Stress and the Holidays

What is really getting to you this holiday season?

We all know that the holidays are stressful for many reasons. Lately I have been thinking about some of the deeper reasons why the holidays can be a time of both light and darkness. The answer may be in saying less yes, and more no.

Be authentic to reduce stress at the holidays


On the surface, there are the usual reasons for stress at the holiday time, not enough money, not enough time, too much work to finish before the year end and time off.  However, I believe at the heart of this year-end drama that plays out every Christmas/Holiday season, there is something even more serious going on.

When we look at our memories about the holidays, they can be positive and filled with love and family, or sometimes they are horrible and filled with fighting and family.  There are even many holiday films about the “joys” of families getting together over the holidays, and the emotional stress these get togethers can cause. 

Ultimately however, I wonder if the true stress is within ourselves. Are we in essence at this time of year, sorting through our sub-conscious, and seeing how much deep down we don’t connect to our most valid versions of ourselves?  I guess what I am getting at really is a sense of authenticity, and at this time of year, when we are more thoughtful about our connections to others, perhaps it is a time when we should ask….are we really being who we want to be, to whom we want to be? Whether friends or lovers, are we being authentic people to those around us? For example, don’t you wish you could only send Christmas cards to the people who send them to you? How many times do you send out all 40 cards, taking the high road even though you know you might get 10 back if you are lucky?

What about the people you are visiting? Are you doing so out of obligation or a genuine desire to spend time with these people? The more we do because we have to do it, because it looks good, because we are supposed to, the more we drift away from our true self. Authenticity means doing what you want, when you want, because you want to do it, and because you care about doing it. For some that might sound selfish, but actually, it is called being real. Hopefully what you want to do is good for the rest of the world and the people around you, eases your own suffering, and does not increase the suffering of others. 

Ultimately I believe all stress comes from holding two different expectations in our mind or heart at the same time…the thing we want to do vs. the thing we feel like we have to do. Stress would not exist if those things aligned. 

So as you rush around this season, buying more gifts than you can afford, spending time shopping vs. with your loved ones, spending time working too hard, instead of resting and maintaining healthy boundaries, ask yourself,  “Am I doing what I want? Am I being with who I want? Is that person going to care if I send a gift or a card? Has he or she even spoken to me in the past year? Have I spoken to him or her in the past year? Gage your responses, pay attention to what you really want, and learn how to let the stress go with every “no”. 

 

 

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Stress and Credit Card Fraud

Avoid Credit Card Fraud, Cover Your Pin

Stress and Credit Card Fraud – Protect Your Pin

We found out a few days ago that my husband’s bank card had been cloned and used by a fraudster. We were alerted by text by our bank and took prompt action. Luckily we were changing banks, so we only had a couple hundred dollars in the account. However, it was stressful, and in the end you do feel violated.

I tried to sleep after the texts came in and my mind was racing with all these thoughts about how it’s modern day mugging, and horrible how it’s so common place and normal now. We just accept it as an inconvenience of the digital age. This made me pretty angry, and I had to use every tool in my mindfulness tool box to try too sooth myself and go to sleep (we are talking progressive relaxation, chakra music, reading, prayers). And I still didn’t go to sleep til 3AM.

After taking action with the bank the following day, I decided to research the heck out of this issue. It turned out that our card info had been stolen at the drive-through ATM of the bank itself! I mean if you can’t trust the banks to check their own machines, what hope do we have in other point of sale locations.

Tips to Ease Your Mind About Fraud

Here are some strategies I learned to help make this issue less stressful for you:

  1. Make sure you have text alerts setup on your online banking, so when irregularities are detected, you get info as quickly as possible. When they text you respond immediately.
  2. When making point of sale purchases at gas pumps, the grocery and other stores, use credit instead of debit when possible to avoid revealing your PIN. If you must use debit, then always cover your hand while putting the digits in.
  3.  Before putting your card into the ATM slot, wiggle the card reader. If it moves at all, don’t use the ATM. Look around the machine for anything odd, cameras are often hidden in plugs, or brochure attachments on or near the machine.
  4. When you put the card into the slot, wiggle it a bit, this can help mess up the reader from gathering your data off the magnetic strip.
  5. Use smart access cards or limited pre-paid visa cards for online purchases or purchases when you are out and about. Keep limited funds on these cards, so crooks never have access to the bulk of your funds.
  6. Check your accounts online or on your mobile apps frequently, especially when on vacation to watch for irregular charges or ATM withdraws.

Here’s a great report on it from an ABC station in LA:

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Ease Stress Through Ancient Hawaiian Forgiveness Practice – Ho’Oponopono

Ease Stress Ho'Oponopono4 Easy Steps to More Peace

We know that most of our stress is caused by our own thoughts about our lives. Yes, there are stressful external circumstances, but how we cope with them is largely dependent on our cognitive processing of those events. We can be positive, we can be negative, we can be in denial, we can be resilient, but ultimately, how we feel about something is in direct relation to our thoughts.

Recently, I was introduced to an idea called ancestral clearing. There are some who believe that our genes carry more than just physical information on the DNA, but also possibly hand down ancestral memories via a universal consciousness. Karl Jung believed in this universal consciousness, and it was the foundation of his concept of synchronicity.

