Just Breathe

Just Breathe

In last week’s blog about resiliency, my last tip for improving your resiliency was to breathe.

Deep breathing elicits the relaxation response and facilitates an even exchange of oxygen to carbon dioxide (source).

In turn, these phenomena both reduce the heart rate and stabilize blood pressure. They also will bring about a deep sense of relaxation of both mind and body.

Try these breathing techniques & see how you feel:

Graduated Breath: 3 – 5 breaths each round.

Round 1

Inhale into your front rib cage.

Allow your heart-center to shine upwards. Feel the front of your ribcage expand and open.

Feel your heart opening as you breath in oxygen.

If you would like to set an intention or start an affirming mantra, this is a good time to do so.

Round 2

Inhale into your full ribcage.

Allow your entire ribcage to expand with the inhalation and gently contract with the exhalation.

Feel a sense of relaxation coming into your body. Bring your attention to your shoulders and allow them to soften on each exhalation.

Round 3

This time, inhale all the way into your diaphragm.

The ribcage still expands and fills with air.

But now, the diaphragm, that belt of muscle that runs all the way around your body right under the ribcage also expands with the inhalation and gently contracts with the exhalation.

Continue with your affirming mantra.

Continue to mentally coax your shoulders and now your back to soften and relax.

Round 4

Draw your inhalations all the way down into the belly. The ribcage is still expanding and contracting.

The diaphragm is still expanding and contracting.

Allow your belly to shine. The ancient yogis say that the belly is the center of our life force.

Allow your life force to open with the breath.

Round 5

Finally, allow your breath to fill your entire torso.

Your ribs expand.

Your diaphragm expands.

Your belly expands and your lower back expands.

Concentrate on the slow expansion and contraction of your muscles and bones. Feel the sense of calm that comes with each breath.

Connect your mind and your body and feel your entire torso, neck, hips and maybe even your entire body relax and let go of lingering tensions.

Continue with your mantra if you are using one with this practice.

Graduated Breath with Counting: 3 to 5 breaths each round.

Start with inhalations all the way into your belly. They need to be shallow at first.

Round 1

Inhale counting to 3; Exhale counting to 4.

Round 2

Inhale counting to 4; Exhale counting to 5

Round 3

Inhale counting to 5; Exhale counting to 6.

At this point either reverse the count back to inhale 4 and then 3 OR continue on until you are inhaling to 9 and exhaling to 10.

Opposite Nostril Breathing: As many rounds as you like.

Preparation

Take your index finger and thumb of your non-dominant hand and make a “U.”

Step 1

Place your index finger lightly on the outside of your nostril along the side of your nose. Close off the air.

Inhale through the open nostril.

Step 2

Place your thumb gently over the open nostril, along the side of your nose, closing it off.

Release the index finger, opening the nostril that was closed.

Exhale through the open nostril.

Step 3

Inhale on that same side.

Step 4

Close off that side of the nose with the index finger; Open the thumb from the other nostril and exhale.

Step 5

Inhale on that same side that you just opened. Repeat the pattern at least 5 times.

Try it out!

These are just three of many different deep breathing techniques to try.

Tune in to future blogs and vlogs for more!

Remember, in yoga, we call it “Breath Work” because it’s a practice.

If you don’t elicit a relaxation response your first couple of times using a technique, keep practicing and keep trying different techniques.

The more you practice Breath Work, the deeper your mind-body connection and the deeper your relaxation will be.

Let me know how these work for you!

If you have other techniques that you love, share them in the comments for others to try out!

We’re a Peaceful Living Community filled with Love and Compassion. So please, share on…

With Love & Gratitude!

Jen

Resiliancy

Resiliancy

“Resilience isn’t a single skill. It’ a variety of skills and coping mechanisms.

To bounce back from bumps in the road as well as failures, you should focus on emphasizing the positive.”

~ Jean Chatzky, financial journalist

Inner resiliency is an important personality trait to have in order to combat both acute and chronic stress.

I find that many of my clients and friends don’t really know what it is.

A dictionary definition goes something like this:

1. The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
2. The ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.

