Holiday season has landed!
On Halloween day, I went to Target to get some treats for the tricksters who were sure to ring my bell later that night. I had to walk through FOUR aisles of Christmas decoration aisles! I had to navigate around TWO aisles of Thanksgiving items!
I was in a holiday time warp!
Christmas tree displays, ornaments, and lights bring me nostalgically back to my wonder years of family holidays. Sweet memories of carols, ribbons and bows… and COOKIES!
But the holiday paraphernalia ALSO brings me back to the overwhelming obligations I have – the obligations we ALL have – to traditions and family.
I love those too, but they are STRESSFUL!
I’m just one person! I can’t be at my in-laws AND my own folks’ homes for eggnog and gifts, especially when I JUST split myself in two over the turkey day! I spent more time on the freeway and holiday commute than I did with actual family!
HOW THE HOLY HOLIDAY AM I GONNA DO IT ALL AGAIN!?
Not only do we have ten times the responsibilities and commitments over the entire span from Nov zero to January thirty-second! We still have ALL our usual ones too!
Classes, meetings, get-togethers, golf, yoga, kids…
Oh did I mention KIDS?
Well, guess what? I have some remedies.
I’m not here just to curse the darkness of winter. I’m here to light candles!
Put ’em on your menorah, your mantle or among your holiday décor… but we gotta bring some light to this subject of HOLIDAY STRESS!
As the blog title promises:
Here are some things you can do this Holiday season to make your Christmas (and Thanksgiving) stress-free! Oh! And New Year’s too!
Ready? Let’s get practical so we can get busy shopping, wrapping, giving AND receiving!
What Causes Holiday Stress?
- SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder, AKA The Winter Blues
- Temptations (Eat, Drink and be MISERABLE!)
- No Time! Too Many Obligations and Commitments (Traditions)!
- Inertia: Lack of Exercise and Motion
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER! Let’s go through them.
But I never just give you the knowledge, do I? No!
I always give strategies and SOLUTIONS!
Watch my video below, or keep reading to learn about what you can do right now to eliminate holiday stress.
1: SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder – Winter Blues/Depression)
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
What is Winter Depression or Winter Blues?
How does it affect your lifestyle?
How can we NEUTRALIZE it?
SAD, aka Winter Depression, is a mood disorder that affects more than 3 million people in the US and more than 7 million worldwide.
Seasonal Depression doesn’t just affect those in cloudy climates like the Pacific Northwest or Nordic Europe! We are ALL affected by the shift in the angle of the sun and the fewer hours of daylight as we get through the winter months. Your brain (especially your Pineal and Pituitary glands) are conditioned to your home climate and when the sunlight becomes less than what we’re used to, we’re affected.
Whether you live in the South Pole or sunny, southern California like I do, winter has an effect on us all.
- The rate of ADDICTION RELAPSE skyrockets in the winter!
- Diet commitments plummet
- Exercise decreases
- Bodies store more fat than proteins
This happens due to two main reasons:
- The lack of diurnal activity: Motion and sunlight
- THE HOLIDAY CRUNCH: The extra responsibilities, stress and temptations
You CAN’T change the equinoxes or solstices. You CAN’T change the holiday calendar! And while it seems you can change your time management and the ways these two factors affect you, that’s not so easy either.
AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION IS WORTH A POUND OF CURE
Sure… Seasonal Affective Disorder sucks, but how?
Symptoms of winter depression include a depressed state, feeling withdrawn from life, less, low or no motivation to do things, low self-esteem, loss or increase in appetite (usually an increase!) and fatigue, especially early evening after sundown.
Some less common symptoms include difficulty waking up in the morning, morning sickness, tendency to oversleep, overeating, craving carbohydrates (which leads to weight gain), difficulty concentrating, difficulty completing tasks, withdrawal from friends, family, and social activities…
All of this leads to the depression, pessimism, feelings of hopelessness, and lack of pleasure which characterize a person suffering from this disorder.
Most of the treatments for this are based in medications.
Anyone who is a regular reader of my editorials knows how I feel about that. Meds too often create side effects that are just as undesirable as the thing we’re treating. Side effects of anti-depressants may include suicidal ideation.
That’s the whole reason people are TAKING anti-depressants! That’s called a paradoxical effect and med companies think it’s freakin NORMAL!
PRESCRIPTIONS AIN’T THE ANSWER!
In addition to that, meds often fail to work at all, or over time cease to be effective, forcing us to deal with the problem at its source all over again. And that little unpromoted prescription drug feature is called tolerance and immunity! Yeah, both of these are SOOO consistent they got names for them. And as long as they disclose it on the ads, it’s all good!
I don’t know about you, but if the car I’m buying has a real possibility of spontaneous combustion when parallel parking, I’m NOT BUYING IT! I DON’T CARE IF IT’S UNLIKELY OR JUST ONE OUT OF A FIVE HUNDRED! THAT’S TOO MUCH!
This is the same government bureaucracy that allows TEN rodent hairs in 50 grams of hot dogs! I’m sorry. But ONE is too much! NO! One suicidal ideation side effect means that that med is NO GOOD.