Ancestral clearing practices have been in place across multiple cultures, but I want to focus on the Hawaiian practice of Ho’Oponopono. Traditionally, this was a family or group ceremony where a spiritual leader/counselor will guide a family to state their issues, apologize for those issues, express gratitude, and love for one another, and thus clear the issues from the family history, freeing the individuals spiritually and emotionally.

There are modern psychological treatments which do the same thing for trauma patients, especially one called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocesing). EMDR helps people replace negative and traumatic memories with more positively charged feelings and thoughts. The scientifically, evidence-based process is approved by the VA to help veterans, and I can attest it is extremely effective.

The interesting convergence of these two concepts is what the current leader in Ho’Oponopono, Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len calls getting to zero. Basically, using a method he calls “cleaning”, Dr. Hew Len teaches people to process their memories/programs from childhood and beyond to release blocks within them. Once the blocks are released, a person is free to receive Divine inspiration. According to Dr. Hew Len, we have a choice to struggle and suffer reacting to our memories and programs, or we can clear them and move toward our goals with a clear mind and heart.

Two leaders in this field of ancestral clearing are John Newton, an actor who trained and transitioned his life over to serving others through these practices, and Howard Wills, his mentor, who also has his own version of Ho’Oponopono utilizing a form of prayer.

I will post links to their videos and websites here if you’d like to give it a try. I have personally been doing the prayers/clearing routines for a few weeks, and have felt more at peace with my efforts to stop eating sugar and manage/release anger.  The awesome thing about these programs is they are not a religion, cult like, you don’t have to join or pay anything to practice. You can sign up for classes if you want to, and both John and Howard do their own personal sessions, but I recommend just reading and trying it on your own. I’m open to discussing it with anyone as well. I would love to hear about the results.

Remember these four basic parts:
1. Say you are sorry, take responsibility (even if it’s not just yours…there is no such thing in a Universal consciousness)
2. Ask forgiveness from yourself, for yourself, forgive yourself, and anyone related to the issue.
3. Express gratitude/thanks
4. Express love

And keep cleaning until you feel you are in the “void” or back to zero….

I recommend starting with books by Hew Len, because they are short and to the point:

Then I recommend watching John Newton’s ancestral clearing Youtube:

John’s website is: healthbeyondbelief.com

Howard Wills, who John studied as part of his training, has a couple videos here:
http://www.howardwills.com/howardwillstv

These are what John Newton calls complementary ways to help you improve your life. They are not meant to replace medications, treatment with counselors or psychiatrists, or other health professionals. However, I believe if you do these practices, they work on your mind much like meditation and mindfulness, giving you the peace and space you need to move forward.

 

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Amazing Evidence, Meditation Changes Your Brain

Harvard researchers are showing regular meditation can change your brain in key areas affecting anxiety, executive decision making and more. Sarah Lazar, Meditation Changes Your Brain, Washington Post

Ms. Lazar studies at the same Harvard institute as famed meditation expert Jon Kabat-Zinn. Build your meditation from 10 – 40 minutes a day to see decreased anxiety, improved memory, and increased empathy and compassion.

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Stressed about politics? President Trump? Feeling helpless?

The past week has been a roller coaster of change and upheaval. No matter who you voted for or did not vote for, the reality is here, and many people are having difficulty dealing with it.  The key here is to think about why you are allowing these events, news, issues to distress you?

First ask:
Is there anything I can personally do to change this right now?

(i.e. did you already vote for the other person? Then yes, you tried. Also, can you vote in upcoming elections both local, state, and national to make changes? Yes, you can.)

If there isn’t anything you can do right now, then you are creating stress for yourself for no reason. Only focus on what you CAN do, what you CAN control, what you CAN change.  When you choose to focus on these three key factors, then your stress begins to diminish greatly.

What are some examples of actions you can do? For example, have you written to your state, local, and national representatives to express your views and feelings respectfully? Write a post card, they are more likely to be read, short and sweet, and emphasize what you are wanting changed. Write weekly, daily, monthly, whatever makes you feel better, and you think will make a change.

Donate to causes that help make changes possible. i.e. ACLU, refugee orgs (ARC), etc. Be sure to research charities for their “grades” online and pay attention to where money goes in all orgs you donate to.

Take action in your life and local community. Give time to those in need, volunteer for organizations you care about, and share about them on your social media.

After you’ve done something, ask yourself, am I still feeling stressed out about ______?  If you are still feeling residual stress even after taking actions, try to release it with positive self-care (meditate, listen to music, do something creative, take a bath, make a list of your favorite things to do to relax and do them).

Finally, go on a news diet. Stay informed, read good, objective news…I like the Guardian, and the Washington Post. Only watch the national and local news for basic info no more than 30 minutes a day.  Don’t read news on Facebook and other social media, as it is sometimes wrong, biased, and fed to you based on algorithms that will not give you ALL info.

I hope this helps you feel more in control, empowered to make change, and gives you some ideas to help mitigate your stress in these crazy times.

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