On first glance, it may seem that only the first definition applies to human beings.

I truly believe that both inner toughness and elasticity are necessary for human resilience.

We need to be both tough and flexible (elastic) to withstand acute stress.

For example, when facing the loss of a job, a scary medical diagnosis or being subjected to harassment.

We need to open our hearts and minds to changing jobs; this requires flexibility.

Thus, when facing a significant life change, we need to be tough in the face of the change, but also embrace the change with openness to something new
(flexibility).

A new normal

Cancer patients are counseled that they CAN live with cancer; but, they will need to adjust to a “new normal.”

They will need to be tough to stand up to the cancer and to withstand chemotherapy and radiation AND they will need to be flexible in adjusting to their “new normal.”

Cancer patients need to be flexible in order to adjust to their “new normal” of living with cancer.

We also need to be both tough and flexible in order to withstand the stressful ebbs and flows of life that cause chronic stress.

Proud Mommy Moment

I was listening to my daughter talk last night about how mean and sassy the kids in her middle school are. I was amazed by her nonchalance about it.

She just said that they bug her, but that she basically doesn’t have time for their nonsense! She is exemplifying the epitome of toughness in a chronically stressful situation!

You have to be tough in the face of chronic stress

Being flexible is just as important in managing chronic stress.

One of my biggest challenges with my clients is to convince them that they do have time for self-care.

They get so bogged down in the chronic stress of their busy lives they cannot grasp the reality that they actually can carve out time to relax and take time for themselves.

It takes flexibility in thinking and actions to take the time to do this for themselves.

What a great way to build the toughness and flexibility required for RESILIENCY!

Self-Care!

The question becomes, how do we get the toughness and flexibility to build resilience?

Here are 5 tips for building resilience:

1. “This Too Shall Pass”

When I was in graduate school I found myself in a professor’s office one day near tears (I cried a lot from the stress of grad school :/ ) .

I was very upset that I did not pass one of the questions on a Ph.D. comprehensive exam.

In hindsight it was quite silly of me to be so upset, because I passed the exam.

We had to pass two out of three questions and I passed both of the others, so there really wasn’t a reason to be upset. At that point in life I had very little resiliency to me!

The professor, wise and benevolent man that he was, sat back, crossed his arms, looked at me and said, “Jen, this too shall pass.”

To me, at that moment in time, I felt like a huge failure! I did not feel like it would pass!

Of course, hindsight is 20/20…

If I had resiliency at that time I would have been tough enough to say to myself that it was okay that I didn’t pass the question.

I would have been flexible enough to move beyond it and not dwell on the false idea that I was a failure.

I would have had enough presence of mind to not get overwrought by not passing one question, when I passed the exam!

2. “What Other People Think of Me is None of My Business.”

This point harkens back to my “Mean People Suck” vlog/ blog.

People can be both super stress relievers and super stress inducers.

When people become stressful having resilience is very important.

If we go back to the example of how my daughter is not allowing the mean, sassy kids at school get her upset, we can see how her resiliency is protecting her from taking it personally when they say mean things to her.

One thing that we all need to learn, is that while we do need to care about what other people think of us in terms of if we are being kind and polite in our interactions with others, we do not need take it personally when others are not being kind or polite to us!

When people are being mean or rude, that is when a resilient person will say to herself, “what that person thinks of me is none of my business,” and move on with her day.

3. “Practice Positivity, But Learn from the Negative.”

I have had enough experiences by this point in life to know that life can be full of joy if I let it.

On the flip side of that, I also know that life has lots of sorrow and challenges.

I can honestly say that embracing joy and working through sorrow has been the most effective method I have found for strengthening my resilience.

Thanks to the efforts of positive psychology researchers like Barbara Frederickson of the University of North Carolina, we now have empirical evidence that a mind focused on positivity is far more open and flexible than a mind focused on negativity:

“Positive people are able to maintain a broader perspective and see the big picture which helps them identify solutions whereas negative people maintain a narrower perspective and tend to focus on problems.”

~ Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D.

