Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Holiday Happiness: Control Your Holiday Season, Don't Let it Control You!

As I sit her writing this the clock continues to tick down to the holidays. Thanksgiving and Christmas are growing painfully close, a week away as a matter of fact. While it’s time to start mentally planning the dinner, and days to follow as we are hosting company from out of town, I have yet to truly settle on anything other than pork tenderloin. I should say conceded to pork tenderloin because truly it was my husband’s decision. Aside from the food and the decoration I, like many of you, am focusing on whom I will be spending my holidays with.

A friend of mine recently stated how happy she was that she loves the people she spends her holidays with and that this allows her to look forward to the holidays; rather than being one of those people who dread the holidays, as well as their families. I have to agree with her.
My husband and I have had our own experience with snags in our family blankets. Very early on in our marriage we sat down and discussed how important it was for us to spend the holidays, not only with people we love, but who love us as well. As only children with three sets of parents and extended family and friends, the first two years together found us struggling to determine who we would celebrated with and when; leaving us thoroughly exhausted and snarky.

After one particularly stressful and unhappy holiday season we sat down at the dining room table and decided: Never Again! We wanted to enjoy the season with warm nostalgic memories of fun and love. We listed people who we loved being around. We listed people who made us feel loved and wanted, who were actually interested in what we were doing and what we had to say rather than getting glossy eyed as soon as we opened our mouths or put on a fake smile to be polite. While talking we realized something that, I believe very few people realize. We have complete and total control over how we spend our holidays and how we let the holidays affect our mood and our lives.

Since then we have hosted holiday dinners strictly for people that would normally be considered as friends by other, but who are considered family by us. We have been fortunate enough to go to dinners where we have met our friends’ parents, and have. We have had dinners that only included our parents, giving them a rest from hosting. We have even gone to Mexico for the holidays. But most importantly, we have redefined the term family to fit our own needs for a rich and fulfilling life, we have redefined tradition and have torn down the unhealthy belief of what one must do during the holidays and replaced it with the idea of what one could do. And by doing so we are able to come home tired, full, happy and feeling like the richest people on Earth.

So my challenge to you all who are reading this, and I thank you for reading this, is to sit down with your self, your significant other, your family, and decide to take that courageous step to spend the holidays the way you want to and with who you want to. You don’t have to explain yourself; you don’t have to feel guilty. In fact I give you permission to be guilt free. But you do have to challenge yourself to be happy. Go on, don’t be a turkey…I dare you. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Taking Time to Close Down the Day

From the beginning of time, a richly colored twinge of dusk touching the eastern horizon, the lengthening of shadows, and the appearance of the evening’s first star have let us know that it was time to rest, relax, and retire from the pressures of the day. For human beings and other living things that tend to be most active in daylight, evenings can be less hectic and more relaxing, as we prepare for sleep and spend quality time with our loved ones. But evenings are about much more than dinner and the feel of a cool, soft pillow. Evenings are a wonderful time to catalog the events of the day without distraction, to revel in gentle solitude or silence, to end the day in serenity, and to commune with your inner self.

There are many ways to turn the evening into a nurturing and soul enriching experience. A simple stroll through the realms of dusk and darkness can show you two different worlds: one winding down and one just coming to life. In the evening, the sounds we humans make begin to diminish, and the sounds of earth’s more nocturnal creatures and nature itself become more apparent. As night slowly falls, scents change, and the smell of the soil and greenery become magnified. Sky gazing in the evenings can be a meditative activity – one that reminds us that we are only one part of an infinitely complex and vast universe. Each night, the different phases of the moon show us the passage of time and the waxing and waning of life, as its glowing visage – whether in the shape of a circle, crescent, or a smile –bathes the world in an ethereal, wistful glow.

As crickets chirp and night birds cry out, evening rituals and routines can make your day feel complete, help you unwind from the day’s busyness, and pave the way for rejuvenating sleep. Rituals and routines help you say goodnight to the present day, so you can look forward to the next one. While the sun sets, try doing a series of stretches, lighting some candles, or watching the daylight fade. The soothing, natural beauty of each evening can be your backdrop, as you meditate, quiet your soul, and relax into the peace and stillness that can be found at day’s end.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Life Crisis and Intervention

I have just completed my last two classes for my B.S. degree in Psychology. My last class was Crisis and Intervention and I realized just how many times people are in crisis every day. From big crises to little ones. We all face them just the same. However, while some people are more resilient and bounce back and move on some are not.

Many people these days are struggling and often times one small crisis is easily turned into a big one, or even worse, like a snowball rolling down hill one thing gathers another until the crisis seems so catastrophic that the person can see no solution at all...only darkness. In my job I talk with the public every day and I realize that more people than ever are struggling to over come life challenges they never thought they would have to face. I listened as men and women shared stories of having to work overtime without extra pay just to keep their jobs, families who are worried about losing their homes, or business owners who have watched their income drop dramatically over the last few months while expenses have increased at the same time. Men and women who have Masters and Doctorate degrees who have lost their jobs due to the economic crash, are now living on food stamps and selling the homes they have worked so hard to build. Our station and status in life does not matter. What does matter is that we are all affected, we are all being challenged.

What do we do when faced with a life crisis? How do we deal with the fear and anxiety that wreaks havoc in our minds? I don't have all the answers, but,  I do know what it's like to be gripped by fear, to be woken in the middle of the night by racing, anxious thoughts, or to be so overwhelmed by responsibilities that I think I can't sleep. These experiences have taught me a few things that have made a positive difference in my life and I'm hoping they might help you, too.

Affirm good in your life. While I know it can be hard to believe that things will be okay, especially when you feel you have no control over your life. However, when you're in the thick of it, it's critical to take control of your thinking. This is the one thing that you can control. When I'm afraid or worried, I remind myself that my thoughts always precede my fear and anxiety. In order for me to feel afraid, for example, I first have to think fearful thoughts. These are the What If Thoughts of things that haven't even happened yet. So, to counteract this psuedo-reality, I start my day by planting good thoughts in my mind. I fill one page in my journal with spontaneous, positive affirmations and thoughts of gratitude. Here are some of my favorites (feel free to borrow them :

Good things are always coming my way and I welcome them with open arms.
I have people in my life who love me and are willing to help me.
Success loves me and I look forward to being successful.
I look for opportunities to help those less fortunate than me.
The Universe loves me and supports me in every moment.
In this moment I have all that I need.
Even though I'm not rich right now, I am grateful for the job that allows me to eat.
I am so grateful, I have a place to live. Thank you thank you thank you!

Done forget You are not alone! Please don't suffer in silence. If you're out of work and need a job, ask the people in your life to help you brainstorm ideas. If you're a business owner who needs to increase sales, be sure to let your friends and neighbors know, or create a business networking group like Le Tip or join one if you have it in your area. If you're worried about the basics like food, shelter, or healthcare, please call upon the support services in your community. The only thing that prevents us from asking for help is our ego and our pride and this can be the most detrimental thing we can do. It is not shameful to admit that we need help. In fact it is a sign of strength. 

Take action
 This week, do one thing every day to affirm the abundance that exists in your life, or acknowledge the ways that your life is improving or delivering to you what you need most. And, look for one person to support as well. Be open to receive and anxious to give. Accept a compliment graciously, help a stranger unexpectedly and without concern for receiving anything in return. Do this regularly and you'll be surprised at the way your life will change for the better.