4 Tips for a Better Holiday Season

The holiday season is here. For many the mere thought creates panic or an anxious state of mind. No one can promise that all will go smoothly and everyone (especially you) will be happy. There are things you can do to make the season easier, brighter and merrier. Check out these 4 Tips for a Better Holiday Season.

1.  Begin with Practicing Gratitude. 

Research shows that people who express gratitude can experience happiness that may last for up to a month! An experiment conducted by Robert Emmons Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at UC Davis, and author of The Little Book of Gratitude (2016); Gratitude Works! A 21-Day Program for Creating Emotional Prosperity (2013); Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier (2007); Words of Gratitude Mind Body & Soul (2001); and The Psychology of Ultimate Concerns: Motivation and Spirituality in Personality (1999); found that subjects who made a daily list of things they were grateful for showed higher levels of optimism and enthusiasm, exercised more regularly and made greater progress on personal goals.

This is powerful! I do this regularly only instead of making a list, I simply think about all that I am grateful for before I get out of bed in the morning. My day begins on a good note and I’m much more enthused and energetic. Compare this to waking up, groaning, and thinking about how much you don’t want to go to work, prepare for the holidays, begin cooking, go to a meeting, whatever it is you may dread. How do you feel if you think negatively first thing in the day? You are certainly not in a positive frame of mind. In fact, it’s beginning your day filled with negativity. You can change this. You can make a choice of what you think, what you are thankful for, and begin your day feeling good. Believe me you will be much more productive, engaged and happy.

2.  Breathe.

This may sound easy and perhaps not necessary to add since we all breathe everyday, all day. What I’m talking about is to stop…take a slow deep breath in through your nose and then exhale slowly through your mouth. Repeat 3-5 times. Be completely in the present moment with your breath.

When you breathe like this you are turning on your parasympathetic nervous system.That is the part of you autonomic nervous system that slows down your heart rate and breathing, lowers your blood pressure, and sends extra blood to your stomach and intestines so your body can digest the food in your stomach. This is often called the rest/restore and digest response. It conserves energy and allows your body to restore itself and heal.

The parasympathetic nervous system balances the sympathetic nervous system which controls the body’s response to a perceived threat and is responsible for the “fight or flight” response. When you are stressed or anxious about the holidays or any event (traffic jams, a complaining customer or boss, cranky child) all trigger the autonomic nervous system and prepares your body for fight or flight. Now that is good when it is a true emergency. However, our busy lives, tight schedules, never ending tasks, unrealistic expectations of ourselves, and limiting self-beliefs keep the autonomic nervous system on. Our bodies are not meant to be in the agitated state chronically. That causes a lot of damage to our bodies and if not controlled, can lead to chronic illness. 

When you feel yourself stressed and anxious, you cannot always think clearly or be creative. You may be more prone to snapping at others and saying things you later wish never were said. Notice what is going on in your body and mind. Then….simply breathe slowly.

3.  Prioritize & Visualize.

Determine what is most important for you and your family for a happy holiday. Dig deeper….what is the feeling you want, what is really important? Write that down. Think about it. What about that is so important to you? What would you gain if your holiday was just that? What would you lose if your holiday was just that? In a few words write what is most important for a happy holiday. Keep that in you mind, post it on the refrigerator, your bathroom mirror, by your bed…anywhere and everywhere you will see it to remind yourself. Now close your eyes, breathe deeply, and visualize that holiday. Visualize what it will take to have the holiday you’ve always wanted. Feel that vision throughout your body. How does it make you feel? Where do you feel lightness? Notice where in your body you are relaxing. Let the tension fade away. Do this visualization everyday to keep it close and remind yourself.

Now compare that to your list of all the things you would normally do, or try to do. How does that make you feel? Notice the tension that may be starting in your body. Notice the thoughts you are having and how they are affecting your body. STOP! Now go back and visualize the holiday you really want and experience how that feels. Go to that list and cross off all the things you do not need to do if they don’t contribute to your best holiday. For example, baking all those cookies and pastries. Do you really enjoy doing that? If the answer is no, or you would if you really had the time, cross it off the list. Consider other options…only making 1-2 types of cookies, or buy them! Or maybe not have any at all. Have a healthier holiday.

