Welcome to the Holiday Season!?

Labor Day has come and gone, signaling the commercial commencement of “The Holidays.” Every year, I feel a little nauseous the first time I see Christmas/Hanukkah items displayed in a store in late-August/early-September. It’s sad, really. I remember a time when “holiday time” started after Halloween and consisted more of family gatherings instead of the shop-fest that it has become.

Instead of reiterating a bunch of advice about avoiding holiday stress, let me instead ask how can you make this early Fall more self-focused? The kids are off at school. Things are slowly starting to settle down. Do you find yourself settling down as well or are you immediately jumping ahead to planning Thanksgiving dinner?

One of the first pieces of advice I remember ever giving my daughter was, “Don’t believe everything you see on TV.” The same goes for all of society’s mass outlets – TV, radio, Internet and stores themselves. If the merchants were to have it their way, we’d buy back-to-school clothes, Halloween candy and costumes, huge turkey dinners, Christmas/Hanukkah gifts and holiday dinners, one right after the other. Family? What family?

As you send your kiddos off to school today, I challenge you to avoid the media – avoid the hype. See what a pre-Fall day can be like with just your thoughts about things, not influenced or controlled what you “should be” thinking forward to. Staying in the present moment is a tried-and-true method for reducing anxiety and tension. So, when you look at right now, what do you see? Thanksgiving? Christmas? Or just September 6, 2012, ready to bring you whatever it brings? This is YOUR “holiday season,” whether it’s already started or not – do what’s best for YOU and YOUR family!

Happy September!

A Good Kind of Stress

I just got back from a wonderful vacation to Disney World with my daughter and my dad. It was a great week, but I feel like I need a vacation from my vacation! This got me thinking about the stress we experience from good things – it’s called “eustress.”

Whether it’s a vacation, getting married or getting a promotion, even good experiences have stress attached to them. At Disney, we did a lot of walking and waiting in long lines in a high heat and humidity climate. We had to navigate crowds and deal with air travel. So while we all had a fabulous time, all 3 of us are now taking a couple of days to relax from the eustress we experienced.

Many people don’t realize the amount of stress that’s involved with positive events. And if they feel stressed-out, irritable or anxious, they think that there’s something wrong with them instead of acknowledging the eustress that accompanies good events. Thoughts like, “How can I be feeling so bad? I’m on vacation!” can increase anxiety and cause guilt. But when folks accept that yes, even positive situations are stressful, the anxiety and guilt will usually decrease or go away altogether.

When we chose the dates for our vacation, we purposely booked the flight home on a Friday so we would have the weekend to decompress from our eustress before going back to work on Monday. I have been relaxing, watching movies and playing around on the computer all weekend. Laundry and other chores need to be done, but they will still be there tomorrow when, hopefully, I will feel recovered from my vacation eustress.

What are some of the coping techniques that you have used to dissolve your eustress? We’d love to hear what works for you!

P.S. We will be announcing the winners from our May Self-Care Challenge on Thursday! Stay tuned!

Recharge Your Battery to Welcome the New Year

For a healthy and happy new year, you need to have the energy to enjoy it. Our self-care tip this post-holiday weekend is to rest and recharge your battery.  Don’t put pressure on yourself for playdates, taking the children out or visiting friends and family unless that’s easier for you.  Resist preparing  gourmet meals, downloading holiday pictures or catching up on errands.  You have the entire  year ahead.

What to do instead?  Rest.  Restore.  Recharge.  No child has ever died from a diet of hot dogs and macaroni.  In fact, many of them prefer it.  They will gladly wear the same clothes and don’t care if their rooms are a mess.  Also, let them entertain themselves.  What about the new toys they took seconds to unwrap?  They can play with them!

The holidays are a particularly challenging time to balance our needs with those of others. But we must persist if we are to greet the new year with a healthy and positive outlook.

As we always say, you need to keep your pitcher filled to take care of yourself and those you love.  Don’t run yourself ragged like little Spudgy and miss out on the fun.  Give yourself a break this weekend.  You deserve it.   And get some sleep.

