Doing Life Together
Doing Life Together
By Cherie Faus Smith
I have always considered myself a strong woman. After all, I’ve survived three abusive relationships involving intimate partners, am a melanoma cancer survivor, and clawed myself out of the trenches of depression and anxiety that left me with dirty fingernails.
Do I feel sorry for myself? NO!
Why don’t I? Because I have a strong woman in my life who has shown me what it takes to be a survivor, I call her mom.
Looking back on my childhood, I realize that my strength came from watching her persevere.
As a teenager, it was a tough transition. I left my friends and moved to a neighborhood full of strangers.
My brother and I made the best of it even though we found trouble or trouble found us (shh…that’s a secret).
There is a saying that my parents often repeated, "If things aren't going your way, punt. It's not the end of the world." That has stuck with me my entire life because life isn’t always easy – there are lots of lessons to be learned along the way.
Thanks to her, I’ve grown into a strong and confident woman. But what happens when that woman breaks?
Recently, we said goodbye to our precious dog, Sadie. It was unexpected, and she has left an enormous hole in our hearts.
When I found her, she was standing on the side of the road, eating pebbles. I wasn't supposed to be on that road that day. The path that I usually take was under construction, and there was a large orange detour sign. I was annoyed knowing I was already late, but then I saw her - this beautiful creature with black fur, cream paws, and tan markings above her eyes.
I stopped and opened the van door. She immediately hopped inside, walked to the front, and plopped herself on the passenger seat, looking at me as if to say, "Hey, let's go! Floor it, lady."
We did everything we could to find her owner, but after a month of no luck, we made her part of our family.
She instantly became my shadow and was by my side during my cancer diagnosis and recovery, depression, and anxiety bouts. Most importantly, she was there day in and day out for the last nine years to provide constant companionship. She was the best dog ever, and I miss her every day.
The day after we said goodbye, I sat on the sofa, bawling my eyes out while my body shook. I was inconsolable, and even my husband couldn’t help. I’m sure he felt extremely helpless, watching me fall apart.
I distinctly remember saying, "I'm breaking."
She was going to be my riding partner once I bought that Jeep that I’ve had my eyes on for the past year.
She was going to fill that void when our son moves into his place this fall.
I had so many plans for the two of us. Life isn't fair, and I wanted more time with her.
I’m a fighter.
I'm a survivor.
I'm a tough cookie.
But even strong women break.
I have a passion for supporting women and created a Facebook Group called Sisterhood of Fabulous and Fearless Women. Would love for you to join.
The recent events have been affecting my emotions big time and I needed to center myself in prayer this morning, maybe you need this as well. If you would like to pray with us on a regular basis, join us at https://www.facebook.com/groups/PrayWithChou/
BY Holly Miller
I have prayed for things that have miraculously, against all odds, have come to be. The moment of answered prayer is truly extraordinary. I have experienced overwhelming joy as an impossible prayer has been answered. It affirms your faith and gives you confidence that there is good in this dark world. But has God ever answered a constant prayer with a gentle but firm “no”? What then? I have prayed for many things that God has tenderly turned down. Miracle denied. These moments can rattle your faith to your core. Mourning with loved ones over a miscarriage, watching a dear family member deteriorate and die from a terrible illness, finding out a student lost his battle with depression and having to attend his funeral, saying goodbye to someone who left us far too young. These moments shatter hearts and turn even the most faithful to doubt. How can a supposed ‘loving God’ allow so much suffering, sadness, and, and pain?
One thing I have prayed for most of my life is for God to lift my anxiety and depression. Just completely wipe it from my life. Some days it is such a heavy burden and I would love to set it down for good and never have these disorders show their ugly faces in my life ever again. I have prayed numerous times for this cup to pass from me. And I have been met with an answer to that prayer. It is a definite and heart-breaking “no”. It has been made abundantly clear to me that God intends me to carry my anxiety and depression all of the days of my life. And at one point (and I am sure there will be many similar times to come) I was so sad and angry about it. I even walked completely away from my faith for a few years because I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t granted relief from my torturous brain.