Remember, flexibility is associated with resiliency!

If you focus on positive thoughts it will give you a mind that is far more flexible than if you focus on negativity.

Thus, over the long-run focusing on negativity does not build resilience.

This phenomenon is not just true in respect to how we as humans view the outer world, but it is also true in terms of how we view ourselves.

Positive affirmations and self-talk build our inner resiliency.

From the century old theories of French Psychologist Émile Coué, to current research out of esteemed universities, we are seeing that positive thinking has efficacious effects for people.

There are some cautionary tales though.

For example, psychology research has also shown that trying to tell someone not to think their negative thoughts can have the opposite effect.

It can cause them to focus on them more.

In other words, while positive affirmations are helpful in building resiliency, it is also important to accept negative emotions and see them as real.

Do not push them down inside of you or blow them off as not important. But, also don’t dwell on them.

Give them their due diligence and move forward.

Once you have accepted the negative you can move on into positivity and allow positive affirmations to work.

This is the key to building resilience. Working through the negative in order to embrace the positive.

4. Self- Nurture

One of the primary themes running through my coaching, my writing, my speaking and my life is that self-nurture is of utmost importance to reducing stress.

By taking time out to rest and care for yourself you are giving your mind, body and spirit the opportunity to heal from stress, revive and strengthen.

By taking time out to nurture yourself you are giving yourself the opportunity to strengthen.

Remember how on airplanes the flight attendants instruct us to put the oxygen masks on ourselves before we put them on our children?

I love to use real life instruction as a metaphor for the importance of self-nurture in our lives.

We need to give ourselves oxygen, so we don’t pass out, before we can take care of others.

By resting and rejuvenating we are strengthening ourselves and building our resilience.

5. And finally… Just Breathe

People often look at me like I’m being a little ridiculous when I talk about how much breathing can help with stress-management.

I mean, we all breath all day, right?

Without breath we can’t live.

I’m talking about a different type of breathing than that which do all day every day.

I’m talking about slow, deep, luxurious breathing.

I’m talking about the type of breathing that allows your entire torso to expand and contract with the breath.

I’m talking about the type of breath that coaxes your shoulders to melt with relaxation.

I’m talking about the type of breath that allows your mind to slow down and your body let go of tension.

I’m talking about the type of breathing that brings you into a place of tranquility and peace…

So, just breath my friends. Just breath…

What are your stories of resiliency? I would love to hear about the wisdom you have derived, please comment and share!

Love & Light,

Jen

Stressing over being fat is unhealthier than being fat

Stressing over being fat is unhealthier than being fat

The stress of fat shaming is more toxic than actually being fat.

The only way to make weight stop being a problem, is to stop making weight a problem–stop judging ourselves and others by our size. Linda Bacon, PhD in Nutrition Science

According to the American Psychological Association stress is linked to SIX of the leading causes of death in the United States: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, liver cirrhosis, and SUICIDE. [source] But, did you know that it’s also one of the leading causes of diabetes? [source]

What does this have to do with fat shaming, you ask?   

Fat shaming is one of the leading causes of stress in American society. Not only is it a cause of stress for people who are overweight, but it’s also a major source of stress for people of normal weight!   People in our nation are so worried about being fat shamed that they are worrying themselves sick about it. Why is fat shaming so pervasive in our society?  First and foremost, because it’s tolerated.

  • We see magazine covers touting celebrities, “ASTONISHING WEIGHT GAIN!”  As if it’s the worst thing that could ever happen to them.
  • We have extremely popular TV shows – The Biggest Loser – that chronical the extreme exercise and dieting of contestants to lose big weight, only to gain it back again after the show. [source

Biggest loser contestants must brutally exercise to keep the weight off, study shows. The Los Angeles Times

  • We see supposedly legitimate news sources discussing whatever the latest fad diet is. Watch Good Morning America or The Today Show almost any week and they will be talking about ways to lose weight
  • We have an American Diet Industrial Complex worth over $60 BILLION annually! They are heavily invested in telling us that being fat is bad, to keep us spending that $60 billion so that we can be healthy, look good and, according to them, feel good! [source– “The Heavy Price of Losing Weight”]
  • We have a medical community that largely ignores many of the underlying causes of weight gain–stress being one of the most prominent–and cashes in on diabetes & weight loss pharmaceuticals, bariatric surgeries, and research that is funded by the pharmaceutical and diet industrial complex.