Holiday Survival in the Suburbs-Part 2

Look for what worked before: remember what everyone liked and repeat it. For many years, we had our tradition of the Wednesday- before-Thanksgiving-cookie-day. After a lazy morning, we saw a movie, baked our favorite chocolate chip cookies and finished the day with cheeseburgers.

People love helping in the kitchen. I never have everything completely finished. People congregate in the kitchen anyway- give them purpose while visiting. Everyone loves doing something-especially if it’s not their house or their responsibility.

Find what works for you when/if you get stressed. When I do get stressed, I take big breaths and concentrate on the outcome I want. (I also eat chocolate and take a walk). Whatever healthy strategy you can find-exercise, gatherings with girlfriends, reading a book, a massage- make sure you take advantage and DO IT.

Focus on the positive. It makes me happy to focus on the simple, enjoyable and memorable. “It’s all good” can be a way of life. Think about your own circumstances, realize how fortunate you are and do something nice for someone.

Life is too precious to be stressed out by circumstances we may not remember. I believe if I am less stressed, the kids will be also. I try to take care of my family by not planning too much and by being in the moment with them.

Pam Wilson is the author of S.O.S From Suburbia, a humorous look at surviving the craziness of the suburbs which can be ordered on her website: www.sosfromsuburbia.vpweb.com

Self-Care Brings Holiday Cheer

With Hanukah tomorrow and 6 days until Christmas, holiday stress is peaking. So this week, we’re focusing on self-care basics to preserve health, happiness, and your remaining sanity. First, make time to eat; your body can’t run without fuel. Exercise once or twice by going to the gym, walking your dog, or riding your bike. Recharge your emotional engine by making time to savor what you enjoy-a  great cup of coffee, a manicure, or visiting a friend. Feed your spirit by walking in nature, positive affirmations, and giving to others.

Second, practice relaxation. Take breaks in the day. Stop running around at record speeds. The “perfect gift” doesn’t exist so stop and breathe. Close your eyes and spend 5 minutes, breathing in to the count of 3, holding for a couple seconds and then out to the count of 3. If a thought creeps in, let it go. Focus you attention on your heart spreading calm and warmth through your body. Repeat 2-3 times a day. Studies show that relaxation boosts immunity, lessens pain and improves mood.

Finally, spend your time wisely. Choose one activity which makes the holidays special for you and Do It! Maybe baking or caroling or watching a holiday DVD. Don’t let your “to do” list consume you. Prioritize what has to get done, and cut out what you can. Stop and think “Will doing this make me feel good” or tired and stressed. The better you feel, the more you’ll enjoy the holidays and so will those around you.

Read This for Holiday Stress Relief

The holidays are here with fun-filled and stress-filled times sandwiched together, not unlike raising children, work, marriage and other life pursuits. So, here are some recommendations to make the holidays calmer and happier.

First, have realistic expectations of yourself.  Many of us feel disappointed because our “fairytale images” don’t materialize. Instead, focus on feeling good from the inside out.  Build a fire and roast marshmallows, shop with a friend, or take a long walk in the woods.  Meditate, workout, read, or  listen to music.  Feed your soul.

Second, have realistic expectations of others.  No one’s family or friends are perfect, and the holidays won’t change this.  Since we can’t change them, we need to rely on ourselves to gather what’s positive and let go of the negative.  Create new family traditions so they don’t stir up bad memories.  If a situation becomes too negative, leave.

Likewise, don’t take relationship stress too personally.   If your partner snaps about household clutter because they’re stringing Christmas lights while baking cookies, understand it’s their problem.  Don’t let them take their bad mood out on you but don’t react poorly either.  After all, love is the true intention of the season and it starts with you.

Finally, if you need a gift for a pregnant or new mom,  preview our new book, Life Will Never Be the Same: The Real Mom’s Postpartum Survival Guide at http://www.realmomexperts.com.  It’s filled with great advice for surviving and thriving new motherhood and beyond.  You might enjoy it too!

A Self-Care Christmas

It’s tempting to get caught up in the quest to give our loved ones the “perfect Christmas” — especially when we see visions of it plastered all over our television screens and in magazines.That’s a lot of pressure and work. And if something goes wrong, we feel we’ve failed.