When I was younger, under my anxiety ran a river of rage. It was silent, pushed deep down inside my heart. Many people would probably be surprised to know how angry I sometimes got; that I felt the way I did. Even now, my anxiety and depression is sometimes too much to bear. There are days when all I can do is cry and yell “why have you made me this way?!” over and over to God. Sometimes I am too numb and calloused to even argue with Him. I just sit in stunned silence while my brain attacks me. But as I started feeling a gentle nudge to tell my story, my struggles, my triumphs, and my gritty life of living with General Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, and Major Depressive Disorder, I have found encouragement as well. When someone pulls me aside to talk about mental health or sends me a message saying “me too”, the solidarity and love I feel for that person outweighs all of the pain. People who have thanked me for being so open and sharing my story have touched my life more than they know. Many who share their lives with me have given me the strength to carry on; to keep writing my story no matter how ugly or painful it can sometimes be. In sharing my struggle, I have found that I am spreading awareness and saving lives. That alone makes the battle worth it (most days). Being able to reach out and show others that they are not alone in the sometimes-scary thoughts that reside in our heads helps me carry on and fight my fight.
I have always loved the Lord of the Rings series with its themes of bearing burdens. If you are not familiar with the series, a young hobbit named Frodo is tasked with the burden of carrying an evil ring on a long journey to its destruction. The effect the ring has on Frodo often makes it too difficult for him to move forward. He finds encouragement from his friends along the way, one being a wise wizard named Gandalf.
Frodo: 'I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.'
Gandalf: 'So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides that of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, in which case you were also meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.”
I always loved this conversation and it has helped me to carry on as well. While I would never ask for anxiety and depression disorders that often debilitate me, it is encouraging (as strange as that sounds) that I was chosen to bear this load. I was granted this journey, whether I want to take it or not, to show the world that one CAN stand up under these diagnoses. I don’t claim to know the inner-workings of God or understand why the world is sometimes in the sorry state it is. I don’t know your struggle, your pain, your life. I can’t explain away every instance of “why would You let this happen God?” But I do know for me, He will not let this cup pass from me no matter how earnestly and endlessly I ask him to take my mental health struggles away. And I truly believe that is because I am meant to bear this burden, to show others it can be done, and help light the way for those who struggle like I do.
In Matthew 11:28-30, it says “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” We are not promised a burden-free life. In this scripture, we are granted rest in the Lord, but if you read it carefully, there is still a burden to bear. “My burden is light”, yes, but it is still a burden. Even light loads can get heavy when you don’t take time to put them down and rest. We all have burdens we carry. Mine is my anxiety and depression. Although I asked God to take them away, He said “no”. And sometimes a “no” to our prayers isn’t a slammed door or an abrupt end to hope. It is a re-direction into a new, albeit still challenging journey.
If we don’t have darkness, we can’t see the light. I was meant to carry this darkness inside of me so I can show my light to the world. And as Gandalf says to Frodo, “that is an encouraging thought.”
By Karima Leslie
Image by Ryan McGuire from Pixabay
The Problem: Science Says We’re Kind of Suckers for Pain
Our brains are wired to seek out- and pay more attention to- unpleasant news. Termed “Negativity Bias” in Psychology, this pursuit of knowledge of negative things has helped us survive life threatening situations for generations.
But as our society evolves and the accessibility of information grows, we become bombarded by everything that’s going wrong in the world which can leave us thinking that the world is an awful place.
But I Have Good News:
In reality, the world is filled with just as much beauty & compassion as it is with ugliness & hate. It’s all a matter of what we pay attention to and what we’re fed. Reporting on positive news is rare in occurrence because bad news sells, not because there’s less of it. The world is still a wonderful place, the end is not nigh, and our planet is not past the point of saving.
Step 1: Be Realistic
If we want to be informed, then we have to open ourselves up to the good as much as we do the bad.
Having a “realistic” view of the world does not equal cynicism or skepticism but a balanced understanding that both good and bad events occur all the time. Be mindful of your thoughts this week and be honest about acknowledging if you’re biased towards negativity.
Try This Exercise to Find Out If You Have A Bias
Read the following scenarios and close your eyes as you think about your reaction. Really envision each scenario and go through possible thoughts & emotions that you would have:
How did the above scenarios make you feel? Were your thoughts & emotions mostly negative, positive, or neutral?
The happiness, love, & beauty in the world can be overshadowed by the anger, darkness, & sadness which has a bigger platform. Because of this we must be diligent in seeking out joy. Below are some great resources to get you started and remember that for every bad news, there is good. Check in again next month for the next step you can take to make 2020 your best year yet!