The Obesity Paradox

Obese patients with disease live longer than those of normal weight. Slate.com

  • And, of course more recently, we have a president who fat shames indiscriminately.  

If I were running the view, I’d fire Rosie [O’Donnell]. I’d look her right in that fat, ugly, face of hers and say, ‘Rosie, you’re fired.'” Donald Trump to Entertainment Tonight

So there’s the catch…

Common knowledge says that if we just eat less and exercise more we will lose weight!   And this is true, to a certain extent for VERY FEW PEOPLE! Most people either can’t lose the weight without starving themselves and/or over-exercising.  97% of those who do lose weight, gain it back and then some!

 

My Insulin Story

 

I was a skinny kid. And I was actually a skinny teenager and a skinny college girl. What’s so funny though, is that I thought I was fat! When I was in college I went on Jenny Craig even though I was a women’s size 0! I thought I was fat because I couldn’t fit into the juniors/ misses sizes around my hips very well anymore (it was really just that my body was maturing around the hips as women’s bodies do…)    I didn’t know that because I paid attention to what popular culture was telling me about my body.  Anybody remember Tamilee Webb and Buns of Steel?

 

Except, here’s what was going on behind the scenes in my body:

 

I wasn’t processing the stress of my upbringing or the stress of my current situation well. I was drinking too much alcohol, sleeping too little, and worrying all the time.

 

 

The stress was starting to have an effect on my brain chemistry.

 

I was cycling through episodes of severe anxiety and depression. Much of the time I felt fine, but as time went on the anxiety and depression came around more often and the “feeling fine” time was harder to achieve.  

 

 

Little did I know, the stress was starting to affect my pancreas and my insulin levels were starting to ratchet up.

 

When I graduated from college and decided to go to graduate school, the pace and workload (on top the fact that I still was not coping with my stress appropriately) led to bouts of months-long insomnia, occasional panic attacks and the dreaded weight gain! During my master’s program I gained 20 pounds – in only a year-and-a-half! During the first year of my doctoral program I gained another whopping 20 pounds!!!

 

 

Then, I had the opportunity to go to Europe for two months.

 

 I climbed to the top of every cathedral I could find. I walked and walked and walked… and I ate the amazing fresh food that Europeans are lucky enough to eat every day! I lost 20 pounds!

 

 

It was great! Or so I thought…

 

The problem was that it was the beginning of a cycle of stress-induced weight gain and physical activity + a more relaxed lifestyle weight loss. I wasn’t yoyo dieting – I was yoyo stressing!

 

Fast Forward to 2016

 

I just turned 46 and was feeling horrible! I was at my highest weight yet, but I also was in a constant brain fog. I couldn’t remember words, I would show-up for appointments at the wrong time, I was lethargic and constantly battling depression.

 

 

“But, I’M A STRESS MANAGEMENT COACH!!!”

 

I would say to myself with exasperation! What’s going on… why are my awesome mindfulness techniques not working to help me feel better???

 

 

I sought out medical reasons for why I felt so bad.

 

Low-and- behold, after a year of seeing different doctors and having A LOT of blood drawn, it turned out that my pancreas was producing so much insulin that if it kept going at that pace it would likely shut down very soon. When the endocrinology nurse practitioner told me this news the first thing out of my mouth was,

 

but, I’ve tried so hard to lose weight! I only eat an average of 1600 calories a day, I power walk 3 to 4 days-a-week and I do yoga 3 times a week!

 

Her response was to look at me seriously and state, “

 

This is not your fault. You are not insulin resistant because of your weight; you are having trouble losing weight because you are insulin resistant.

 

It turns out that, according to Allison the NP, the only connections that research has found between causes and insulin resistance are heredity and STRESS.

