By Coral Arvon, PhD, Director of Behavioral Health and Wellness at the Pritikin Longevity Center + Spa in Miami, Florida
Shopping. Baking. Wrapping. Running. Are holiday “must do’s” driving you a little nuts? Here are 3 suggestions for finding some much-needed “me time”, and real joy, during the holidays!
1. Learn the power of saying “NO” to others and “YES” to you.
If you have trouble saying “no” to family and friends, the stress just piles up. Even worse is when you can’t say “no” to yourself. You tackle every item on your long holiday list, even it means you’re racking up more hours than Santa’s elves. Take that list, right now, and cut it in half. People who know how to say, “No, I can’t do it all” and “I need some help” are happier, healthier souls. They practice the art of assertiveness. They practice living well.
Giving up compulsive people pleasing and the “gotta do it all” mentality is one of the most important things we can do for ourselves not only during the holidays but all year round.
2. Take a 10-minute time-out every day. (Better yet, take 2 or 3!)
Yes, 10 minutes is all most of us need to help blood pressure drop, breathing rate slow, muscle tension decrease, and lovely feelings of relaxation and peace ensue. The trick is learning to, well, sit! For many of us, it’s difficult to be at ease. And the more we think, “I can’t relax” or “I don’t need to relax,” the greater the likelihood we do in fact need relaxation time.
You may think you already include relaxation in your life because you read novels or enjoy another interest, like listening to music. It’s great to have these activities, but for reducing stress, we need a strategy, often referred to as the Relaxation Response, which is specifically designed to combat the hyperarousal effect caused by the stresses of daily living. An excellent and easy-to-implement way to evoke the Relaxation Response is using guided imagery, or what I call “The Great Escape.” Here’s how to do it:
Tell everyone around you that you’re retreating to a quiet room to take a time-out. Let them laugh. Pretty soon, they’ll be joining you. Everyone loves the idea of turning the world off for a few minutes. Once sitting or lying comfortably, take 4 deep breaths. Then close your eyes and consciously tell yourself to relax. Imagine yourself in a place that is very comfortable, safe, and peaceful. A tropical beach. A gondola on the Grand Canal. A hammock in the backyard. Your own bed. Allow yourself to go there in your mind’s eye. Hear the sounds around you. Smell the sea air. Feel the balmy breeze, the warm sand beneath you. Keep breathing deeply. Be there for a good 10 minutes, maybe even more (go ahead and nod off). Open your eyes, take one last deep breath, and slowly exhale.
3. Rekindle your romance.
Been married for years? Always remember that being together for years is a fact; achieving intimacy is an action. One very important way to become more intimate is positive communication. Don’t wait for special occasions or unusually nice behavior to compliment your partner. If you’re stingy with words of appreciation, you’re depriving yourself and your partner of one of the easiest and most pleasant ways to get closer.
Praise generously. Praise regularly. Let your loved one know how much you appreciate the little things he or she does. Little words spoken well and lovingly about little things can lead to grand pleasures.
What a gift for the holiday season, the New Year, and all of 2014!