By Holly Miller
As someone who lives with General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), there are some days I have to convince myself that I do indeed know how to be a person. If you don’t suffer from an anxiety disorder, I acknowledge how strange that sounds. When I open my eyes, many days I have to convince myself that I am physically able to get out of bed, brush my teeth, shower, make a breakfast (that I usually feel too sick to eat), drive to work, and function at my job. I force myself to stand in front of large groups of teenagers and teach math. I grit my teeth and lesson plan, grade papers, and drive home. And the whole time, there is a voice that whispers or sometimes screams “you can’t do this.”
GAD is something that I have learned how to live with. I have learned techniques to quiet this nay-saying voice and strong-arm that voice into submission. But some days, I’m just too tired to fight it. Sometimes these wrestling matches only last a few hours but they can go on for days or even weeks. And unfortunately, the only way out of these anxious spells is to push through them. I just have to “keep on keeping on”, armed with the knowledge that I won’t feel this way forever. It will eventually pass.
In the meantime, I just have to fake it until I make it. Navigating the terrifying voids of anxiety and grappling with your own mind can be so isolating. You are convinced you will never feel normal again. The ordinary is confusing and the normal-every day functions that others seem to be able to perform are somehow impossible for you to carry out.
I, however, am very lucky because I have an amazing husband who helps me through every terrifying episode as well as family and friends who strengthen my will and help me push through. This month’s blog is dedicated to all who support me when my world doesn’t make sense, when I must wrestle myself. These are tips that you can use when someone you love is struggling through a rough anxiety-induced patch.
Most people tend to do this naturally with those they love. When I feel anxious, it helps SO MUCH to hear someone else tell me “everything is going to be ok.” My husband is really good at recognizing my anxiety patterns. When my grades come due four times a year, he will remind me that “You feel this way at the end of EVERY marking period. It’s normal for you to feel anxious around this time of year”, and knowing that my anxiety has a pattern is somehow comforting to me. It helps me understand my anxious feelings that don’t make logical sense to me. I KNOW everything is going to be ok, but when my brain is waging war against me, it helps to have someone else on my side reassuring me of this.
2. Listen/don’t be dismissive
I am the FIRST to admit that when I get anxious, it doesn’t make logical sense. And that is what is so maddening about it all! But my friends listen to me when I am having a hard day. They don’t make me feel invalid for having illogical feelings. They do all they can to make me feel accepted and listen to me when I want to talk about my anxiety. My husband has the patience of a saint. He will solve my illogical problems with no judgement and a sense of ease. Here is an example of a recent conversation - Me: “I know we don’t have food in the house right now, but I feel like I will actually die if I go grocery shopping.” Him: “How about I pick up stuff to make dinner tonight?” He doesn’t tell me that I sound crazy. He will just solve the problem. My husband makes me feel like a valid part of our team. There are days when I just can’t seem to function. He understands that and the leadership shifts to him that day on decisions. We share all errands, chores, and housework and he helps out even more when my brain convinced me that I can’t do something simple, like cook dinner or wash the dishes that day.
3. Help set and keep boundaries
I tend to give too much of myself to others in my life. Before I learned how to set and keep boundaries, I would go into work at 6 AM and stay until 9 PM. Friends who needed me for one thing or another would call at all hours of the night and I was always available to talk. I would say yes to every social obligation, not wanting to let others down. Most of my family lives over 2 hours away from me, so I would drive every single weekend to ensure I didn’t miss time with them. And then I started getting really sick. After many tests and doctor visits, I found I was having panic attacks. I was giving too much of myself and I was getting physically and mentally ill from it. After years of experience, I have learned to set boundaries to keep my mental health in check. I’ve made these boundaries much clearer to others over the years, and my loved ones know and respect these boundaries. Learning to say “No” to loved ones was so hard for me. But when they let me know they understand and respect my boundaries, it is much easier to keep myself healthy.
4. Let them feel what they feel and don’t try to fix it
When I am having a hard time with my anxiety, well-meaning people who don’t know me well often try to solve my problems for me. “Aw, cheer up. It could be worse.” “Go for a run, you’ll feel better.” “Make a to-do list and accomplish it! It helps ease your mind.” While these are all great suggestions, I know my anxiety best and I know what I need to do to feel better. Those who offer to just listen or ask me what I need to do to feel better and offer to keep me company until I feel more myself are the ones who help me the most with my anxiety.
