We have that lineup of annual no-holds-barred holidays facing us like a gauntlet ready to mete out seasonal punishment in two-months-long serial order.
Veterans Day Thanksgiving Day
Black Friday Pearl Harbor Day
Christmas Boxing Day
Kwanzaa New Year’s Eve
Can you see yourself sprinting through these like a court-martialed soldier condemned to punishment? Like a silver ball in an arcade pinball game, bouncing back and forth taking blow after blow until you just sink out of sight down the “end of game” receptacle at the bottom. Sigh.
Whatever your selection might be from the above list, the stress that settles on us can come from multiple sources.
- Expectations. Let’s face it: We’ve been programmed since birth to have high expectations around the holidays. What? I still didn’t get that bike?
- Family gatherings. And nobody knows how to push buttons like family, right? Alcoholic Aunt Agatha and combative Cousin Carl—just who you want to spend a day or two with.
- Recent family losses. It’s hard to be funny about this one, but eventually every holiday gathering has to deal with the emotions surrounding a missing member.
- Overreaching. You can do it all! So says that little voice in your head that has you up decorating a tree at 3 a.m. when you still have to be at work at 8 a.m
- Gifting levels. Did I get the right gift? Did I give enough gifts? Is my haul big enough (how childish, but we can be that way, right)? Oh shit. I bought the same gift for Mom that my sister did!
Where did the serenity of the season go?
What can I do to get out of that pinball machine?
The Mayo Clinic has a pretty good checklist of 10 things they claim specifically reduce stress during the holiday season, but I’d say that this is a good list at any time. Here’s the short version:
- Acknowledge your feelings.
- Reach out.
- Be realistic.
- Set aside differences.
- Stick to a budget.
- Plan ahead.
- Learn to say “NO.”
- Don’t abandon healthy habits.
- Take a breather.
- Seek professional help if you need it.
Some years ago when I was studying under Jut Meininger, author of How to Run Your Own Life, he introduced me to some homeopathic wonders called Bach’s flower essences.
Dr. Edward Bach practiced medicine in the U.K. in the 1930s. He had been researching remedies for diseases when he began focusing on the whole person rather than on their specific disease. Over years of experimentation and 1000s of plants, he began to narrow down what flowers unblocked what mental impediments… until ultimately he had identified 38 specific remedies for 38 specific feelings that his patients associated with stress or negative life impacts. You can check them out here.
My experience working with Meininger since 2005 has been quite successful. Bach (well his company) has concocted a blend of five of these essences into a commercially available product called Rescue Remedy™.
I have used this product frequently in the past 15 years to assist me in getting out of my knower/judger space (where all the stress occurs) and into learner/researcher (where I can look at a situation without the associated stress, guilt, and anger, that my K/J is known to produce).
Research suggests that, while subjects that use the essences and subjects that use the placebo (double-blind studies) both seem to perform better and exhibit fewer stress-related behaviors, it cannot be determined that the essences are statistically responsible for the improvement.
But who cares? There is improvement!
I have mostly used this product before presentations—I’m a Distinguished Toastmaster who still experiences stage fright!—and important meetings where it is in my best interests to not let my emotions run with my mouth.
It has worked for me.
Is it the Rescue Remedy™? Or is it a placebo effect? Who cares? It got me out of my errant understandings that caused my stress, and that works for me.
Rescue Remedy™ is available all over the place. Google it. (I’m not an associate and get no compensation from the Bach people—and I have no idea where to buy a placebo!)
Happy and stress-free holidays!