Handling Holiday Loss

The holiday season conjures images of connection, celebration, and endless cheer but that’s not how it is for everyone. The season can be very sad if you’re facing loss, grief, or other challenges. If your holidays won’t be picture perfect this year, or you know someone in that situation, here are some ways to cope.

1. Anticipate ups and downs. For a start, those stirring Christmas songs can trigger feelings of sadness, reverie or loneliness, even in good times! Avoid that dripping sentimentality when you can, and opt for upbeat music or silence.

2. Put you on your “gift” list. Do what works for you. Take one day at a time and don’t over schedule yourself. Create a positive affirmation such as, “I can handle this,” repeat as needed. Don’t feel obligated to celebrate; too much “merriment” may not fit this year. Set aside time for yourself, not to be lonely, but to be solitary.

3. Accept reality. Things will feel different because they are, so don’t try to make life feel “normal.” Instead of asking “why” help yourself adjust to your new circumstances. We human beings are remarkably adaptable and resilient, even in the toughest of times. It helps to realize that you can accept “what is” without having to approve of it.

4. Focus on gratitude. Create a gratitude list and add to it as new realizations come. Keep your list handy, review it often. Read an inspirational book or buoy your spirit by volunteering; helping others can boost your gratitude.

5. If you need to, give yourself some grieving time. Keep it healthy. If you’re missing a loved one, write a letter to him or her and save or dispose of it as you see fit. Or put down in words what a loved one might say to encourage or comfort you. These are ways of tapping into your innate wisdom.

6. Attend to your mental, physical and spiritual needs. Get adequate sleep and some moderate exercise. Nurture yourself. Avoid unhealthy self-indulgences such as binge eating, drinking, or grudge shopping.

7. Try a healing ritual. Some families light a candle for their loved one in the military or one who’s deceased to signify their presence. Others buy or make a special holiday ornament or symbol. Do what works for you and yours.

Simple Action: Maintain your faith. It sounds like a cliche but time is a powerful salve. Be kind to yourself through the holidays and beyond; let time do its work.

Source: WordPress

Holidays or Holidaze?

The holidays are once again upon us. Thanksgiving comes first at a nice pace, those early decorations start popping up, and then you hear that initial Christmas carol. But after that, things start ganging up on us: crowded stores, long lines, obligatory parties, gift exchanges, family gatherings, and overspending on an already anemic budget. This is where people start thinking, “Whoa, whoa, whoa” instead of ho, ho, ho.”

Avoid the mental maze of the “holidaze.” You can put the skids on those negative impulses; no shopping rage for you! Yes, Virginia, you can make your holidays more cheery and festive instead of chaotic and frustrating with a little bit of awareness and a lot of fortitude.

1. When you head for the mall, prepare yourself with a “reality bite.” There will be traffic, people, and few choice parking spots. There will be lines, too, but getting cranky about these inconveniences won’t thin the herd or make those lines move faster. Turn waiting time into rejuvenating time: smile, regroup, take a relaxing breath, imagine your favorite vacation spot, check your shopping list, visualize your next good meal, or do a few toe taps to renew your energy.

2. Restrain your gift buying. If you’ve been affected by the economy, instead of overextending, choose gifts that reflect thoughtfulness. Consider “gifts of self” for those you love involving “together time” instead of physical possessions. Price tags can’t be placed on gifts that include a personal dimension.

3. For workplace gifts, consider charity donations. If you exchange names at work, find out what charity your recipient most values and make a donation in their name. With this approach, everybody wins.

4. If you must deal with cranky customers at work, remember that this too shall pass. These irritating individuals may be grappling with grim circumstances. Be grateful you only serve them and don’t have to go home with them.

5. For family visits, put a soft lens on your heart so you can perceive your loved ones with compassion instead of criticism (if they haven’t changed by now they probably never will). Be grateful you don’t have to go home with them, either.

6. For the entire season, slow your pace when you drive, walk, and talk. Don’t get swept up in the rush; be an observer, not a participant. Smile more, breathe and relax, look for hopeful signs instead of hassles. Remember the words “good will to all.”

Simple Action: Keep reminding yourself that the holidays aren’t about presents; they’re about presence (yours). Wishing you peace and joy…Leslie

Source: WordPress

Fit Bits: 10 Easy Ways to be Healthier and Happier

Want to be in better shape but you don’t think you have time? Well, think big, but start small. These ideas, excerpted from an article I wrote for the Women2Women Michigan magazine, can enhance your health without your having to join a gym or go into therapy.

Hint: something is always better than nothing. Just like calories, exercise is cumulative. “Move more, eat less,” is the secret to shaping up. Add some self-nurturing and you have a winning formula. It’s easier than you think.

1.  Reach for the sky. Start out your day with five or ten minutes of yoga or gentle stretching to prepare your body and mind for the day.

2.  Go for the burn. Choose “bad” parking spots that force you to walk more. Leave the choices spots for the lazy or physically impaired. The more steps you take, the more calories you burn.