Every time I make it through a rough patch, I cling to the gratefulness I feel for my support system; people who love me despite my GAD. I am so thankful for my husband, family, and friends who love me unconditionally. There were points in my life where my anxiety felt too unbearable to live. But my loved ones helped shoulder my burden and got me the help I needed. I know there will be rough times in my future, but knowing I have people in my life who ‘get it’ helps me carry on.
If you are reading this blog right now, know you have the ability to help those you love who may suffer from any kind of anxiety condition. Just educating yourself about mental wellness is the first step. There is a wealth of information out there. Although anxiety disorders are the most common of mental health conditions in the United States, many people are unwilling to talk about it. I am hoping that people who are telling their stories just like me are helping break that silence. We need to normalize anxiety conditions because each year, we lose too many people who are too exhausted to keep wrestling themselves. Being there for someone who is wrestling with themselves is a priceless, life-saving act.
While Holly Miller has eclectic passions, interests, and hobbies, she is easily summed up as a high school mathematics teacher who found a way to thrive despite her anxiety and depression. Her goal is to spread awareness about mental health, inspire those who struggle to see that they are not alone and show them that they can find light in even the darkest of places. She enjoys spending time with her husband Luke, their two dogs, two cats, and Russian tortoise. While she may not have many impressive credentials, Holly believes there is magic in the ordinary every day and that a simple life is a good life.
Holly can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org
It' easy to be grateful when things are going well, but do you keep that gratitude going when things get tough? Here are 3 ways to be grateful for the hard stuff. I also have a gratitude journal to help you cultivate an attitude of gratitude no matter what you're going through. Get it at http://bit.ly/gratitudejournal2019
We’ve talked about the process of writing in a gratitude journal and the kinds of benefits that activity can offer. Writing is a powerful process. Sharing your written words of appreciation with others can have an even bigger impact than journaling privately. Personal notes can really brighten a person’s day, and make many positive impacts in the lives of those receiving them and those giving them.
Writing Has Power
In a busy world, we can get caught up in ourselves and the things we absolutely must accomplish each day. It’s easy to forget to acknowledge the important people in our lives. It’s for precisely this reason that receiving a note of thanks or appreciation is so very meaningful. People simply don’t receive these spontaneous offerings on a regular basis. That’s why setting aside the time and taking the effort to write such a message is so powerful, for both you and the receiver.
Sharing Gratitude Strengthens Bonds
A personal note or message goes far to show you care. Words have meaning, but it’s often said that actions speak louder. The recipient of your note will be surprised to receive it. A positive surprise almost always improves someone’s day and mood. This can be especially impactful if you intentionally send your message to someone you know is going through a rough patch. Regardless, this small gesture will go far to strengthen existing bonds because it’s such a customized act. When people feel a personal attachment, they tend to experience feelings of closeness and meaning. Your written acknowledgement of their importance in your life will surely affect your relationship in a positive way.
Ideas to Get You Started
Your words of gratitude don’t have to be in hand-written form, though it truly is a nice touch that’s a rarity these days. You can send electronic correspondence, if you prefer. Your message doesn’t have to be long, either. Any written words of appreciation will be a start and can be quite meaningful.
Here are some examples:
***Grab my new gratitude journal and start cultivating an attitude of gratitude.
If you’re still on the fence about starting a practice of gratitude for yourself, I’d like to issue you a simple challenge. Just for today, find just one random thing in your environment to be grateful for. This is a low-stakes activity that can be a great way to jumpstart your pursuit of gratitude
What to Look For
It’s easy, really. There are things to be grateful for, even on the difficult days. In fact, it’s even more impactful when you discover little rays of light in the darkest times. You can look for anything within your daily routine that inspires you. If you don’t leave your home that day due to sadness or inability, perhaps the very roof over your head could be your source of gratitude. Even a beautiful flower out your window might be enough to influence your mood for the better. Find just one thing and focus on that.
What You Can Expect
Let’s be realistic. Taking a minute to notice one thing you’re grateful for in your day probably isn’t going to completely change your life. However, it could be a significant jumpstart toward moving you in the right direction. This is especially true when you’re going through a difficult period. Turning a long-standing low mood around even slightly by acknowledging one small good thing can be quite meaningful. Remember, our thoughts influence our feelings and behaviors.
