Tips to Manage Stress and Anxiety this Holiday Season
With Christmas and New Years a mere two weeks away - the holiday season is in full swing. From now until Christmas Day, there will be a flurry of office parties, reunions, family gatherings and meet-ups with friends that you would also want to participate in. After Christmas comes the New Year celebration.
Even if you are not the assigned host of a holiday dinner party, you would feel the stress of the occasion not just because of going through one event after another, but also because of the freezing temperature.
These are precisely the reasons why, amidst all the busyness of the holiday celebrations, you should take time to give yourself a massage.
Strategies to Reduce Christmas Stress
Don’t Hate Mondays, Hate Your Lifestyle. Or change your mindset.
There’s a saying that is sometimes attributed to Karl Marx or Slavoj Zizek——that tidily sums up the existential angst many people feel at the start of a traditional work week:
"You don’t hate Mondays. You hate capitalism."
There is that there’s nothing intrinsic to “Monday,” which is just a word we’ve invented to delineate every seventh day, that makes your average 9-5 worker miserable.
It is just a day like any other.
The despair comes may have something to do with your lifestyle and the common routines many of us share. This invests “Monday” with meaning—this is the day you return to your "routine". For many it is the cycle of repetitive, unsatisfying labor that fills you with loathing and anxiety. This is the thing you should should change.
“Monday” is just a label. Its just a word; a meaningless symbol— nothing more than a day of the week. You may as well get mad at a rock. Perhaps better then to evaluate how and what goes into your work / life balance and look for ways, if possible to make changes to your lifestyle.
Monday symbolizes the end of the weekend and the start of a new week. So it symbolizes the day when the fun stops, and the obligations begin. For most people it represents the beginning of the working week. It symbolizes something undesirable and unmotivating.
But, Do you really hate Mondays? No, you don’t. (If you do, you don't have to - remember, its in YOUR mind, you are in control).
Mondays can be truly wonderful days. Just because people think Mondays are bad days, it doesn’t necessarily have to mean that you have to irradiate pessimism at the beginning of the week.
So, there are two reasons why you might hate Mondays:
You’ve become a part of the global view that Mondays are bad days
You’re not living a life that would allow you to enjoy your Monday
How to Make Mondays Great, or at least Better?
In order to stop seeing Monday as a bad day, you need to fix your way of thinking. First and foremost, you have to start creating your own attitudes about your life, and the people who surround you. Look at your routine. What can you do different? Is it the overwhelming barrage of emails? Give it a time slot, answer them and move on. Are you over scheduled? Learn to start saying no to some things.
Change Your Mind About Mondays
While the rest of the world is convinced that Monday is a bad day, you can be different. It is a mindset really. Every individual is unique and has something to offer the world. Don’t be afraid of being different. You’re nothing else but what your brain thinks you are. When you succeed in creating a positive image of Mondays in your head, that day will become positive, and full of great opportunities in your eyes.
If it is a return to some tedious tasks, find a way to look at or find positive aspects. If there are a couple of specific things that really get you down find a way to change or eliminate those. Maybe one or 2 small things are affecting your mood about every other aspect of Mondays.
Someone once suggested plan a good meal or a treat for Monday dinner - that seems like a good little simple idea.
If its work related, find something rewarding to either start or complete on Mondays. Something that can bring you satisfaction.
Successful people tend to use every day for making agreements, opening new businesses, or enjoying life. Why should you restrict yourself by throwing out your Mondays? It doesn’t matter what day it is; you can start a business on Monday, Tuesday, Saturday or any other day of the week.
Don’t use days of the week as an excuse. Every day is a new chance for you to make changes, become a better person, don’t miss out on that. Time is our most valuable resource, so you have to spend it wisely.
Change Your Lifestyle.
Sounds simple right ? Words are easy, actions not so much. Actually when I put this image and words together it actually contains two separate but related ideas - the second one being, "if your mind is happy, you will be happy, where ever you are".
The second thought reminds me of the bucket list people.This point was driven home to me sharply and personally this week as i continue to strive to practice what I preach.
I write sometimes and post to ground me back to where I myself need to be. In a sense I am writing for me but as well for you if anyone is here and chooses to read. These are lessons that I myself need to adhere to, and I find writing helps cement them into my own brain.
The concept is simple - mindfulness, living in the present moment. Giving the person or persons you are with your full attention. Being aware and appreciative of the present surroundings, the sights the smells the temperature of the air - losing track of time; that it is ultimate in mindfulness. It is called flow. It is again an old old concept wrapped in new packaging. The idea of being so fully engaged in a task, be it drawing, or baking , or fixing a motorcycle, that you lose track of time. Have you ever had that experience? Its called flow. It is the sense of being so totally in the moment that you lose all sense of time. It is a wonderful feeling. It comes to me during body work, or when I am drawing, or shooting photography.
But, one need not be engaged in flow, that is the extreme end of the spectrum of being present. This post is simply about giving the place you are in and person or persons you are with your full attention while you are there and to appreciate what you are, where you are - not be thinking about the next thing, or the last thing.