Be ruthless with this list. Don’t think or expect yourself to do everything! It’s all not necessary or possibly even doable. Sometimes it really is the small things that matter. Simplify this holiday season and have time to actually enjoy it!

4.  Be Realistic.

This is a really important step to do. Truly be realistic in what you not only want for your holiday, but what is truly reasonable to do or have. For example, maybe you wish your mother could be there, but she passed away last year. She cannot be there. However, you could honor her memory at this time of year. Maybe share stories of past holidays with her with your family. Or perhaps you cannot get back to your family for the holidays this year. That is what you want most. Realistically, you cannot be there. Get creative. What can you do that still honors the traditions in your family? Or what can you do to start a new tradition…one that makes you feel good and smile?

Sometimes what is really the best is to simply be with your family and/or friends. What really matters is the quality time with them, not all the trappings of commercialism. Be there, truly there, in the present moment with them - that will make a beautiful holiday and memory.  

I strongly encourage you to find time for yourself. Be present, breathe, turn on the parasympathetic nervous system and relax. Simplify. Create space for yourself so you can be your best in all the holiday moments and those leading up to them.

Wishing you health, happiness & joy!

8 Surprising Ways to Get Your Mojo Back...Reenergize

Need to re-energizeLearn 8 simple tips that can help busy people reenergize during busy days. My life is great…I have the career I wanted, a supportive spouse, smart kids, two cars, but I am exhausted and not enjoying all that I have, let alone functioning at my best. Does this sound familiar?

 

Believe me, I’ve been there! My busy life is terrific, but I’ve gone through those times when I am not feeling wonderful, let alone healthy. This is a common experience among busy adults. We are up early and already feeling as if we are behind and tired. And, this is only the first 15 minutes of the day!

 

There is plenty of research out there that proves that as humans we can only really stay focused  and perform well for approximately 90 minutes. Then we need to seek restoration. Taking short focused breaks can help you get your mojo back. Turns out managing our energy is more important than managing our time!

 

If you want to feel you can perform at your best all day, achieve improved health, and feel greater happiness, then you need to manage your energy. This happens by increasing your energy capacity in four key areas: physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

 

Rub the sleep from your eyes and take a deep breath. Here are some tips for getting your mojo back. Some may even sound counterintuitive - just try them!

 

  1. Go outside for 5-10 minutes. I can hear you now, “What? I don’t have time to go outside because I have got to do …..”  Just take five minutes, go outside and breathe deeply.
  2. Every 90 minutes, get up, move to a new place (outside is great) and get a change of scenery for a few minutes.
  3. Stand up and do some simple stretches.
  4. Set a timer every 60-90 minutes. If you tend to get “lost” in your work and lose track of time,  let the timer remind you it’s time to move, stretch, and breathe.
  5. Switch gears. If you are struggling to get a task done, stop and go do something different! When you come back, you will be amazed at how refreshed you are. Now try tackling that “difficult” task!
  6. Eat a healthy snack and drink water.
  7. Change “channels” mentally and emotionally.
  8. Tap into your deepest core values. What is most important to you? Create a sense of purpose in your life.

 

Try some of these for a week or two and notice what changes for you. I believe you will find that you actually begin to enjoy your life, your family, and your work more. You will increase your energy throughout the day and actually do a better job of whatever the task is at hand. Taking the time to breathe and reenergize may be one of the most important things you can do for yourself.

 

Shirley Michl is a Certified Integrative Health Coach and owner of Intentional Wellness, LLC. Schedule a free 15 minute telephone consultation today.

9 Signs You Need Help Managing Your Stress and Energy

If it wasn't for stress I'd have no energy at allWondering why you are feeling burned out even though you are doing good things in your life?  You're working hard and you're successful. Maybe you even workout or walk (occasionally) so you're getting some exercise. But...you are still left feeling frazzled, fatigued, and always have that nagging feeling of never being caught up! This could be a sign you need help managing your stress and energy. If this sounds familiar, this post is for you. I was there! I had a great leadership position in my company, made good money, was in demand, focused on getting my certification as an integrative health coach, had great family and friends, and took decent care of myself physically, or at least I thought. And, I was completely stressed, drained, and began to experience health issues. Nothing felt as great or exciting as I knew it could. Why? Because I was doing a lousy job of managing my stress, and more importantly, my energy!