Sometimes all it takes is one small catalyst to spark major change. Some consider this the “baby steps” philosophy. Every habit or practice begins with one small step. Taking a moment to be grateful for just one thing in your environment today can improve your mood, even just a little bit. You may notice a weight is lifted from your chest or that some of your anxiety has eased. Hold onto that feeling. Notice whether your perspective improves after reflecting on gratitude just once today. This lift in your mood and brightened outlook can lead you to feeling better, which then influences your actions in a positive manner. You might just notice it’s a bit easier to find that one thing to be grateful for tomorrow.
Give it a try. Find one tiny spark to light the flame of gratitude today. Be intentional in noticing the effect it has on you. You may find it’s simpler and more rewarding than you realized to begin your gratitude practice.
*** Are you keeping track of what you are grateful for? Here is a journal to help you do that!
One really easy way to get started on a gratitude practice is to make a habit of counting your blessings both morning and night. You don’t even have to write them down, as in a gratitude journal, if that seems too overwhelming. Simply taking a few minutes when you wake up and before you go to bed is enough to begin cementing this new practice into your routine. Before long, you’ll be easily noticing that blessing abound. Here are some tips to help you begin.
Easing into any habit is usually the best approach. By making it easier on yourself, you’ll be more inclined to continue moving forward. So, try not to put too much pressure on yourself to come up with grand examples of gratitude when you’re just starting out. Just appreciating the bed where you’re starting and ending the day can be something to add to your initial list. Sometimes simply recognizing a tiny blessing can have a big impact.
Add It On
A helpful method for remembering your new gratitude habit is to add it on to your existing routine. Whatever you normally do in the morning and night, be sure to include a few minutes to think of what makes you feel fortunate. For example, if you have tea every morning, this would be a good connection to make. Sitting down for tea will soon become a reminder to contemplate on your three things.
Create Visual Reminders
If you find yourself forgetting to do it or skipping out on your new task, add some visual cues to your environment. Post-it notes are great for this. Stick one on your nightstand. Add another to your bathroom mirror. Technology comes in handy for reminders, as well. Set an alarm on your phone so that you don’t leave the house or fall asleep without taking time to consider what makes you feel thankful.
Turn It Around
You can also try the opposite. Turn complaints around into something positive. Maybe you wake up with a sore back and don’t want to get out of bed. It may seem obvious, but reminding yourself that you’re in overall good health and that you have a safe place to sleep can do wonders for your outlook. Try to find the silver lining. It really works.
A good habit can be jotting things down during the day as they happen. It only takes a few seconds to make a note of what you feel grateful for in that moment. You can reflect on it later during your quiet bedtime routine.
Hopefully, you now see how getting into the habit of recognizing the good thing in life really isn’t all that difficult. A few small changes to your routine and you’ll find it’s actually quite easy to implement this practice.
Do you find yourself looking at a glass as half empty instead of full? Do you tend to look at the things in your life that are going wrong instead of those going right? You can train your brain to go from negative to positive. This video is all about helping you change negative thoughts into positive ones and create positive pathways in the process.
Need help in this area? Then email email@example.com.
**This video was initially recorded in our women group.
You don't have to say, "yes" to everyone and everything. Work through the fears that lead to people-pleasing and build a strong self-construct. Here's a great resource to get you started: https://payhip.com/b/fWxt
We need to create a safe place for men to share their feelings and seek help for mental health when needed. Our physical health affects our mental health. We need to seek help for all of us, not just part of us. We need to do a better job at supporting caregivers. If you are a caregiver, we are here for you. Reach out to us today!
Here are the websites I mentioned:
Stop living in your past.
Yesterday is gone
Take control of your present and live on! #RiseAboveYourCircumstances
Want to find out how? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I love what I do because it literally saves and changes lives.
Let's connect: https://calendly.com/chou
Let's continue this conversation. Connect with me by email at email@example.com
I look forward to serving you!
Wanna continue this conversation? Need additional support?
Call or text me at 717-216-0230. I look forward to serving you!
Like most things, building your self-worth is best done in small, incremental steps. If you have low self-esteem, trying to feel better about yourself might seem impossible. Trying to do everything at once will be exhausting, will scatter your energy, and will most likely lead to less progress than you’d like. You risk feeling worse than when you started.