What I try to create during my sessions is an environment that fosters and encourages one to unplug at least for the time they are with me. If only for an hour, nothing else matters, then I have succeeded for you and for me The greater challenge is to expand that into daily life. It takes practice, it takes strength of mind, and discipline. Words - they are easy. They fall onto the page as fast as my fingers can type. Putting into practice that is the challenge.
Why being near the Ocean Calls to me
We are Ocean, comprised almost entirely of water. We evolved from the ocean, to live on land.
Since ancient times, humans have assigned healing and transformational properties to water. In early Rome, baths were an important part of cultural life, a place where citizens went to find relaxation and to connect with others in a calming setting. In ayurveda, the ancient Indian medicinal wisdom, and traditional Chinese medicine, the water element is crucial to balancing the body and creating physical harmony. Rivers have long been seen as sacred places, and in a number of different spiritual contexts, water has symbolized rebirth, spiritual cleansing and salvation.
Today, we still turn to water for a sense of calm and clarity. We spend our vacations on the beach or at the lake; get exercise and enjoyment from water sports like surfing, scuba diving, sailing, and swimming; refresh ourselves with long showers and soothing baths, and often build our lives and homes around being near the water.
Our affinity for water is even reflected in the near-universal attraction to the color blue. We're naturally drawn to aquatic hues -- the color blue is overwhelming chosen as the favorite color of people around the world, and marketing research has found that people tend to associate it with qualities like calm, openness, depth and wisdom.
Wallace J. Nichols, a marine biologist, believes that we all have a "blue mind" -- as he puts it, "a mildly meditative state characterized by calm, peacefulness, unity, and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment" -- that's triggered when we're in or near water.
"We are beginning to learn that our brains are hardwired to react positively to water and that being near it can calm and connect us, increase innovation and insight, and even heal what's broken," Nichols writes in Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do, published in July. "We have a 'blue mind' -- and it's perfectly tailored to make us happy in all sorts of ways that go way beyond relaxing in the surf, listening to the murmur of a stream, or floating quietly in a pool."
Here, Nichols speaks about how water can heal the mind and body and help you tap into your most calm and creative state of being. Here are six important benefits of finding your "blue mind."
Water gives our brains a rest.
In our everyday lives, we're constantly bombarded with sensory stimuli, whether from our devices, busy homes and offices, or hectic city streets. Our brains need downtime, but they rarely get enough of it.
Being around water gives our brains and our senses a rest from overstimulation.
"The sound around us, from an auditory perspective, is simplified. It's not quiet, but the sound of water is far more simple than the sound of voices or the sound of music or the sound of a city," Nichols tells the Huffington Post. "And the visual input is simplified. When you stand at the edge of water and look out on the horizon, it's visually simplified relative to the room you're sitting in right now, or a city you're walking through, where you're taking in millions of pieces of information every second."
When we're near, on, in or under water, we get a cognitive break because there's simply less information coming in. Our brains don't shut down -- they keep working, but in a different way, according to Nichols. "When you have that simplified, quieter 'blue' space, your brain is better at a different set of processes," he says.
Water can induce a meditative state.
Many of us love to sit near the ocean or a river and gaze out at the water -- often, we can sit for long periods simply observing the gentle movements of the water. Why? Though we may not be conscious of it, the water could be inducing a mildly meditative state of calm focus and gentle awareness.
When we're by the water, our brains are held in a state of mild attentiveness -- what Nichols calls a "soft fascination." In this state, the brain is interested and engaged in the water, taking in sensory input but not distracted by an overload of it, as we might be with the "hard fascination" we experience while watching an action movie or playing a video game.
Being in a mindful state -- in which the brain is relaxed but focused -- benefits the mind and body on a number of different levels. A growing body of research has found myriad benefits associated with mindfulness, including lower stress levels, relief from mild anxiety, pain and depression, improved mental clarity and focus, and better sleep quality.
Water can inspire us to be more compassionate and connected.
While in the restful, contemplative state associated with observing or interacting with water, it's also common to experience feelings of awe, Nichols' research has found. The emotion of awe invokes feelings of a connection to something beyond oneself, a sense of the vastness of nature and an attempt to make sense of the experience.
"That switches you from a 'me' orientation to a 'we' orientation," says Nichols, citing research findings that feelings of awe can increase our capacity for connection and empathy.
It's no coincidence, then, that many of life's most romantic moments take place by the water -- engagements, weddings and honeymoons overwhelmingly occur in waterside locations.
"We hold important ceremonies by water. Both in life and in death, we gather by water when we can," says Nichols. "If we can't gather outside by water, there's often a water component indoors."
The Ocean is unimaginably vast and indifferent
I have been an avid boater for over 30 years and being on the water I have also an immense repsect for the ocean, for it is unimaginably vast and indifferent. Being near the ocean from the comfort of land is one thing - but being at sea with no land in site in any given direction is a uniquely humbling experience. It immediately reminds me f may place in the cosmos...pretty insignificant. Also the ocean has the power to calm and also the power to take life. Without fanfare. It is indifferent, and this also is a lesson. This is zen.