I'm not alone in this. My clients experience this. Many colleagues experience this. Simply talk to people and you will hear how busy, stressed and overwhelmed they are. According to research:

  • It's estimated that 90% of health practitioner visits (conventional & complementary) are due to stress.
  • 75% of total health care costs are spent on preventable issues...lifestyle choices.
  • 40% of Americans are sleep deprived.
  • and the stats go on and on...

Do you recognize any of these 9 signs in yourself:

  1. Sign #1 you need help:  You wake up every morning feeling more tired than you did when you went to bed. You've tossed and turned much of the night. You couldn't stop your brain from going over your work deadlines or life issues. Even if you went to bed on time, it simply meant you were laying there in bed, not relaxing or sleeping.
  2. Sign #2 you need help:  You dread starting your day. It just feels like there is no joy or fun in your day. You begin to think about all the work waiting for you, what you still need to do, what problems are headed your way. Depending on your personal life, you may have kids to get up, feed, get to school, a long commute, a bad hair day...endless tasks and responsibilities simply to get to work and start your day!
  3. Sign #3 you need help:  You find little to smile about. With so much to do, so many meetings, deadlines, demanding boss, demanding customers...how can you smile. Oh yeah, and it's a bad hair day!
  4. Sign #4 you need help:  There is no time for lunch. You grab something on the go, probably fast food. Or you brought something and eat it at your desk while still cramming in your work. If you do go to lunch, you can't relax because of all that needs to be done in the afternoon, plus what did not get done in the morning.
  5. Sign #5 you need help:  You reach for your antacids...a lot! Your stomach churns and the familiar heartburn rages. You think this is just normal, after all, everyone else around you is complaining of the same thing! News flash...this is not normal or healthy!
  6. Sign #6 you need help:  You reach for your over the counter go-to for your headache...that has been with you all day. You typically find yourself taking a pain reliever for headaches multiple times a day at least 3 days a week. Big sign that stress is getting the best of you.
  7. Sign #7 you need help:  You work long hours everyday. You promised yourself you would leave at a reasonable time. You even promised your significant other, or your child. But, there is that IT issue, a new demand from your boss, that report that needs to be done. Or maybe you are on the project from hell. It sounded so exciting and promising at first...now it's a life force sucking project that has more problems than solutions.
  8. Sign #8 you need help:  You are tired, cranky and just want to eat and watch mindless television when you get home. You finally get home - and there it is, your second job!!! There is no rest, just more tasks to do! Your family wants your attention or you need to run the kids to their activities, get groceries, pick up the kids, write your performance review, mow the lawn, grab fast food for dinner....
  9. Sign #9 you need help:  You "have no time" to take care of yourself! You would love to get a massage, walk with your family and friends, workout, participate in sports, but there's no time for that. You can't even remember when you really had a physical check-up or got your teeth cleaned.

Do any or all of these sound like you? 

Most of us can relate to at least some of these at some point in our life. We've grown used to this. We tell ourselves it's the price we pay. It's simply the way it is. How many of us have bought into these beliefs along the way to adulthood? It is so easy to get so caught up in the demands of living, of achieving, of getting more...whatever the more is. We lose sight of what is really important. We focus almost entirely on what we need to do in the short term to get results, impairing our long term ability to be healthy human beings.

The Good News!

Yes, you can do something about this! You can get off that treadmill, at least enough to regain your energy and decrease your stress. Let's face it, there will always be stress in our lives. And stress is not all bad!  We all need some stress to motivate us to perform. Unfortunately, many are living in a chronic state of fight, flight or freeze because of stress that is not managed.

An important key to managing stress is learning how to manage your energy. Instead of focusing on how to manage your time, seek to manage your energy!

Watch for my next blog for tips on how to manage your energy.