My December has intentionally been pretty mellow–but this past week, the stress of the season somehow crept in. Fortunately, I had a group of my favorite bloggers share their wisdom last weekend, with Debi, Erin, Jonathan and Shirley. Today I’m delighted to share a post with you from Ms. Ricki Heller, formerly of Diet Dessert and Dogs. Ricki is a long-time blogging buddy, and I’m delighted to have her sharing her thoughts. She’s an amazing resource for all things vegan, and has wonderful DELICIOUS and creative low-sugar and gluten-free options. Thank you so much, Ricki!
Self-Care Over the Holidays
No doubt we all experience stress over the holiday season (just the fact that we live in the 21st Century means we all have stress in our lives—at the holidays, and the rest of the year!). But add “chronic illness” to the typical stressors of family gatherings, office parties, holiday cooking, planning, gift buying, and navigating social obligations–well, then you might really begin to notice the effects of that stress on your mind and body. And one thing’s for sure: those effects are not usually good.
As someone who has dealt with candida-related complex (an overgrowth of yeast in the body that can cause a cascade of symptoms) on and off for many years, I know first-hand how much stress affects my general health and well-being during busy the festive season.
For me, the most important factor I need to address, before all else, during the holidays is stress. No, that doesn’t mean I stop exercising or throw my anti-candida diet to the wind and start scarfing shortbread cookies or guzzling eggnog; but even the most perfect HighRawGlutenFreeAIPVeganOrganicGAPSSuperfoodPaleoSCDGrainfree diet in the world won’t be of use this time of year if you regularly counteract the effects with excess cortisol, impaired thyroid functioning, high blood pressure, increased blood glucose, lack of sleep or gut issues—all the potential results of too much stress.
So, my goal for the 2014 holiday season is to cultivate serenity during the festivities. (Okay, let’s be realistic. Maybe “some serenity.”).
Here’s what I’ve found most helpful in my quest so far:
- Meditation. You don’t need a mantra, you don’t need to contort yourself into a pretzel, and you don’t need to burn incense. I prefer the method made popular by Jon Kabat-Zinn in his book Full Catastrophe Living (which aims to relax each major muscle group one at a time as you move up the body), but really, any kind of focused breathing will work, even just sitting silently for one minute and breathing slowly through your nose and deep into your belly. If you can, start with 5 minutes and work up to 20 minutes a day (or more, if you can manage it). According to Kelly McGonigal, an expert in stress and meditation, you’ll notice beneficial physical results after as little as 3 hours (total) of meditation. You can do this first thing in the morning before you tackle the daily menus, last thing before bed, while you wait in the car to pick up the kids at school, or even right after your shower in the bathroom (while the door is still closed and no one is bothering you).
Cheryl’s note: many of you know I’m a huge meditation
junkie advocate. I have a bunch of my favorite meditations from a variety of great teachers here–many are freely available.
- I’ve certainly held a grudge at times with the best of them, but over the years have learned that it’s really true: anger harms the person who harbors it much more than the target of the anger (who usually isn’t thinking about you at all). But I know that forgiveness can be a tough call, especially when there’s a disconnect between our knowledge of the truth and the reality of our behavior in the real world.
That’s where the Hawaiian forgiveness practice called Ho’Oponopono comes into play. I recently learned about this powerful ritual that really makes a huge difference in my outlook and behavior on a daily basis. Its simplicity belies its effectiveness: you simply focus on the person or people you wish to forgive, then “mindfully” repeat these four phrases (being sincere in your desire to embrace forgiveness is key here): I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you. That’s it. Do this for one minute a day and you might be surprised at the results. Read more about the practice and why it’s so powerful here. I think this is an ideal practice at this time of year, when we can hold such high expectations for our loved ones and find they’re not always met; loving forgiveness allows us to appreciate the positive aspects of those relationships.
- Like most of us, I’m pretty tapped into technology, like it or not: I write a blog, I have two computers and a smart phone, I watch TV and check social media way more than I should. When I attended a three-week retreat last spring, I panicked when I learned I’d be offline from early morning until after dinner each day–how would I survive? Well, guess what? I survived just fine. . . and was made painfully aware of how much of my time online isn’t really necessary. Since then, I’ve attempted to “unplug” as much as possible on the weekends so I can focus on other, non-digital, activities. And while I’m not as successful with this one as I’d like to be, I’ve found the results are really beneficial. Next time you attend a holiday soiree or even throw one of your own, how much more enjoyable would it be without the cell phones, Instagram, Facebook updates, etc—so that you can really and truly focus on the interactions right there with other, live, human beings?
As I continue in my quest to keep my stress levels to a minimum right through the New Year, I’m always looking for more strategies and techniques that help. I’d love to know what you do to chill out and decompress, or if you’ve tried any of these methods, above. Please share in the comments!
Ricki Heller is a holistic nutritionist, whole foods chef, writer and educator who shares sugar-free, gluten-free, allergy-friendly recipes and healthy living articles at RickiHeller.com, where shares her own story of learning to thrive on an anti-candida diet and demonstrates how easy it is to eat well on a “restricted” diet—proving that a healthy lifestyle can, indeed, be sweet. Her latest book, Living Candida-Free, will be published on January 27, 2015.