Holiday Stress – One Unusual Practice to Reduce It

The holidays are upon us and along with decorating, shopping and baking cookies comes a tremendous amount of unwanted STRESS! It’s the most beautiful time of the year and we are filled with STRESS!!! Some of it is about getting everything done in the time we have to do it; but there is a much bigger, silent cause of stress going on that we may not even be aware of. We are all playing the “comparison game” in our minds. The game is going on all the time and it is absolutely exhausting.

We are silently comparing ourselves to others nearly every moment during the holiday season:

  • “Are my cookies better than hers?”
  • “Is my wrapping paper better quality?”
  • “OMG – I already received Christmas cards in the mail and I haven’t even bought mine yet!”
  • “Look at that holiday dress; it’s awful. Mine is way better.”
  • “I spent all this money on gifts for her kids and all I got in exchange was THIS piece of junk!”
  • “Our house decorations look way better than all of our neighbors.”
  • “I can’t believe that group at work is doing a Holiday Gift Exchange and they didn’t even invite me – jerks!”
  • “I don’t have enough money for all the gifts I need to buy; but if I don’t give a gift they will think less of me.”
  • “My sister always has to outdo me at the holidays – what a show off!”

I’m sure now that I’ve pointed it out, you can see other things coming up like this. You probably have 50 other sentences you can add to the ones above. So, what is all of this?  Well, the proper name for it is JUDGEMENT. The level of judgement that we pass on others is the same level that we are passing to ourselves. That’s a lot of judgement flying around! This judgement is the cause of much of our holiday stress.

Holiday stress is not just annoying and bothersome; it also causes physical ailments. Have you noticed that around the holiday season people start having back pain, getting sick or having stomach issues? This is not coincidental. It is a direct result of holiday STRESS. You may think it is just the weather getting cold or lack of sleep, but the truth is that stress actually causes these ailments.

  • Back Pain: Pulled a muscle reaching for that box of decorations in the attic? That didn’t cause it. Not breathing and lack of oxygen to our muscles, causes back tension. Have you noticed that when you get stressed out you tend to unconsciously hold your breath more often? WebMD tells us that as our heart rate and blood pressure rise from stress, our breathing becomes fast and shallow and our muscles tighten. Also, our level of stress hormones increases and muscles remain in a nearly constant state of tension. Eek!
  • The Common Cold: Also caused by stress – believe it or not. According to a BBC Future Article by Claudia Hammond,stress hormones that help us cope become unbalanced and leave us vulnerable to infection. Adrenaline and Cortisol both increase to help us with our stress; then later on our overused immune system takes a hit –  leaving us stuck in bed with the sniffles.
  • Tummy Issues: I’m sure you have heard of Stress & the Sensitive Gut. That’s another biggie. Medical News Today confirms that “A nervous stomach is one example of how a person’s emotions can affect their body. Doctors may refer to a nervous stomach if a person is having symptoms such as nausea or bloating that are unrelated to any gastrointestinal condition.” Good times.

So just stop judging and we will all be healthy and fine, right? Well, it isn’t as easy as that. Our minds are judging nearly every moment of the day. It’s a safety mechanism that was put in place at birth; however, it has also been influenced by what we observed growing up and in our cultures and communities. That is why everyone’s judgments are a bit different. Are you doomed to be stressed out by judgement tendencies forever? No!

Here is an easy technique to begin to work with this, slow down and eventually stop judgement.  In fact, it is pretty easy to do. Just begin to become aware of that fact that you are doing this.  Start to hear the chatter in your mind and the things that it is saying about other people and about YOURSELF. We are the most judgmental of ourselves. Listen and observe. You might even become amused by all the silly things your mind is saying and the judgements it’s throwing around. The ability to become aware and observe is the magic ticket. Once we become aware, we can begin to lessen it, soften it, reduce it and eventually eliminate it.

The result? We begin to breathe; we use less adrenaline and cortisol on an “emergency” basis. We relax. Our backs and tummies hurt less. We begin to love others and ourselves a bit more. And we can ENJOY the beautiful holiday season much, much more.

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday and a Happy New Year!!! Take a Deep Breath and Smile. See you all in the new Decade!!!!

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