Sometimes even the thought of building your self-worth can feel like an insuperable task. Where should you start? It can help if you approach it like a project and break it down into small achievable steps. Take it one step at a time, and before you know it, you’ll be feeling better about yourself.
Make the positive decision not to try to change everything at once. Trying to change everything at once will only set you up for failure, and that’s not what we want. But by making this a conscious decision, you’re setting out on a positive path of doing things calmly and building yourself a sure foundation, foundation built on self-care and kindness.
And you’re off to a great start already! The fact that you’re reading this means you’re self-aware and want to do the best version of yourself.
Positive self-worth builds on self-care and kindness. Here are five small, but significant things you can do to be kind to yourself, today and throughout the coming weeks.
1. Build in little regular treats to make yourself feel good. A bubble bath, a monthly massage or manicure perhaps, or a walk in the park a few times a week.
2. Acknowledge your weaknesses and think of a positive action you can take to help yourself. Apps for time or money management perhaps, a personal coach, or taking a class. Remember to tackle one at a time.
3. Journaling can be helpful in identifying, challenging and turning around negative self-perceptions. Try writing down every positive thing you can think of about yourself. Think of things that are just about you, not things where you compare yourself to someone else. Are you a good writer? Are you kind? Do you have a good sense of humor? Do people love your pancakes? I have a free resource that can help you Journal Your Way To self-Worth.
4. Start a daily gratitude journal where you list all the things for which you’re grateful. You might be grateful for clean air, water, enough food to eat and a house to live in for starters. Living in a place of gratitude keeps your brain looking for things to be grateful for, so you’ll begin seeing things all around you. I personally use the 365 Gratitude: Daily Prompts, Grateful Journal by UofHappy, LLC
5. End each day by thinking of at least one good thing that happened that day, and on waking think of a positive affirmation to take you through the day. Making this a daily habit can boost your self-worth, emotional wellness, and mental health.
If you need more support in boosting your self-worth, my self-study course Starting Loving Yourself From The Inside Out can help you get there.
Until next time,
I had to do just that last week ...
When medical challenges overwhelmed me, my body couldn't do all the things I had set to do, I felt bummed out.
I felt bad about having to cancel prior commitments and I was tired of being stuck in bed when I would rather be playing with my kids. I was frustrated by the lack of answers from the medical staff and the uncertainty it brought...
It wasn't long until I felt miserable, not just physically but emotionally. And I had to remind myself that even when I can't control my circumstances, I can still control my emotions and controlling my emotions starts with controlling my thoughts.
I had to change the tape and I'm glad I did...
If you find yourself on the negative thoughts wagon and captivated by your inner critic, you might want to try the following strategies, they work...
Stop for a moment and listen to the soundtrack inside your head.
What messages are coming up?
Whose voice do you hear?
Notice your self-talk and the feelings that come up when you hear those old messages, buried deep in your subconscious so long ago. Those messages, those beliefs are way past their sell-by date and are no longer serving you.
Challenge them, rewrite the self-talk script and turn your Inner Critic into your friend. Once you begin to notice these limiting beliefs you can start to revise them.
Some ways to rewrite your self-talk include journaling about the limiting beliefs…
Then, write out a new script which you can use whenever that voice starts talking. You can try affirmations and visualizations as well at this point.
Take your loudest or most powerful negative self-talk first and work to change it. After that, you can challenge each of them in turn.
If you want to journal your way to self-worth, check out my free mini ebook on that subject and share it with others (suitable for teens as well). Grab it HERE.
Remember, you are worth more than rubies!
The holiday season is an opportunity to spend time with family and friends, to take some time off work, or even escape for a winter getaway. For all the joy and fun, though, so comes the stress.
The expectations of social events, gift shopping, and entertaining guests can become too much for even the most festive types. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association 8 out of 10 people expect to experience an increase in stress over the holiday season.
With stress comes a greater risk of anxiety and depression, and reports from the Mayo Clinic show that depression is frequently an unwelcome guest over the holidays. All is not lost however, there are many ways you can minimize your stress and anxiety to allow you to truly enjoy the season.
1.Set A Budget
Shopping can be fun, but spending money isn’t always easy, and Americans spend almost a $1,000 every holiday season on gifts alone. You can minimize the damage by setting a budget and sticking to it.