Just ask Chris Cornell and Robin Williams among DOZENS of others worldwide! And let’s not forget the DAILY headlines of every type of prescription medications causing massive addiction crisis, suicidal and homicidal behaviors. Xanax to opiates cause MAJOR risks.
So, I do NOT recommend nor advocate ‘scrip meds for any solvable ailment such as SAD or addiction. I’ve been solving BOTH of them for decades with strategies, training, and hypnotherapy (>90% success in sleep, anxiety/depression, and addiction treatment success)!
So here’s the answer to SAD.
Whenever possible, SAD sufferers should get outdoors and take in as much sunlight as possible.
Take your lunch outside! Put on a sweater, get cozy and bring a thermos of hot soup and hot chocolate to enjoy OUTDOORS! Dress warm, pack a lunch and get outside. Even if it’s cloudy, the ultraviolet rays still get through!
Because a major cause is an individual’s constitution and temperament, many things can be done to restore balance to the body’s chemistry.
THE BIG GUNS:
I use a light therapy treatment with many of my clients; a specialized device used for just this purpose. You can get these online for $30-$60. (Word of advice: Do NOT use them within 4 hours of bedtime!)
In addition to that, I help them adjust their diet and other daily routines that can minimize SAD symptoms and I combine hypnotherapy and biofeedback to adjust the nervous system and subconscious mindset.
My biofeedback tool is effective. I love it! I can use it even with clients in other countries and states! With all these strategies combined, SAD rarely stands a chance.
And of course, sufferers from depression benefit from these treatments year-round. Our subconscious mind has survival coping mechanisms based in the fight or flight responses to threats it perceives. Winter depressions are categorized as a threat by your subconscious! It’s why animals hibernate. They can’t get light therapy, pills or hypnotherapy (but YOU can)!
The subconscious creates a battery of coping mechanisms to protect you which, much like prescribed meds, can make things worse when we don’t use them properly.
The brain generates cravings for junk food, drugs, alcohol, and other behaviors to compensate for lower serotonin. These vices cause an abrupt release of serotonin and other endorphins. Abrupt, unnatural release runs our endorphin well dry! We’ve run out when we need it the most! The side effects are exponential!
By the way… Your subconscious isn’t literally trying to sabotage you. It’s just doing its job! It’s trying to get you to do things to compensate for the lack of happy chemicals, but it can’t speak to you in plain English.
So, it creates cravings instead. It needs adrenaline and glutamate in balanced doses and more serotonin so it creates cravings for them. Your mind and body are aware that sugar, carbs, and narcotics get the job done — so it doesn’t pick and choose between healthy cravings and unhealthy ones!
WE are the ones who interpret these cravings as junk food, drugs or shopping, instead of healthy choices. WHY?
THE FORMULA FOR CREATING BEHAVIORS
Because of the infamous formula for creating ALL behaviors: Repetition and Association!
Many of my readers and clients are very familiar with this. I give an annual workshop on it every New Year. (Stand by for that! It’s comin’!)
You’ve repeated junk food, drugs or other vice behaviors often so it’s just what the SUBconscious is familiar with. It has a junk food, drug, bad habits, etc. reference library and it’s looking for a quick fix so it creates cravings for them.
That’s the Repetition part.
In the past, you’ve indulged in these behaviors and enjoyed them.
Break the cycle.
3. No Time! Too many obligations and commitments (traditions)!
So… how ‘bout skipping some of those holiday traditions?
Traditions hold us to habits, obligations, patterns and behaviors.
As much as they can deplete us, the alternative ain’t an option because:
- We loooove our annual holiday party!
- We loooove turkey at Aunt Betty’s and Christmas cookies at Grandma’s!
- We loooove the office Christmas Eve party!
Sure, it’s stressful to manage all the extra obligations and massive expenses over the last quarter of the year, but it’s tradition! How can we break with traditions we loooove?
Notice: EVERY ONE of these traditions is centered around food and booze! Sure, they SAY it’s about family and friends, but if you take away the food and drink, watch these festivities come to a screeeeeching halt.
How can we break with traditions we loooove?
We’re just one person and we can’t be at all places with all people. So… what gets cut?
- Don’t over commit:
You gotta learn to say NO. You can’t be everywhere with everyone. Make the commitment to your self. “Sis/Neighbor/Co-worker/Uncle John — It breaks my heart, but I don’t think I can make this year’s holiday party and if things change I’m definitely gonna try to still come. Please forgive me! I’m soooo sorry!”
- Make a list
Make the good ole fashioned list and then prioritize them:
– Xmas shopping
– Meal planning
– Kids’ holiday school play
– Neighbors’ poker night
– Overtime at work
The list goes on… Make it and then prioritize them. Start numbering them in priority and once you get to five or seven, get textin’!
4. Inertia: Lack of exercise and motion
Your circulation is slower. We are nature’s children, so our bodies and neurology respond to the season change.
