The stress of the holidays can knock us off our center — that invisible place where you feel balanced and composed. The travel, our expectations, family obligations, late nights, parties, and drinking all compound the stress of the season. Sleep becomes erratic, and as year-end deadlines approach, the pressure can lead to an all-out panic.
Where do you begin so you can thrive this holiday season? Instead of it controlling you, let’s turn it around and make it an enjoyable time of year just as any other. Start in your center. Start with your heart-BEAT. It’s the first thing you heard when you were in your mother’s womb. The beat of your heart brings you into the focus of your life rhythm and is the root of our acronym. In fact, all of life, from the smallest single-cellular organism to the largest mammal, has a rhythm, a beat… a frequency.
When we lose touch with this rhythm, this natural ebb and flow, which is linked to our inner wisdom and intuition about how we should behave and interact with the world, then we lose touch with ourselves and our own happiness. This leads to a build-up of stress with no outlet to relieve it.
This is one reason why the holidays can be so stressful for people, especially with a sprinkling of high expectations and family dynamics — all of which take us away from our center.
So let’s B.E.A.T. the holiday stress with these simple steps:
Breathe — The first word in our holiday survival acronym is a reminder to stop and breathe when we are feeling stressed. The breath defines the first moment of life. It is the “prana” — the life force, the chi — the energy that anchors us in the power of our body. The breath connects us to the relaxing part of the autonomic nervous system, known as the parasympathetic branch. By taking deep breaths, we are activating internal counter-measures that increase endorphins (“feel-good” chemical messengers), and lower adrenaline (the “fight-or-flight” substance).
To connect with your breath, do this simple exercise:
1. Start by standing firmly grounded, but softly (not tense) with your knees slightly bent, and arms by your side, shoulders relaxed. Take a few seconds here, simply observing your breath without trying to control it. If you’re at work, consider taking your shoes off to better connect with the ground.
2. Take a deep, four-second breath by relaxing your belly while simultaneously raising your hands overhead in a semicircle, meeting in the center, palms facing each other.
3. Pause at the top for one second, holding your breath.
4. As you exhale over four seconds, bring your hands smoothly down the centerline together, converging in the prayer position over your heart center (right in front of your lower sternum).
5. Pause at the bottom of this breath for one or more seconds, tuning into the peace that it has created in your body.
6. As you begin the next inhale bring the hands back to the neutral position by your sides, then follow the semicircle arch to meet above your head once again, palms facing each other.
7. Repeat the above sequence at least three times.
Embrace — The second word in the acronym is embrace, as in what we do when we hug someone. It means open yourself to everything, including the imperfections of what may be. When we accept everything as good, even when it may be perceived as a nuisance or inconvenience, it makes it easier to accept the things that don’t go our way. The possibility that plans will not go the way you thought they would is very high. Rather than fighting the flow, being flexible enough to love things even when plans seem to go astray, will provide you with the resilience needed to not enter the stress response.
Accept — Acceptance is the third, key element in our holiday survival acronym. One of the hardest things to do is accept others for who they are, how they behave, and for what you cannot control about them. Acceptance is about loving your family and friends as they are, and releasing them from the expectations that can lead to disappointment and conflict. When someone triggers you through old behaviors, remember to stop and breathe first before you react.
Thank (“Give thanks”) — Gratitude is the final, and possibly most important element! During this season of giving and receiving, it is essential to express what you are thankful for. Let go of the focus on what is “wrong,” and look at what is right in your life. This brings you out of negativity and into a positive energy flow. The more you express gratitude for the simplest things in life, the more these will multiply for you. Think of giving the gift of gratitude by visiting www.gratefulpeoples.com.
Originally published at medium.com