 

Here are some facts:

 

  1. People with overproduction of insulin may be genetically prone to the condition. There is a hereditary effect, but it’s not necessarily the case for everyone. There is a high correlation.
  2. People with insulin overproduction do not usually have what is normally considered to be high blood sugar. For example, my A1C (fasting blood sugar average) ranges between 5.5 and 5.8 – that is well within normal range. In other words, they are not on the typical path toward Type 2 Diabetes which can be detected through rising blood sugar levels.
  3. People with insulin overproduction may be overweight in spite of diet and exercise efforts that would produce weight loss in other people. This is true of children as well, many of whom have been put on calorie restrictive diets by pediatricians who don’t bother to check their insulin.
  4. People who have insulin overproduction are often overweight because of their insulin – NOT the other way around!
  5. A history of high stress is strongly correlated with insulin overproduction.

 

My endocrine NP’s exact words were:

 

This is not your fault.  This is not about our weight. Your insulin is so high that it seems like it has been climbing for decades. You may be able to control this to a certain extent through diet–A Low Glycemic Diet. But, most likely you will not be able to fully control it through diet.

 

Here’s the long-and-the-short of it…  

 

  • My lack of knowledge about how to control my stress early on most likely led to this condition.
  • Was some of my stress due to my socially constructed ideas about my weight and body proportion? Absolutely!
  • Have I been fat shamed? Absolutely!
  • Do I let it stress me out now? Absolutely NOT!

 

What’s the Take-Home here?

 

First, don’t fat shame, or even judge the bodies of, others. You have no idea what is going on with their weight.   Insulin resistance is only one of many underlying medical conditions that affect weight. The stress you cause by judging others size is more harmful than their size actually is. AND don’t fat shame yourself! Accept yourself for who you are and what your body looks like! Definitely get yourself to the doctor if you have unexplained weight gain. Be kind, loving, and accepting of yourself. There is a lot of medical and epidemiological research on your side if you are overweight. That is, there is a lot of medical and epidemiological research that says that if you are “overweight” you are perfectly healthy and thus not “over” anything!

 

 

Aaannndddd… Let the comments begin!

 

Namaste Y’all!, Jen

Resilience and the healing power of music.

Resilience and the healing power of music.

It’s been a tough couple of months. My peaceful living has really been put to the test. I’ve had to make sure that I take extra-special care of myself in order to stay strong under the pressure of stressful times!

In recent Vlogs & Blogs I talked about how to stay strong in the face of bullying and how to bounce back after a particularly hectic time.

Both of those topics underlay this week’s topic of resiliency.

For today, I want to just give a little lead-up to Wednesday’s “Wellness Wednesday” Facebook Live VLOG by talking about MUSIC!

So when my going gets tough & I need to build my resiliency, I turn on some empowerment music and dance and sing!

Here are my Top 20 “Girl Power” songs! (in no particular order, I love them all!)

My Most Recent Favs:

1. Taylor Swift – Shake it Off!
2. Kelly Clarkson – Stronger
3. Kelly Clarkson – Whole Lotta Woman
4. Meghan Trainor – All About That Bass
5. Meghan Trainor – Better When I’m Dancing
6. Alicia Keys – Girl On Fire

The Classics:

7. Helen Reddy – I am Woman
8. Gloria Gaynor – I will Survive

The Country Girls:

9. Dixie Chicks – Wide Open Spaces
10. Dixie Chicks – Not Ready To Make Nice
11. Kaycee Musgraves – Follow Your Arrow
12. Shania Twain – Man! I Feel Like A Woman!

All Time Favs:

13. Christina Aguilera – Beautiful
14. Katy Perry – Firework
15. P!nk – So What!
16. P!nk – F***ing Perfect
17. Demi Lovato – Confident
18. Beyonce – Run The World (Girls)
19. David Guetta & Sia – Titanium
20. Sheryl Crow – Winding Road

What are your FAV pick-me- up & make me STRONG songs? Let’s keep adding to the play list!

Hugs,
Jen

Are The Holidays Stressing You Out?

