Christmas. Hanukkah. Kwanzaa. The New Year. Holiday Parties. Holiday cards. Holiday movies. Holiday performances. Holiday meals. Christmas cookies. Fruitcake. Panettone. Shopping. Gifts. Decorations. Lights. End of year donations. Travel. Family get-togethers.
It’s December. With less than a month until the end of the year, my guess is that you’ve been swept up in the frenzy of preparing for whatever holiday you and your family celebrate. For those in the Northern hemisphere, this includes the added ‘joy’ of winter weather and all the delays, cancellations, shoveling, and headaches that can come as a result of the otherwise beautiful fluffy, white stuff. For me I am dealing with extra breeze we experience in the Caribbean from the cold fronts heading down from the USA (it’s chilly for us, believe it or not).
And, as if you weren’t already overwhelmed enough by all you need to do, reflecting on the past year and thinking about what comes next can add to your anxiety. Thinking about everything you didn’t do; the promises you didn’t keep – to yourself as well as others; the extra pounds you’re still carrying around; that business you meant to start; those calls you had intended to make; that trip you didn’t book…
For some, it’s enough to make them want to pull the covers over their head and stay in bed until March. For others, it’s a practical opportunity to work on their mindfulness, by embracing the madness and staying focused on the present moment.
Whatever this time of year is like for you, I invite you to use the following methods in order to Keep calm and carry on into the New Year with a peaceful, relaxed heart.
Meditation. Meditation. Meditation. I mention it often because quieting your mind through meditation is one of the best ways to work through anxiety and overwhelm. Not to mention the fact that it’s one of the best ways to transform your life. Meditation helps put you back in the driver’s seat. Instead of your thoughts and mind controlling you, meditation helps flip the script so you are, once again, in control of your own mind.
Change your mindset, change your life. Master your mindset, master your life.
Remember, it works even if you only do it for a minute or two. And, there are as many different ways to practice meditation as there are flavors of ice cream. Kundalini, transcendental, mindfulness, gratitude, zen, vipassana, and loving kindness are a few. Check them out, and see which one might work best for you. Then, start small, and be consistent.
Mindfulness is defined as “the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something. A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.”
The idea is to do whatever helps you to stay aware and focused on the present moment. Meditation is a form of mindfulness. As is deep breathing, practicing yoga, repeating mantras & affirmations, and/or being still or taking quiet time. Listening to soothing music can also be a form of practicing mindfulness, if it helps you to stay focused on the present moment.
Matthieu Ricard once said,
“Few of us would regret the years it takes to complete an education or master a crucial skill. So why complain about the perseverance needed to become a well-balanced and truly compassionate human being?”
Figure out what works best for you and then practice it. Consistently. Practicing mindfulness will help keep the anxiety at bay in the short term, as you become a more balanced and compassionate human being in the long-term.
I’m sure you’ve all heard the quote, “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” Though I’m not sure who said it first, there’s a reason it’s been re-quoted countless times by countless people – because it’s true. You cannot give if you’ve got nothing to give. And, the surest way to ensure you’ve got something to give is to remember to take care of yourself, first.
This is a friendly reminder to book that massage, facial, manicure or pedicure. Spend time alone, even if you have to schedule it. Go to a movie, sit in a coffee shop and read a book, or, stay home. Or – and this is a big one – set some boundaries and stick to them. It’s okay to say NO. Let me say that again – It’s okay to say NO. Practice it with me – No…No…No…Now, thatwasn’t so hard, was it?
Bottom line – Do whatever you need to do to take care of YOU. You are important. You matter. And, you are enough. Keep yourself full and you’ll always be able to share fully with others.
Focusing your energy on movement will help ease your anxiety and overwhelm. If you haven’t moved your body in a while, it may be hard at first, as your body adjusts to the new demands you’re making of your muscles and limbs. However, give it time. You will feel better.
Do whatever feels good to you. Just do something.
Dance, walk, run, go to the gym, do yoga or pilates. Jump rope. Do jumping jacks or burpees. Or pushups. Join a boot camp, or, go swimming. If you live in an apartment building, run [or walk] up and down the stairs. If you don’t feel like leaving your house, YouTube can help. There are millions of videos that can help you do whatever you want to do for as long or as short a time as you want to do it. Even belly dancing…
As with meditation, the key is to start small and be consistent. Even if it’s only for a few minutes a day, just do something.
Remember – you will feel better. But only if you do it.
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) or Tapping is also a great way to reduce anxiety and overwhelm, and can even help reduce pain. It’s based on the Chinese medicine practices of acupuncture and acupressure.
For those unfamiliar with Chinese medicine, it is based on the idea that the body is made up of energy, which flows freely in a healthy individual. However, when someone experiences mental or physical pain, or, is injured, the Chinese believe it is the result of an energy blockage at certain points in the body, called meridians. Releasing or loosening the stuck energy, either by using acupuncture, acupressure, or, EFT, will result in the reduction or elimination of stress, anxiety, overwhelm, and/or physical pain.
While the Chinese believe there are meridians located throughout the body, EFT focuses on only a small handful of these points: the side of the hand, the eyebrow, side of the eye, under the eye, under the nose, just above the chin, the collarbone, the underarm, and, the top of the head.
By tapping on each point 5-7 times with 2-3 fingers, in the order I introduced the points while saying certain statements out loud or silently to yourself, you can eliminate anxiety, overwhelm, and/or physical pain in minutes.
Have you ever walked through a pine forest or a field of lavender and felt more alive or relaxed? It wasn’t just a coincidence. Mother Nature was actually the world’s first pharmacy. It’s why the extracts of certain plants, flowers, and herbs are being used in a variety of ways within the wellness industry today as essential oils.
Aromatherapy is another great way to reduce anxiety by diffusing essential oils in your home and/or office. The aroma or scent of certain oils has been shown to have a calming, healing effect on your body, mind, and spirit.
I have tried many brands over the years, however, my go-to supplier is now Young Living and my favorite scent is lavender. Whenever I’m feeling stressed and/or in need of a reset, I diffuse some lavender oil (at home and in the office) – it has an incredibly calming effect on my entire being.
Diffusers come in a variety of shapes and sizes. And, there are many different essential oils to choose from. Be sure to do your homework. It’s important to purchase good quality essential oils to get the maximum benefit. I encourage you to try different oils to see how your individual body, mind, and spirit responds. If diffusing essential oils helps you to feel calmer and more relaxed, I hope you’ll continue to keep aromatherapy in your anti-anxiety/banish overwhelm toolkit.
The end of the year is a time of celebration, excitement, and joy. By using these techniques, I hope you’ll be able to more fully enjoy this holiday season, with an open, calm, relaxed heart.