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Four Suggestions for a Stress-Free Christmas

The Christmas season is a time of seemingly endless gatherings with family and friends, celebrations at the office, and entertaining at home.  All of this anticipation can be exhilarating; however it can also be anxiety provoking due to the unrealistic expectation to create the “best Christmas ever.” The most wonderful time of the year can easily turn into the most exhausting time of the year. And this can lead to January burn out, regret and financial burden. I have come to appreciate how important planning and prioritizing is to reduce the probability of having a Christmas that is not all that jolly and actually a bit melancholy.

Here are some of my best suggestions for a stress free Christmas:

Set Realistic Expectations

The sooner you understand that the holidays don’t have to be perfect, the better. There is no perfect Christmas. That concept is reserved for the Hallmark TV  Channel only. Families change and grow and so traditions come and go. Choose the one or two celebrations that are meaningful enough to hold onto. Then allow space to create new traditions that serve your family as it is in the present.

Plan Ahead

As with all tasks, if you plan ahead the chances of success are higher than if you wing it. Christmas is no exception. Set aside specific days for activities like shopping, baking, visiting, decorating and so on. That will prevent last minute scrambling. Also, by having a plan you are more apt to say no to activities that would leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed.

Set a budget and stick to it!

Before you spend any money on the holidays, decide how much you can afford to spend and then portion that amount between all of the necessities such as gifts, food, entertaining, travel, etc. There is nothing more anxiety-provoking than the January credit card statements if December was managed poorly. Preplanning your spending and refusing to buy into the message: happiness is a mountain of presents, are necessary defences. Realize that there are a lot of ways to spend less money on gifts and yet still show that you care. Things like a gift exchange or Secret Santa is a great way to reduce the financial burden of gift giving. Homemade gifts are meaningful and can be very special to the person receiving them. Donating to charities is also becoming a popular alternative to actual store-bought presents.

Keep your health as a priority

All of your good work on health should not go out the window just because it’s December. Your routine might not be as strict as it usually is however that does not mean that you should just abandon your health goals. If you are watching what you eat, then use the  trick of eating healthy food before going to the holiday party to avoid overeating on sweets and appetizers. Also, incorporate some form of physical exercise into your routine each day and make sure that you’re getting the right amount of sleep.

By preplanning some simple, yet effective strategies for how to get through the holidays you can prevent anxiety and overwhelm from taking over this year. Identify what triggers cause you most the stress (financial or personal demands) and develop a plan of how to combat them. With some simple techniques and strategies, a joyful and anxiety-free Christmas can be enjoyed.

You can also join in the conversation on Facebook and Instagram for inspiration.

To our health and wellbeing,

Happy Holidays!

Karen

Organization Can Be a Stress Reducer

I get asked all the time for quick and easy ways to reduce everyday stress. My answer is always the same: get organized. Putting effort into organization, especially if you can organize multiple areas of your life, can reduce stress levels in the long term by requiring less last-minute scrambling in a variety of everyday situations. The result can also bring on a sense of empowerment. You will be able to look forward to events as “exciting,” instead of “overwhelming” or “stressful.” Keeping your stress response from being triggered can minimize or eliminate negative reactions to situations, and result in an overall calmer state of being

For many however, getting organized can be quite difficult and confusing. For example, how organized is enough? Does organized mean that every minute of every day is scheduled? What are the most important areas of life to organize?

Where to Start

The following are two areas where good organization can bring about the greatest benefit:

Your House:

A house filled with clutter and disorganization can drain your energy and cause a lot of wasted effort attempting to get even the simplest of tasks done. Did you know that household clutter can also drain you in other ways? Clutter can drain your finances when you end up repurchasing items you thought were lost but were merely misplaced. And clutter can certainly drain your time as you spend wasted minutes or maybe even hours sifting through your possessions. That is why it is important to organize your home. While you don’t need to alphabetize your books or organize your closet by colours, it is important to have everything in its place and have that place be somewhere that makes sense to you.

Your Time:

Are you constantly rushing? Does your mind race with all that you have to do? And do you have difficulty remembering it all? If so, then you are probably living a pretty stressful life already. Organizing your time can greatly improve your life by getting you focused. Creating To-Do lists is a great way to stop your thoughts from being preoccupied, and instead allow them to pay attention to the immediate task at hand.

The first step to good time management is to choose a calendaring system that works for you and stick to it. Whether you decide to use an online calendar or the good ol’ paper system, it really does not matter. The important thing is to make the choice and stick with it. The second step to good time management is to not overbook yourself. Only schedule as many activities as you have time for, taking into account travel time, and preparation and/or recovery time.