If you live by the sea you probably know these things. If you do not, I encourage you to seek it out, take a trip to the coast, experience these sensations.
with thanks to Caroline Gregoire
Why we are all addicted to Texting, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Escape the Dopamine Loop, create new reward habits
Do you ever feel like you are addicted to email or Twitter or texting? Do you find it impossible to ignore your email if you see that there are messages in your inbox? Do you think that if you could ignore your incoming email or messages you might actually be able to get something done at work? You are right!
The culprit is dopamine -- Dopamine was "discovered" in 1958 by Arvid Carlsson and Nils-Ake Hillarp at the National Heart Institute of Sweden. Dopamine is created in various parts of the brain and is critical in all sorts of brain functions, including thinking, moving, sleeping, mood, attention, motivation, seeking and reward.
Pleasure vs. seeking -- Dopamine causes you to want, desire, seek out, and search. It increases your general level of arousal and your goal-directed behavior. From an evolutionary stand-point this is critical. The dopamine seeking system keeps you motivated to move through your world, learn, and survive. It's not just about physical needs such as food, or sex, but also about abstract concepts. Dopamine makes you curious about ideas and fuels your searching for information.
Wanting vs. liking -- The wanting system propels you to action and the liking system makes you feel satisfied and therefore pause your seeking. If your seeking system isn't turned off at least for a little while, then you start to run in an endless loop. The dopamine system is stronger than the opioid system. You tend to seek more than you are satisfied. Evolution again -- seeking is more likely to keep you alive than sitting around in a satisfied stupor.
Dopamine loops -- With the internet, twitter, and texting you now have almost instant gratification of your desire to seek. Want to talk to someone right away? Send a text and they respond in a few seconds. Want to look up some information? Just type your request into google. Want to see what your colleagues are up to? Go to Linked In. It's easy to get in a dopamine induced loop. Dopamine starts you seeking, then you get rewarded for the seeking which makes you seek more. It becomes harder and harder to stop looking at email, stop texting, or stop checking your cell phone to see if you have a message or a new text.
More, more, more -- Interestingly brain scan research shows that the brain has more activity when people are ANTICIPATING a reward than getting one. Research on rats shows that if you destroy dopamine neurons, rats can walk, chew, and swallow, but will starve to death even when food is right next to them. They have lost the anticipation and desire to go get the food. Although wanting and liking are related, research also shows that the dopamine system doesn't have satiety built in. It is possible for the dopamine system to keep saying "more more more", causing you to keep seeking even when you have found the information. How many times have you searched for something on google, found the answer, and yet realize a half hour later that you are still online looking for more information?
The cost to your body and mind -- This constant stimulation of the dopamine system can be exhausting. And the constant switching of attention makes it hard to get anything accomplished. Can you do anything to get out of a dopamine loop? Or prevent getting in one in the first place?
Turn off the cues -- One of the most important things you can do to prevent or stop a dopamine loop, and be more productive is to turn off the cues. Adjust the settings on your cell phone and on your laptop, desktop or tablet so that you don't receive the automatic notifications. Automatic notifications are touted as wonderful features of hardware, software, and apps. But they are actually causing you to be like a rat in a cage. If you want to get work done you need to turn off as many auditory and visual cues as possible. It's the best way to prevent and break the dopamine loops.
Create new Habits -- The dopamine system is especially sensitive to "cues" that a reward is coming. If there is a small, specific cue that signifies that something is going to happen, that sets off our dopamine system. So when there is a sound when a text message or email arrives, or a visual cue, that enhances the addictive effect. One way to extricate yourself from this loop is to create new habits.
Research shows that up to 95 % of your day is based on Habit! Think about it; you wake, make the bed, brush your teeth, eat, drudge to work, come home, etc. etc. Most of daily life occurs on auto pilot! Built in are reward cues...you reach for a cookie, or ice cream, to fee a sense of reward. BUT it is possible that other things, new habits will satisfy that reward center.
According to Dr. Kelly McGonigal, the brain can learn to attach the promise of reward to almost anything. If your brain believes that something is going to make you happy, your brain can initiate the craving response. One study from the University of Maryland connects compulsive technology usage to the same parts of your brain as cravings, another from the journal NeuroImage suggests drug cravings are no different from food, shopping, or other cravings. Many researchers claim that anything that is highly rewarding for somebody can elicit strong cravings, because the reward center has "learned" to anticipate the pleasure it brings about. So, anticipated reward is, in a sense, the "common currency" of the brain by which various activities are evaluated.
What do you think? How do you deal with dopamine loops? Are you willing to turn off your cues?
I write about things that I myself need to be mindful of. ways in which I would like to improve. It is not from the perspective of preaching - but rather writing helps me work out what I myself need to do - we are all in this together.