- Circulation is lower during the time of the winter holidays
- Less serotonin and more melatonin makes us less motivated
- Holiday concerns and obligations use vital energy
What do we do about it? We KNOW we need exercise and we KNOW our lower activity levels are sapping our energy, but it’s not so simple to solve, is it?
Goes back to that Repetition and Association thing I explained earlier. If change were as simple as making up our minds, we’d all be perfect. We’ve got TOO much to do! The SUBconscious reigns supreme!
We must appease the SUBconscious! We gotta outsmart it!
When you think of motion, activity, and exercise, don’t overthink it! Less is more.
Get movin’! Before or after your outdoor lunch, take a walk! The midday time is prime for healthy endorphin release! Two birds with one stone, here. Take your lunch outside and take a walk before or after.
What’s that you say? It’s rainin’? SO WHAT!
You gotta an umbrella, don’t ya? A hat? A plastic bag? C’mon!
Where there’s a will there’s a way.
Even though walking in gloom might seem depressing, the awareness of taking charge and being proactive will totally compensate.
Getting your joints and muscles flexed along with some cardio is just what the doctor ordered. NO, you don’t need to work up a sweat or even hard breathing. Just get your blood circulating and get some O2 (oxygen)! It will flow into your ventricles and into your brain, stimulating positive endorphins.
Don’t wait to jog or for the treadmill. Your daily jog or treadmill routine may get interfered with! Postponed! Cancelled!
A stroll in the morning, in the afternoon, or anytime can be ADDED to the treadmill workout if you do them. And if you run slow, late, skip or don’t do the treadmill, then you’re really ahead of the game!
ANYTIME AND ANYWAY YOU CAN GET SOME CIRCULATION IT WILL PAY DIVIDENDS!
Don’t take the elevator, take the stairs. Don’t use your downstairs bathroom, use the UPSTAIRS! Don’t park at the entrance. Park your car on the FAR side of the lot at the shopping mall or grocery store.
It all adds up!
What’s that you say? You’re in a hurry?
C’mon! The extra THIRTY seconds of parking lot trekking is NOOOOT gonna make you late!
Waiting for an appointment? At the doctor or in the waiting room before a meeting?
Well, get movin’! Take that stroll. Pace the hallway! Multi-task! Text or talk while you’re walking!
There are PLENTY of motion opportunities. Put your excuses in a gift basket and GIVE them away! What is needed is more than a knowledge-base of awareness (like you’re getting here).
Addictions and Holidays
Addiction behavior goes WAY up through the holidays. Whether it’s gaming, pornography, food, shopping, alcohol, pills or any other drug, using episodes are skyrocketing.
This isn’t alarming news to anyone, but what may surprise you is WHY.
What we can do is A LOT!
First, let’s understand WHY.
What causes drug, alcohol, food and behavioral addiction behaviors to escalate so much over a season that is about family, love, God and goodwill?
We just learned about these causes.
These are the four main factors that are major triggers to using and relapse episodes:
Less daylight, cold temperatures and biology cause toxic coping mechanisms
- Too much to do, not enough time
Holiday obligations plus normal ones can make life overwhelming
ALL of our vices are on constant display during the holidays: Food, booze, drugs, shopping…
Winter depression, lethargy, weight gain, low energy all make a perfect storm
And here are the four tips for dealing with Holiday Stress:
- Get Outdoors!
Take your lunch outside and walk before or after
- Don’t REMOVE bad habits, REPLACE them!
Understand Repetition & Association. Replace bad habits and addictions with good habits
- Take Control of Your Time!
Don’t overcommit. List, prioritize, and modify plans. It’s okay to say no.
Take those walks. Take the stairs, park in the far lot, pace the hallways
Holidays are a spiritual time of year to honor the blessings in your life
Taking care of yourself during the holidays is never selfish. If you put yourself last, others will likely follow. You can’t take care of others unless you take care of yourself first. Seek balance! What you do in November can eliminate stress in December!
If changing a behavior were as simple as making up our minds, we’d all be perfect!
We need to condition the subconscious mind to NEW, STABLE and HEALTHY behaviors!
THIS TAKES STRATEGY.
This is where I come in!
I don’t just teach my clients the knowledge.
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER!
But knowledge unapplied is useless. And we need STRATEGY to apply knowledge!
I give you the strategies to UNDO and REPLACE bad habits, addictions, and behaviors. And it can’t be the same formula for everyone.
We all have different body types, different minds, different likes and dislikes, weaknesses AND STRENGTHS. This is why rehabs, medications and conventional therapy FAILS eight times out of ten! It’s not personalized. It’s one-size-fits-all.
I teach in my video courses, books and live sessions how to CREATE and CUSTOMIZE a formula for YOU:
YOUR body type!
YOUR strengths and YOUR weaknesses!
Generic formulas DON’T work.
Train how to CUSTOMIZE your self-improvement strategies.
Even though winter will soon be over, this mood disorder can often last well into spring for many people.
Get the SOLUTIONS!
Scott Spackey is a Counselor, Certified Life-Coach, Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist, and Addiction Specialist who works with all ages. Call 661-299-1966 or email Scott@Life-Mind.com. For more articles, visit www.LIFE-MIND.com