Let This Holiday Season
Be About Possibilities

Begin 1999 With an Open Heart to Receive the Miracles That Are on Their Way!
by National Mind/Body Stress-Relief Facilitator, Susie Mantell
(author, "Your Present: A Half-Hour of Peace")


OK, the truth is . . . I don't know how Norman Rockwell's family did it. The Cleavers? Cunninghams? The Berenstein Bears? What I do know is: "That was then. This is now". And creating a joyous, meaningful holiday season is never as easy as we hope. Balancing personal needs with professional responsibilities challenges the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of even the most self-aware among us, (born into the most "functional" of families!)

Whether working to maintain family stability - or to create a satisfying life on one's own - holiday demands tend to create over-the-top everyday stress levels that begin to feel "normal"! While a moderate, "healthy" degree of stress can serve as an intuitive "early warning system" indicating the need for change, unaddressed long-term or traumatic stress can compromise our immune system, mental clarity, emotional health and restorative sleep. Stress depresses mood, depletes self-esteem and quality of life, taxes relationships and drains organizations.

To stay present, and to release the toxic effects of winter stress, we need realistic, effective tools, consistent with personal lifestyles and belief systems. Amid the sparkle of the holidays, some are surprised to find themselves in the dumpster known as "holiday blues". This year, Œre-invent' the season for yourself! At the end of the day, most of us find attention to personal needs somewhere at the bottom of our Holiday Wish List. THIS winter can be different! Here are some gentle, powerful stress-reduction tools to help you enjoy Healthy Happy Holidays...

As the airlines suggest: "Secure your own oxygen mask before attempting to assist others." Your own renewal will cast light on the holidays for your family and friends . . . and you! Life is short. When in doubt, ask yourself, Does this____________ enhance my life?
-Get outdoors each day.
-Make time to spend with trusted friends - or to make some!
-Flush toxins with plenty of water. We're not as naturally thirsty in winter, and tend to choose hot beverages, which are harder to drink in quantity. Get in those vital, 8 glasses of water to flush toxins, hydrate skin and aid digestion. Too much coffee makes us irritable, distractible . . . which can produce scowls, frowns and knitted brows that push people away. (Not to mention creating wrinkles!)
-Watch sugar and alcohol consumption - "Sugar Blues" are often confused with clinical depression, illness and an ailment commonly known as "crabbiness". Tense? Irritable? Depressed? Reducing caffeine, sugar and alcohol just may do the trick!
-Remind yourself to smile! Rushing along windy streets, bundled up, head down, we often forget to look others in the eye and connect. Smiling actually releases endorphins - Yours AND theirs. Go ahead and smile - THEN move on and "accomplish". The day you save could be your own!
-Make time for Œrecreation'. (Look at that word again...)
-Moderate exercise and replenishing sleep help to support healing and replenish a weary body. -Soothing music and relaxation tapes, and mini-meditations provide effortless comfort. -Luxuriate in hot, "non-working" baths.
-Seasonal Affective Disorder ("S.A.D.") Many experience clinical winter blues. If you suspect you're one of them, talk with a trusted healthcare professional. It's real . . . and there are natural lights, herbal remedies such as St. John's Wort and Kava available to help you through a slump, but get professional advice on dosage, risks, contraindications, etc.

Ease pressure to make this year "just like before". It can have a Magic all its own if you stay in the moment. I recall one December when a member of our family was suffering from depression. For some reason, one evening the gray cloud lifted briefly - she was feeling more like herself. We all knew if we waited for our traditional gift-giving time, we might lose the "light" so we scrambled around, spontaneously reinventing tradition, opening presents early that year!
-Ask your family to help you to prioritize, reevaluating more 'demanding' traditions.
-Create new ones. (e.g.: Maybe skating and a sleep-over could replace baking four different kinds of cookies from scratch!)
-Sharing responsibilities will allow you and your children to give to one another in ways that embody the true spirit and values of this holiday season.

Family gatherings are wonderful opportunities to share with those closest to us, but for some, sitting across the Thanksgiving table from a particular relative can be fraught with tension, waiting for the first cross word or turkey leg to fly! Prepare . . . and create a more relaxed, comfortable get-together when a relationship is strained:
-Take a minute to visualize when you've felt similarly. Fourth grade? This morning at breakfast? (Knowing where our buttons are installed provides perspective in tense moments.)
-List three pleasant things you can communicate today, followed by three things you don't want to express, in an attempt to keep the peace.
-Softly closing your eyes, begin to see him/her as an infant - soft, open, smiling.
-Using a TV dial, "grow" them up to toddler size - exploring their world in wonder.
-Dial up to age, 7. . . gawky 14, etc., continuing through the present.
-Now, picture you - on one of those great days when you feel balanced, powerful, and loving. Breathe into your image compassion for all that has brought this person into your life at this time.
-Repeat as needed . . . and keep breathing! Reward yourself later! NOTE: This, too, shall pass. -Put yourself on top of your list and give yourself something you long for. A day off? A lunch date with an old friend? Start a spa vacation savings account. €Get yourself a pen, a beautiful journal and make a "thrills" list -from shooting stars to simple pleasures. Create a couple of thrills yourself!
-Reach out and GIVE. Opportunities abound in December to volunteer in schools, shelters, soup kitchens. Clergy members of any denomination will know where. I've personally retrieved heart-rending, authentic "letters to Santa" at the post office and anonymously filled wishes for toys, mittens, etc. . . . Try it!
-Wish! For you - for everybody else - Wish really BIG! To quote Oscar Hammerstein: "You got to have a dream - If you don't have a dream, how ya gonna have a dream-come-true?" Repeat as needed! This, too, shall pass. Susie Mantell


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