Lastly, make sure you include downtime in your schedule. This is vital for health and happiness. Having a schedule that is jammed packed will actually be less efficient and probably less effective as well.

Becoming organized in your life is possible. It does take some time and effort to catch on to this new way of living, but the result of less stress can be felt almost immediately.

I invite you to share other ways you use organization in your life in the comments. You can also join in the conversation on Facebook and Instagram for inspiration.

To our health and wellbeing,

Karen

Fall Back into Routine to Reduce Anxiety

It’s that time of year when we get back into our routines, whether it be work, exercise, eating or school, after enjoying a couple months sabbatical. Even if you don’t have children returning to school, September symbolizes a fresh start. For many people, work and school are sources of high stress and continuous anxiety. And, since ignoring them is not a practical solution, why not implement some simple and effective lifestyle habits that can greatly reduce the anxiety that may arise from daily circumstances.

In this newsletter edition, you will receive 5 effective anxiety-reducing strategies that you can start implementing right away.

Strategy 1: Make Sure Your Diet is Balanced

A poor diet deprives your body of the important nutrients it needs to function optimally. Maintaining a poor diet for an extended period of time forces the body to compensate by raising the stress-hormone cortisol. Chronic high-stress levels can wreak havoc on overall health and wellbeing. So it’s important to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet consisting of protein, fruits and vegetables, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats.

Drinking enough water daily in order to stay hydrated, and limiting or avoiding alcohol and caffeine will also help relieve anxiety. Complex carbohydrates metabolize slowly, and therefore help maintain a more even blood sugar level, creating a calmer feeling.

If you cannot commit to eating a balanced meal every day, have a supply of meal replacement bars or shakes available as an alternative.

Strategy 2: Get Physical

There are two amazing benefits from being physically active. First, it releases endorphins immediately into the body. Endorphins are the feel-good hormones that long distance runners enjoy and promote.  Any level of physical activity can start the release of endorphins meaning you do not need to be a marathon runner to get the benefits. Consider what you can commit to daily to get our body moving. Maybe it’s a walk, or a bike ride, or a short visit to the local gym. Whatever you can do to get moving will make you feel better and less stressed.

Secondly, exercise takes your focus off of whatever is stressing you out. Switching your attention to something else gives your brain a chance to take a break. You may be surprised at the perspective that comes from not thinking about your problem!

Strategy 3: Sleep Baby!

There is not enough good to say about the powerful effects of sleep. We live in a sleep-deprived society, due to our fast-paced and demanding lifestyles. And sleep deprivation is a sure fire way to generate a bad mood and feed our anxious feelings. Moreover, a lack of sleep can throw off cortisol rhythms and mix up the body’s circadian clock. Anyone who has flown internationally can relate to how difficult it is to feel good when your internal time clock is out of whack.

Aim for at least seven to eight hours of sleep every night to minimize anxiety. If you are having trouble getting to or staying asleep try taking some of the natural sleep aids available at your local drug store.

Strategy 4: Set a Daily Routine

One of the best ways to avoid feeling anxious is to develop a daily routine and a to-do list. Start with a morning routine which ensures that you wake up early enough to get everything done that you need to before heading off to work or school. Waking up late is a guaranteed way to start your day with anxiety.

Many people get anxious because their schedule is either too rushed or sporadic, and there is no time for themselves within their daily activities. There should be enough time within your morning routine to either read a bit, do some exercise and/or enjoy a nutritious breakfast. Starting your day in a calm, relaxed way will set it up for success.

Strategy 5: Meditation

Meditation is more than just sitting with your eyes closed. It is the practice of training your mind to let thoughts come and go without fixating on any thought in particular. It takes practice and as with all good habits, it takes some time to develop. Be patient with yourself and encourage yourself to keep at it.

Picture yourself watching cars on a busy highway rushing past, and you have to take notice of every license plate. That would be exhausting and impossible. Now, what if you could stand there, ignore the cars, and instead focus on something in the distance. Maybe a sunset or a beautiful, magnificent tree. That would be much more calming, wouldn’t it? Meditation is an amazing skill to use when you have anxiety. As your anxious thoughts about yesterday, tomorrow, five years from now race in and out of your mind, being able to slow down your thoughts and focus on a calming image greatly reduces the level of anxiousness. Training your mind to be in the present is vital to managing anxiety.

For more discussion on anxiety, what it is, why we feel anxiousness and how it can be managed, please click on the links to either of my blogs below.

Log onto my website at www.itcanbedifferent.ca and download a free tool called Focus and Peace. This audio file will teach you how to overcome anxiousness instantly.

Come and see me at the Empowering Women to Succeed Conference on September 25th. Go to http://empoweringwomentosucceed.com/conference2018 and book your complimentary 30-minute session.