3.  Get out. In the middle of a busy work day take a short walk, get some air, refresh your body, and clear your head.

4.  Move up. Climb one or two flights of stairs (or more) when you can rather than always relying on elevators.

5.  Leave yourself some wiggle room. If you have a desk job, get up and move often. Find a few office yoga techniques or stretches to perk up your body and brain.

6.  Get wet. Stay hydrated; drink more water and less caffeine. Avoid carbonated beverages and “energy” drinks.

7.  Look up. Be positive. Smile more; your brain will think you’re having fun (your body tends to feel the way your face looks).

8.  Eat neat. Eat more fruits and veggies. Avoid comfort foods (the gooey, the chewy, the crunchy, the munchy, the salty, the faulty). Eat only when you’re hungry, quit when you’re full. Eat smaller portions; eat slower, too.

9.  Get your move on. Find an exercise you enjoy and do it regularly for at least ten minutes. Often, by that time, you’ll give yourself another ten minutes or more.

10. Get your groove on. Nurture yourself, especially when the chips are down so you don’t reach for the chips! Read something inspirational every day. Take bubble baths, try aromatherapy. Sit for ten minutes in a quiet space with relaxing music and chill. Savor a piece of good chocolate, or whatever else works for you. Enjoy at least one small indulgence daily; you deserve it.

Simple Action: Practice these small life-enriching Fit Bits faithfully and they will make a big difference for you.

Source: WordPress

Lessons My Horse Taught Me

My childhood dream was to someday own a horse and it was a privilege to make that dream come true. I was a horse owner for thirty years and after hacking around for the first ten, I began pursuing the art of dressage. Here are a few of the many lessons I learned during those hundreds of hours in the saddle.

1. Just as with life, dressage is an exercise in continuous improvement. If you want to learn, enhance your skills, and enrich your existence, you have to focus on what you want and make a long-term commitment.

2. What feels “natural” isn’t always correct. For example, when leading a horse, if it rears up or jerks its head back, instead of following your instinct to pull, move toward the horse and then give the lead line a jerk. Use your brain to control the situation whenever you’re outweighed, outmuscled, or overwhelmed.

3. Ask for what you want in a way that it can be easily understood by the other party. This one needs no example.

4. Accept constructive feedback and adjust your behavior accordingly so you can be more effective. You may be tempted to condemn an unusual idea or get defensive when criticized, but instead, listen carefully, keep your mouth shut, and consider the merits of what’s being said.

5. We’re often inclined to take the easy way out, but in life as in riding, the most effective strategy is often the hardest one. Don’t cheat yourself. Suck it up and put forth whatever effort it takes so you can learn to do it right. Once you internalize the skill it’ll be yours for as long as you live.

6. We are all driven by our own agendas. Dressage is challenging and complex, and just as the rider needs to do what’s difficult, so does the horse, and sometimes the pair will be working at cross purposes. This also happens in personal and work relationships. Reread items 1 through 5 for inspiration on this one.

7. Instead of wishing for miracles, take the initiative; create your own. You can’t expect another person (or animal, or situation) to change for the better till you do.

Simple Action: While you might never find yourself on the back of a horse, every day you metaphorically ride out to meet your day. Which of these lessons I learned in the saddle most “speak” to you and how will you let them enrich your existence?

Source: WordPress

Having a Sense of Humor Makes a Lot of Sense

In my speeches on stress I say, “Your sense of humor is your number one stress management tool,” and it’s true. Just as a tree needs to bend and sway when a fierce storm blows, we need to flex and loosen up when things get turbulent.

At first it seems counterintuitive to lighten up when we want to tighten up. But relaxing, smiling, and even laughing in the face of pressure releases pent-up emotions; it lets you take a breath and relieve the burden. And who’s the best person to laugh at? Yourself, of course. You’ll never run out of material!

Many people know about my practice of choosing an annual theme. I even make a poster for my wall and feature the themes at http://WhyIsEveryoneSoCranky.com. My annual themes guide and influence me, providing opportunities for growth and change. My 2010 them is Year of Finesse with the tag line Artful Living.

Well, in the parlance of be careful what you ask for, either 2010 is a debacle or I won the “opportunity” lotto. This year has sucked. I’ve temporarily changed my office poster to read “Year of Fine Mess” and “Awful Living” instead of the original. Not the most affirming message, but it makes me laugh.

You’ve had tough times, too, and sometimes it’s our warped sense of humor that gets us through. When you’re stuck in a pressure cooker, open up the steam vent; stand back and occasionally smile or laugh at yourself. That’s what I’ve been trying to do.

Remember that you are creative, competent, and most of all, capable of amazing resilience. Let your sense of humor keep you nimble when circumstances make you humble. In Bless Your Stress I state that “a bad day alive beats the heck out of a good day dead,” and this line tickles me. From affirmations to laffirmations, even when I hurt I’m grateful I can still fog a mirror!

William James said that common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds; that a sense of humor is just common sense, dancing. In the midst of heartache, I’ve been forcing myself to dance.

Simple Action: There will be times when you hurt so much it feels as if you’ll break in two, but your sense of humor will guide you to the other side of the storm. In the maelstrom, sway and bend, ease up, smile, laugh, and dance your way through the darkness. It’s called the breakthrough.

Source: WordPress