Last year I realized the “cure” for holiday burnout was to shift my perspective. We still put up a tree, decorated the outside of the house with lights and bought presents. We just scaled back a bit. The emphasis was on finding balance including mindful spending, skipping out on a few social obligations in lieu of more family time and forgoing the holiday baking. (Because I have enough dirty dishes piled up in the sink.) This year, I decided the “family present” would be to hire someone to deep clean the house before hosting company. (So maybe that’s more of a gift for me. But we all know if mama’s not happy, no one is.)

I’m pretty sure when my son is grown and looks back on his childhood Christmases, he won’t remember how the tree was decorated or how many gifts he received. But he will remember the times we spent together laughing, lounging and loving every minute of each other’s company. And to me? That’s what’s most important.

Today’s author is Lisa Bertrand, founder of StLFamilyLife. We love this post and wanted to share it with you before you’re engulfed in holiday madness to help keep perspective.

Let’s See How Far Our Gratitude Can Spread

It’s the final day of our self-care challenge and hopefully you’re less stresed and feeling better from this week’s gratitude activities. Now, it’s time to spread the cheer. Remember when you used to play telephone and whisper messages in your friends’ ears passing them from one to the next. At the end, you’d laugh over how the message changed and start again.

Today’s challenge is to send gratitude to others in whatever way works for you. Choose someone you want to express thanks to for what they’ve done, who they are or what they mean to you. It can be someone you’re close to or someone you may have fallen out of touch with. Let your heart and soul decide. You won’t be misled.

Then message that person via e-mail or Facebook, text them, make a call or send a note. Once they receive your message, ask them to choose someone to express their gratitude towards and contact them. The goal is to connect as many people as possible with thankfulness and appreciation, keeping the true spirit of the season alive. Let’s see how many cities, states, and countries we can reach and how far our message can spread.

At livingselfcare, we want to thank each of you for joining us this past week and sharing your posts and comments, and to each of the challenge champions for their participation and generosity. Let us always remember what we’re thankful for during the holidays and each day of our lives.

Change in the Weather, Change in Attitude

The cold weather is creeping in, or already here in most states. It’s hard to relate to winter when you live in the sub-tropics of sunny South Florida, like myself.

Winter’s notorious for the cold, darker days and feelings of melancholy, depression, or lethargy seeping in. How do we combat the winter blahs from freezing us? Turn that blah attitude around to an attitude of gratitude! What better way to empower yourself than to take the positive steps necessary to make yourself healthy and whole!

We’ve started the Self-Care Challenge, and the results are trickling in. From women realizing they’re not taking care of themselves, to women reaching out to one another in thanks and gratitude, it’s clear that we’re becoming better educated about what it means to live self-care.

Here’s today’s challenge activity. It’s also perfect for Thanksgiving. Looking for that special centerpiece? Why not make a “GratitudeTree?” You can gather up twigs and other decorations, and place them in a vase. Cut out special pieces of paper, and with a “hole punch,” punch a hole and add a bit of ribbon. When your family and friends arrive, have each person write what they’re thankful for on their special tag and hang it from the “tree.” This creates the attitude of gratitude for the entire group, and leaves you with special keepsakes you can treasure year after year.

Today’s author is Mollee Bauer, founder of Pregnancy.org which gives moms the tools they need to empower themselves and practice self-care.

Doing A Good Deed for Each Other-Priceless

With the focus on gift-giving during the holidays, we sometimes forget that one of the most precious gifts we can share is doing something kind or thoughtful for each other. Today’s activity is to do a good deed for a family member or friend to express your gratitude for them being a part of your life.

There are three guidelines for this activity. First, choose something which you know your family member/friend would appreciate even if it’s different than what you want to do for them. An example, my mom asked me to help clean her closet for her holiday gift and while I’d much rather run an errand, make her a meal or buy her a present, that’s not what she wants from me.

Second, it must come from the heart and be done in the spirit of generosity. Doing it in a begrudging or resentful way is not the intention of today’s challenge. Remember, this is a “gift” for someone you love. Third, it can’t cost anything. Giving your time and attention to your family and friends is truly more valuable than anything money can buy.

Finally, consider making this an activity for the whole family. It’s a great way to express an attitude of gratitude toward all those you love.

Today’s inspiration: “It is only through the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince.