by Larry Barsh, M.S. C.HT
Each year at this time, the familiar stories of holiday stress, guilt and anxiety begin to swirl. “Do I have enough money and/or time to get the right gift? What if they don’t like…? What will they think? How can I get it all done?”
Well, in the end, what I have found is that the best gift you can ever give is the gift of you being filled with life, love and joy. You being fully present and happy, just because. This is a gift which you have always had to give, and it will always be yours to give.
As I work with clients around the world, I hear again and again how not taking time to care for themselves, and not allowing themselves to be their true selves, greatly contributed to debilitating stress and physical dysfunction.
So, how do you give the gift of yourself in the face of overwhelming errands, memories, and holiday decisions? Well, a little understanding about why you do what you do, and some tips on how to relax and create a better you for the holidays can make a surprising difference. Here are some things to think about.
- Rethinking Gifting. Whether we are aware of it or not, we have extensive mental files that tell us how to re-act (act again with the same/similar behaviors and emotions as before) to holiday situations, circumstances, relationships and environments. It’s very helpful to notice when your mood negatively changes and you feel anxious, guilty, inadequate, sad or angry in relation to some aspect of the holiday season. At those times, ask yourself, “What can I do, in this moment, to be better?” The answer to this question usually is positive and constructive, and helps to break the habit of re-acting in troubling ways. For instance, if someone were thinking, “I don’t have the money to buy the kind of gifts I want to, or think I should, and the holidays just won’t feel right,” then that person could also consider, “I can only do my best, and I’ll give whatever I can with love and creativity. Right now I can begin planning what I can do that’s within my budget, and will be fun for me to do, as well.” Remember, most people would rather have the pleasure of your joyous company than some stuff. And when you feel comfortable with yourself and your decisions, knowing you haven’t stretched yourself to the brink, you will be able to be more peaceful and joyous because you have been honest with yourself.
- The Thymus Tap. If you find yourself feeling anxious or sad, or even tired, there is a wonderful technique you can use to feel better. I call it the Thymus Tap, and it works very well. At the base of the front of your neck, below the soft area, there is what is known as the breastbone. With the first two fingers of your right hand, tap on that bone. Behind the bone is your thymus gland. It seems that when you tap on the bone, and repeat a positive phrase (“I feel calm and happy”), the thymus radiates the message throughout all of your body, and your mind and body produce the results of your phrase. Practice using this technique several times each day, before you really need it. Each time you use the Thymus Tap, the results increase, and happen faster. You can use any positively stated, present tense phrase you want. Have fun experimenting to see what combination of words works best for you. My clients have used the Thymus Tap to alleviate pain, change mood, concentrate, increase confidence, improve sports performance, and much more.
- Breathing Deep for Deep Relaxation. Often, when we are stressed, we either forget to breathe or breathe shallowly. Not breathing well can imitate create symptoms associated with panic attacks, cloud our minds, and generally tire us. Before any of this happens, take a few moments each day to just breathe and relax. That way you will be training yourself to breathe better, and perfecting a method to help alleviate stress. Here’s what to do. Take in a deep, full breath, filling your abdomen first, and then your chest. As you complete the inhale, let your body breathe out on its own (as you make an AHHHH sound) until all the air is exhaled. Then, rest in that quiet place until your body tells you that it’s time to breathe again. Repeat the breathing process about eight times (or as often as you like). This is not hyperventilation, and it will help you slow down, calm down, and focus.
- Shrug it Off. Did you ever hear the phrase, “Shrug it off”? Well, it turns out to be a good suggestion for relaxing the head, neck, shoulders, and upper chest. All you do is, from a sitting or standing position, raise your shoulders as close to your ears as possible, hold for a few seconds, and let your shoulders drop. Several shrugs should relax tension.
- Taking Time for Yourself. Taking time for yourself seems to be harder and harder to do, yet is very, very important to your well being. I heartily recommend making at least one (more are better) thirty minute relaxation period for yourself each day. This is a time of no disturbances when you can listen to soothing music, inspirational or self improvement programs, read, meditate, or practice the Heart Smile. The Heart Smile consists of simply sitting quietly, closing your eyes, breathing easily, and imagining a tiny light glowing at the center of your heart. With your mind’s eye, watch the light for a while, and see it begin to grow into a soft and happy smile. As the light surrounds the smile, imagine the smile slowly growing until it fills every inch body, and even expands beyond. Feel the sensation of a happy smile filling and surrounding your body, and even broadcasting out to others. Take your time as you let the smile grow, and then stay with it for as long as you like. When you are finished, let the smile and light flow back into your body to stay with you as you take a few deep breaths, open your eyes, and stretch. As you practice, the results will come faster until, just by thinking about the light and smile, you’ll feel filled with their gift.
I hope that something mentioned here helps you give more of the gift of yourself. If you have any questions about any of these techniques, please call me. I’ll be happy to explain them in greater detail.
Happiness and good begin within each of us, and with the positive choices we make to care for ourselves in sustaining and enriching ways. It is true that we care best for others when we care well for ourselves. When we are filled with life, we can give fully. When we feel somewhat empty, we are giving from deficit.
So, fill up your holiday tanks with joy, be the best you can be, and do good things.
I Wish You Well