Are The Holidays Stressing You Out?

There came a time in my life, somewhere between my kids being babies and teens, that I started to dread the months of October through December – that’s A QUARTER of the year! YIKES!

I’m not sure when I moved emotionally from being excited about the holidays, to being filled with dread and overwhelm.

Maybe it creeped up? Maybe it happened some years and not others?

What I did figure out a few years ago was that it seemed to be a permanent fixture!

It goes something like this:

September:

School is back in session and I’m breathing a sigh of relief that I can get back to working without the constant interruptions and trying to find ways to entertain the kids.

But… OMG… the stores are starting to put out Halloween items! What the heck??? I can’t start thinking about decorating for Halloween, costumes, parties, band concerts….. Oh yeah, and my son’s birthday!!!!

AAAAAGGGGHHH!!!

And then I metaphorically bury my head in the sand until…

October:

“Oh crap, the neighbors are starting to put up their Halloween decorations… I better get to it…”

“Hmmm, I wonder what AJ wants to do for his birthday?”

October continued:

“WHAT?! It’s the third week of October???”

“Oh crap, I better get the Halloween decorations up…

“Oh shoot, I forgot to ask AJ what he wants to do for his birthday!

October 18th :

“AJ’S BIRTHDAY IS IN TWO DAYS!!! I STILL DON’T
KNOW WHAT HE WANTS TO DO…”

“UGH… I forgot about the Halloween decorations! Boy my neighbors are organized! Why does everyone, but me have their Halloween decorations up???”

“Oh geez, I suck.”

And it goes on and on…

Where are we having Thanksgiving? Do we have to drive up to dad and step moms? Mom will be upset. Maybe they’ll invite her too?? Oh wait, what about sister and her son? Oh why does my family have to be so complicated?

What? It’s December already??? I haven’t bought any presents!! Mom wants me to cook a big dinner for everyone at her house again…

sigh…

There’s a better way

Honestly y’all, that is no way to go through the three month American holiday
season!

A few years ago, as I was implementing my Peaceful Living techniques into my life, I started to try a different way of thinking about the holidays.

I follow FOUR main principals:

1. Don’t worry about perfection

I used to be that person who had to have a beautifully decorated house for all
holidays.

Truthfully, before I had kids it was something that brought me a lot of joy. It was fun and creative for me. I also really like to entertain.

It was fun to have lovely decorations for not only my holiday parties, but Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.

However, life changed!

I had two kids. I was highly involved in their lives, driving them to and watching all of their activities, volunteering in their schools and organizations. AND, I was either working in my job teaching at a university (which included a major commute) or building a side business!

Not to mention that I’m getting older and have much less energy!

All of that decorating and entertaining became a drag. It was no longer fun. It was something I was too busy to remember and then became completely overwhelmed by (see internal dialogue above).

I decided to cut back.

I no longer hosted every party and dinner from Halloween through New Year’s Eve. We moved into a very small house when we were still in California, so I cut way back on the decorating.

I started to put up some boundaries with my parents about who we would spend each holiday with.

I also stopped accepting every invitation that came our way!

Sometimes we have to pick and choose which parties we are going to attend. Your friends will understand if you skip their party this year. But, try make sure that you go the following year and skip someone else’s.

It all worked out!

I was no longer overwhelmed. I still had fun doing a little bit of decorating and planning one party during the season. My family was open and even invited each other to celebrate all together – negative feelings towards some being set aside for that day.

Action Step:

Decide what you can cut back on.

Is it decorating to perfection? Is it too much entertaining? Is it accepting too many party invitations?

Who do you need to set boundaries with?

Make a list and write-out possible ways to approach the subject from a kind and loving place.

2. Ask for help

I have friends and clients who think that having a pot-luck for the holidays is a disgrace.

I’m here to tell you that it’s not!

My mom and I spent many a holiday cooking big meals and doing all of the cleanup. We would exhaust ourselves and feel very taken advantage of by our family members who did not offer any assistance with either the cooking or the cleaning. That was a recipe for resentment!