A lot of the stress that we experience during the holidays is due to financial pressure and the Mayo Clinic suggests that setting a budget can be beneficial to your stress levels. Work out how much you can afford to spend on food and gifts, and stick to it.
The American Heart Association wants you to stay active all the time, but it’s extremely important to keep that up during the holidays. Any activity or exercise you can fit in will help reduce your stress and elevate your mood. It’s going to stimulate endorphin production and trigger a positive feeling in your body.
You might be busy, but if you can find time to exercise for half an hour three times a week, you will feel better. You can go walking or jogging, swimming or biking, play sports, and find time for aerobics. Also, find an accountability partner. I’m working on this step so if you are too and want to link arms, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can do this together.
3. Take It Easy
The American Psychological Association reminds us that we need to take time for ourselves. There are parties and gatherings and we are constantly surrounded by people. It’s great to be with the ones we love and laugh about the old days.
You shouldn’t miss all those great times, but what you should be careful of is setting unrealistic expectations. You can’t do everything, and it’s okay to take time out for yourself, even if it’s just 15 minutes. If you do a whole lot of hosting, make sure you delegate- whether you ask everyone to bring a different dish, or you rope in the family to take on certain tasks.
4. Stay Smart
The holiday season is a time of indulgence, but as the Mayo Clinic directs- it doesn’t mean you should abandon your healthy ways. There’s no need for a free for all that will just add to your stress.
Enjoy yourself, but try having healthy snacks before holiday gatherings so you don’t over snack while you’re out. Make sure that you’re getting plenty of sleep, as you are more likely to overindulge after a poor night’s sleep.
5. Choose Your Battles
We all have someone in our circle that rubs us the wrong way. It’s only natural- not everyone can always get along. Allowing someone else to get under your skin, though, is only going to ruin your holiday and increase your stress level. Learn to pick your battles, and don’t take the bait.
The Mayo Clinic suggests that if you have a real problem with someone, set it aside and save it for another day. Even the calmest people can lose their cool during the holidays.
Self-care is a conscious choice and this is even truer during times of more stress, such as the holiday season. Make sure to take the time and create a deliberate plan! Remember, the holidays are supposed to be a time of fun, family, and relaxation, don’t let stress interfere with this great time of year.
For more tips on self-care and stress relief strategies, grab your copy of my book here: https://amzn.to/2V4r4Qp
Here's the link to the course I mentioned in the video: https://coursecraft.net/courses/z9VRZ/splash
Personal and Spiritual Growth Coach Stephanie Miller shares what she likes about the Stress R.E.L.I.E.F. Method and how reading the book has impacted her life.
Grab your copy at https://amzn.to/2zy7fIi
Speaker, mentor and author Cherie Faus-Smith is a beacon for victims of domestic abuse. She shines a light on survivors and illuminates a path of prevention toward healthy relationships with an end goal of helping them recognize the signs of abuse. With over three decades of real-life experiences, Cherie shares that there is hope after abuse. Her open heart has a way of bringing out the best in others. Cherie’s book “The Cycle Ended: Saying Goodbye to Domestic Abuse” details the struggles in her past abusive relationships and how she found love after breaking the cycle of choosing unhealthy relationships. You can find more information about Cherie on her website https://cheriefaus-smith.com/.
T’was the day before Thanksgiving…Perhaps a day to prepare for all the festivities: Making the last trip to the grocery store, cleaning the house for guests, planning recreational activities for the long weekend…But I was preparing for something totally different.
I had a scheduled surgery that morning. I ran a few errands in preparation for the surgery, drove back home to park my car since I wouldn’t be able to drive after the procedure. I then requested an Uber ride to the hospital.
All the people I talked to who either had this surgery or knew someone who had it, had wonderful things to say about the procedure… “You’ll be so glad you had it …You won’t have to deal with all this pain anymore… You’ll feel like a new person”. I looked forward to the procedure. It promised a new beginning. A new beginning, I had. Just not exactly the one I expected.
My scheduled procedure went well, just as expected. Once in the recovery room, I started complaining of excruciating headaches that felt very different than my regular migraines. I was taken to the observation room and given pain medication, but the headache persisted.
