weight that is normal for your body. When you lose weight below that setpoint, your body objects and fights back. Some feel this is related to the days when food was less available. Our bodies are magnificent and have adapted to life cycles of starvation and abundance. During abundance, our bodies pile on the weight to prepare for the coming cycle of starvation. Only life is not like that for most people today.
Years ago there was a research project conducted with people who volunteered to stay in a hospital setting and eat what was prescribed. The first part of this experiment had the volunteers on a strict diet calculated to cause each person to loose 10% of their body weight.
Once this part of the research was finished, food was supplied without limits. The volunteers could eat whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, and as much as they wanted. At first, they chose the highest calorie foods. And they ate and ate, much like binge eaters until they gained weight. Only they didn’t just gain back that 10% of the weight they lost. They also gained an additional 10% above the weight they started with. This is an example what our bodies think about starvation diets and weight loss.
Some researchers have suggested you can change your setpoint with aerobic exercise. And that is a good idea for a multitude of reasons. Only one of which is your weight setpoint. Aerobic exercise is good for weight, as an antidote to stress, for depression as well. general overall fitness, well-being, and even fatigue.
Other authorities in the field of eating disorders have pointed to the fashion industry and media. They suggest that unreal and idealized images of beauty put invisible pressures on people to live up to an impossible and unhealthy standard. I remember reading about a fashion shoot for a jeans ad. It took something like 5 people to put the jeans on her. These jeans were deliberately several sizes too small for her. They immersed them in water and then demanded that she lean back, stay still and stiff like a board while staff forced the jeans on her. This was given as an example of an advertising campaign with unreal images. These images are thought to create a desire in some to become thinner than their body needs. Maybe even excessively so. Life coaching can help you create your vision of a healthy, normal weight with a satisfying life. And then life coaching can help you identify the steps you wish to take toward those goals.
The catch here is, once more, behavior change. Everything we want in life requires some effort. The choice is where you want to put your energy. What do you think is the most important behavior for you to change? How much personal power do you want in life? What is your chosen life?
Life coaching is helpful for people who want to eat healthier, increase their exercise, and change their lifestyle. Life coaching is great for people who look to empower themselves. In life coaching, you set your goals based on the deeper desires you hold. You hold the power. Make the choices. Decide which behaviors and actions you want to explore. We work together as you move forward along the path to your dreams of a healthier, happier you.
If you have responses to my columns, have questions, or just want to share your thoughts, write your comment in the reply box below. I’d love to hear what you are thinking.
Contact me for an appointment to begin reaching for the dreams within you.
Telephone: (615) 464-3791
©2017 by Laura Coleman, Ph.D. All rights reserved.
Doctor’s visits can be cool
rinsing myself in thermal springs
of mineral waters cleansing
me of toxins and sickness.
Or they can become challenging experiences
plunging over dangerous waterfalls
into precarious rapids
finally dashing my being into rocks.
This one was a warm pool
of healing waters full of minerals.
I listened to my husband
talk about my water on rock
approach to life
as I climbed on a stair
first holding on to the examining table
then slowly turning around
finally pushing myself up
into a sitting position.
“That’s what no one
seems to know about her.
She’s like the water
that formed the Grand Canyon.
She never quits until she succeeds,”
he told my doctor.
Here I sit thinking about water
my approach to life
and my current path to personal growth.
Poisoned toxic water
had dripped into my being
carving a canyon deep sense of desolation
Sickness is merciless
simply demanding until you give in.
Slowly illness wrestled one life’s activity at a time
away from me.
I coped badly
mistakenly immersing myself
into frothy nasty words
“It’s not important”
I told myself
each and every time
I gave up something else.
Today, I must rinse those thoughts
the toxic words out of my being.
Some days I imagine I AM water
flowing out into pools
merging into all the waters of the world
just washing it all way
in the biggest most powerful
pools of water.
Instead I’m left with small water drops
hollowing out the negativity
and replacing the poisons with love.
And so I do.
Water is everywhere in my day
I go through the day
performing those tasks
that are healing me
adding loving words to myself,
saying instead, “I am important”
as I wash my hands making sure
I don’t give myself an infection.
Drip, Drop, “I have value”
putting the needles into my belly
for my treatment.
Burble, bubble, “You are loved,”
as I do my daily exercise.
plip – plip – ploop – plip – plip – plip – plip – ploop
“I deserve to be taken care of”
as I eat my mandated food on time
every two hours
and drink my eight glasses of water.
That, friends, is my water on rock
approach to life’s problems.
Each little task
no matter how small
builds upon the next task
until I can move mountains
carve out the Grand Canyon
or even find my way back
or at least a richer life
filled with the joys
of the day.
Day One of Writing: Intro to Poetry
Word prompt is Water
If you would like to talk with someone about your chronic illness or explore your own version of a water on rock approach to your life problems, contact me to make an appointment.
Telephone: (615) 464-3791
Picture is an NPS Postcard of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone by Frank J Haynes; words added by me.
I’m 70 years old and I’m a grown ass woman. According to the Urban Dictionary, a grown ass woman takes responsibility for herself and demands the respect of others. We have confidence in our own decisions and make them for ourselves.