Having a calm and cheerful conversation with your family members (and friends if you celebrate with friends) about how you love your Aunt Mary’s green bean casserole and your sister Haley Grace’s sweet potato pie  (okay, I do live in South Carolina, so I had to go there) and would they be willing to bring their delicious dish to Thanksgiving dinner will most often bring about a nice result.

Your relatives will feel complimented and you will have your pot-luck!

The same thing goes with asking for help with the cleanup. I know that Uncle Bill and neighbor Todd like to watch football and let their dinners digest.

However, a gentle question asking them to help with the dishes goes a long way – especially if they can see the TV from the sink! And if they can’t, all the better for you, because you can turn on the Hallmark Channel’s Christmas romance movie marathon! – (and yes, I know I’m being sexist 😉 And truthfully, I tend more towards the football myself )

Action Step:

Figure out who you can ask for help! Make a list of who you can ask and for what.

3. Find time for self nurture

This can truly be the hardest part of the fourth quarter sprint that is the holiday season!

I find that using my “success schedule” – a weekly color-blocked calendar of my days– is very important here. If I color block my Google calendar to specify what I am doing throughout the days of the week, I can see how much time I’m spending on self-nurture vs. how much time I’m spending on everything else.

My “personal” time color on Google is “flamingo pink.” If I look at my weekly calendar and there are not at least three to five flamingo pink blocks on there, I move other things around to get them in. This is something I do on a regular basis throughout the year. I have 30 minutes in the morning and an hour at bedtime that are dedicated to quiet mindfulness/ meditation every day.

During the holiday season I also make sure to schedule in pedicures, massages and nature time. Again, these are things that I do for myself on a regular basis. But, if I get busy for a time I will let them go (but, just for a short time).

During the holiday rush it’s particularly important that I take this time out. If I don’t, I will be burnt out and stressed by the time Thanksgiving or Christmas roll around. Even though it’s a busy time of year, I may let other things go (like volunteering at every one of the kids school parties, band concerts, etc.) to take care of myself during this time when everything is extra busy!

Action Step:

Create your success schedule! Use an online or a printable weekly calendar. You can either color block your entire schedule like I do, or just jot down what you will do for yourself to give yourself a mindfulness or self-nurture break every day.

4. Love before money

We made the mistake early on of having “Super Christmas!” for our kiddos. Remember my intro about how I used to love to…

Well, one of those things my husband and I both used to love to do was have a TON of presents under the tree for our kids! It was definitely fun to see their faces with the surprise. But, it was also complete mayhem!

Now that my kids are 11 and 14, I look back on that and feel like we really did them a disservice. Now they expect a TON of gifts.

It’s not as much fun for us as it used to be, buying them toys, and it’s much more expensive now because the things they want cost a lot more than the little kids toys did.

It is really hard as parents to keep up with what so many other parents are buying for their kids. When we moved to South Carolina from Southern California it was to save money! Part of that is re-educating our children about the amount of STUFF they need verses want.

We are also re-educating our children about our values.

We want them to understand that material things do not equal love. We are helping them to understand that spending time together doing things we enjoy is more important than things.

This re-education process can often be more difficult with extended family. I find myself not only buying expensive gifts for my family back in California, but also spending a ton on shipping. I would rather spend money to help them fly out here to visit (or for us to fly out to visit them) than on material gifts.

In some families they use a “Secret Santa” system. They make a point to spend the holidays together, but instead of everyone buying everyone else a gift, they pick names and only give one gift to the person whose name they picked. The families I know who do this also put a monetary limit that can be spent on the gift. This allows them to spend money on traveling to be together (or hosting many people), instead of on things that while they may be appreciated, are not as appreciated as the time spent together.

Action Step:

What can you do to create a love over money environment for your family this holiday season? Can you brainstorm with some of your family members about how you can spend quality time together?

Your stress-free holiday

So there you go! Four ways to cut down on the stress of the holiday season. Take on the action steps. See what you can come up with for yourself and your family!

I would love to hear from you! Post your comments about how you did with the action steps OR your tips for cutting down on holiday stress!

Hugs,
Jen

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