Then a couple hours after the procedure, I was eating a Popsicle and tried to tell a family member that my head was feeling weird, but no words were coming out. My lips were moving but no words were coming out. I could see the worried look on everyone’s faces and knew something was wrong. Within a few minutes, my room was full of people. I suppose they all came to help. Rapid response was called.
By the time the medical staff were in the room, the symptoms had progressed. I couldn’t answer questions like “who’s the president of the United States?” I knew the answer but couldn’t get the words out. I couldn’t move the left side of my body. The left side of my face was numb. My left eye was drooping. I was presenting all the typical signs of a stroke.
I was then rushed to a different hospital by helicopter. The initial plan was to remove the blood clot as soon as possible; we all assumed that I had a blood clot from the surgery. Once in the new hospital, the CT scan and MRI could not find any blood clot, yet I still had all the stroke symptoms. I was put on stroke protocol and treated as such.
I was in that hospital for a week, three days were spent in the Intensive Care Unit. My entire body was out of order during that time. I had developed medical problems I didn’t have before. My entire being had changed, internally and externally.
While the changes were debilitating, I was not ashamed of them, but I slowly became aware of other people’s discomfort with my “new disabilities”. One person who had known me my entire life said, “you can’t afford to be a disabled woman with three kids” and by that comment I was reminded of society’s view of disability.
Ten years ago, I was legally declared “disabled” due to debilitating medical conditions. Those conditions were however invisible and apparently did not bother anyone. I have worked since, I have been a mom, a business owner, and so many other things while living with the same challenging conditions.
Somehow, as long as they were invisible, nobody cared. There were my problems, not society’s. I spent some days in bed, some days I had to call for help, other days I canceled work assignments and prior commitments. Somehow, nobody ever told me I couldn’t afford to be a “disabled woman with three kids”.
This time my disability is visible, and it seems to bother people more than it bothers me. I’m in a wheelchair. I’m having difficulty communicating. I can’t take care of my personal care needs. It’s obvious that I’m not “independent” according to society’s standards.
Does society view people with visible disability as a burden? Now that they can see my limitations, is it a constant reminder to them of their lack of support? Perhaps my invisible disabilities made me look “normal” for ten years and now all the sudden I’m no longer “normal”? Sadly, the answer to all these questions is a loud “YES” and I have read many research papers on this topic during my post-graduate studies, but I will not bore you with that.
If my visible disabilities do not bother me, does that mean that I will not apply myself to regain the functions I’ve lost? Not at all! I’m doing physical, occupational, speech, and vision therapies and I have already seen major improvements. What I’m trying to say is that I do not fear limitations. Even if I do not regain all the functional abilities I had before the stroke, I believe and KNOW that with support and accommodations, I can still have a meaningful life. Maybe my life will be even more meaningful than it’s ever been because I now have a deeper sense of gratitude, appreciation, and empathy.
I will not apologize for having disabilities, visible or invisible. I’m a beautiful human being inside and out. What you see or do not see does not define who I truly am. Get to know me and other people that society calls “disabled”, then you will realize that we are all able and disabled in our unique ways. Every human being has both strengths and weaknesses.
Now, look at the title of this article again, but only read the words in capital letters. You should read I CAN BE ABLED. Yes, people can be "abled" by the respect they receive from society and that respect starts by assuming that they can have meaningful lives.
If we assume that people can have meaningful lives, regardless of their functional limitations, then we start supporting people in achieving lives of purpose, and therefore, there will be no room for statements like “you can’t afford to be a disabled woman with three children”. In fact, I will joyfully be a "disabled" mother of three "disabled" children because our family has embraced disability as part of our human experience. It’s time the rest of society gets with the program!
Self-Advocate & Ally to the differently ABLE
Founder of Grace & Hope Consulting, LLC
P.S. Hallegra is my middle name. It comes from the Italian “allegria”, which translates into “allegresse” in French or “glee” in English. Therefore, Hallegra means lively joy or gaiety, which I want to identify with even more in this season of my life.
I like that Grace & Hope Consulting, LLC....
- Changes lives
- Helps others integrate their faith into their emotional wellness and other services they receive
- Was inspired by life experiences and continues to keep it real
Chou is a best-selling Author, a Transformational Speaker, Certified Life Coach, Counselor and Consultant on a mission to inspire people to rise above their circumstances. She is passionate about helping others achieve emotional wellness, reach their full potential, and live fulfilling lives. You can contact Chou at email@example.com