I’ve been reading stupid fashion advice for older women on the Internet. I know, I know. Why ever would I do that to myself? I ran across this series of arguments and counter arguments on Facebook. Ever curious, I pretty much had to read them all to make up my mind what was what. I fumed for a while after I finished. Then I read them all over again! I searched the ideas on google. Just to make sure that it was in print. Like really, I’d make that up. Picture a grown ass woman rolling her eyes.
There seem to be several strands of outrageousness here. One is that as you age you need extra help to dress yourself. Then there is this offensive approach like you do with children. Awww, isn’t she cute? Look at what she is doing. At her age.
There is the crazy thought that as you age, you lose your rights to be yourself. That somehow, you become less and can be forever put in your place. Made to look and feel old. Put away. Or moved out of the way to make room for those who are younger. Go do the search yourself. See if you can see the offensiveness in ageism. Or not.
I do remember the ridiculousness of my youth in the 1960’s. How so many of us said we’d die before the age of 30. You know, the old, “Live fast, die young and have a good-looking corpse!” (said by Humphrey Bogart in the movie, Knock on Any Door, 1949). We couldn’t visualize ever growing old. But we all did. Those of us who survived the 1960’s anyway. I guess, in fairness, youngsters thinking of the age of 30 as old is just the way things are.
Personally, I’ve lived according to Helen Keller’s statement that “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” Occasionally life is very difficult. Painful. Excruciating even. The little joys can sometimes help us make it through the big painful times.
Music, candles, pictures, pets, clothing, good smells and even jewelry. Then there is laughter and play. Sex. Relationships. Friendships. Intimacy. All important to our ability to make it through those dark nights when life sucks. Now imagine a life where you don’t get to make the choices of even those little joys. Because somehow those joys, the small things don’t fit your given image. <sigh> A nightmare, I think.
I’ve earned my right to make my own decisions by living life as it happened. By making my own choices and paying whatever price was required by that choice. Good or bad. Pleasant or painful. Growing up is like that. You live. You learn. You either mature and win some battles. Or you stay childlike and life grinds you up as you lose your battles. If you haven’t had any battles yet, you have very limited advice for others.
I’ve been playing dress up as far back in my life as I can remember. Every single time I leave my home, I dress up for myself. Wearing what I want and feeling good about it. Dresses, jeans, and hats when I feel like it. Scrunchies for color and just for the hell of it, with scarves, shawls, and jewelry to match everything I own. I wear my hair long because I love it and my natural silver because it’s a beautiful color. I stopped dying it red after my last bout with cancer because my hair grew in so beautifully. And also because my husband loves it.
As grown ass woman, I do know how to dress myself. I know what looks good on me and what makes me feel dowdy. I dress to please myself. Not you. It shouldn’t have shocked me that twenty-somethings are telling people older than them what not to wear. I mean I thought I knew everything when I was younger too.
Still reading those articles felt like someone had thrown a glass of ice water at me. There is this crazy issue about hair styles. I should cut my hair, not cut my hair, dye my hair, not dye my hair. Another telling me that scrunchies are so far out of style that people might laugh at me.
Everywhere I looked there is glaringly contradictory advice for you and me. I never in my life bought or read fashion magazines. Except once years ago, when I was quoted in an article. That one I framed and hung on my office wall for years! But I digress.
Seriously, mental health is being fully who you are. As we age, we face life’s challenges related to each phase of life. Leaving home, education or not, careers or not, relationships or not, children or not, on to the infinity of possible choices each of us makes in our lives. How we navigate those challenges determines the quality of our life. I believe that we can make self-enhancing choices at every turning point in our lives. No matter how big or small those turning points appear to be.
But we cannot make the kind of choices necessary for our own well-being if we spend our lives taking advice from people who know so very little about us. That’s the most offensive aspect of the inappropriate and ignorant fashion advice I read. It comes from no-nothings. People who know nothing about us and our lives. People who don’t know what makes us happy, sad, or in between. People who have no clue as to the challenges we face day-to-day.
I say, wear what you like. Pink and Orange if it suits you. Big hoop earrings because they suit me. Polka dots and plaids together if that’s your style. Or frilly blouses and dresses because they simply make me smile. These are the little choices we each make. Practice making these ourselves so that we’re ready for the big ones when they come.
Big choices like marriages or not. Parenting or not. And on and on in life as we grow. No matter who gives us advice, no matter how willing we are to pay for our choices, we will pay for them. No one else walks in our shoes. No one else will reap the reward for your self enhancing choices but you. And no one else will suffer for choices that blow up in your face. No matter whose advice you followed.
And that my friends, is the end point of all that stupid advice giving. People making your choices for you. If you allow that in your life, you won’t grow into making your own choices when it really matters to you.
I hope you’ll choose to become a grown ass woman or man and make your own choices. Your life will be better for it.
If you have responses to my writing, have questions, or just want to share your thoughts, please feel free to share your comments. I’d love to hear what you are thinking.
If you would like to learn how to make your own choices, contact me for further information or to set up an appointment:
Email me: email@example.com
Phone: (615) 464-3791
Photo is from the George Grantham Bain collection at the Library of Congress.
©2016 by Laura Coleman, Ph.D. All rights reserved.