Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Soul Sustenance: Reducing Holiday Stress

Barb Schmidt is author of THE PRACTICE: Simple Tools for Managing Stress, Finding Inner Peace and Uncovering Happiness. She has some great tips, including how to change your perspective to enjoy the holiday season and not fall under its pressure and stress.
1. Meditate. No matter how busy you are, spend 5 minutes first thing every morning sitting quietly with yourself, letting the thoughts in your mind come and go by focusing on the breath. This gives your mind a chance to find your heart. Then, when you enter into your day, you are connected within, ready to face the tasks of the day with your mind, body, and heart in alignment. You are complete.
2. Practice Focused Attention. Throughout the day, focus your attention and be in the moment. When your mind starts to wander to the past or future, bring it back to the moment—to your intention to experience the spirit of the season. The holidays are here to remind us to honor, be present, and celebrate who we are as individuals, as families, and as part of our communities. So remember: when your head starts spinning and your heart starts racing, gently bring your attention back to the spirit of this beautiful holiday season.
3. Be Mindful. Getting the house ready for guests might sound like a chore, but when you approach it as a mindful activity, it can be just as rewarding as when your guests come through your door. As you clean, cook, decorate, and make other preparations, focus on the selfless generosity of your actions and the wonderful opportunity you have to care for your home, yourself, and those you love.
4. Express Gratitude. If you get overwhelmed by the thought of finding the perfect gifts for everyone on your list, remember that your presence is much more valuable than the presents you give. Create a thoughtful list of those you purchase gifts for and jot down a few notes about how each person on your list has touched your life in a positive way. Then, along with whatever gift you give, include a note expressing your gratitude for his or her special place in your heart.
5. Find the Humor. Shakespeare said all the world’s a stage, so keep this in mind as you get in full swing with the hustle and bustle of the season. Seek out opportunities to be entertained by your fellow players on whatever stage you are on: whether in the grocery store, in long lines at the mall, following services, at the dinner table, or at the office party. Seize opportunities to laugh with others and imbue your experiences with a delightful sense of levity. Really lighten up!
6. Look for the Middle Ground. When some families get together, even for joyful occasions, disagreements have a tendency to erupt. Anticipating unrest can certainly be a big producer of stressful feelings! If this describes your family, set the intention to remain neutral at the family gathering and keep your “buttons” in the off position. While this might feel like a tall order, know that a daily meditation practice can help you accomplish this.
7. Focus on Abundance. Especially around holiday time, it might feel like you are squeezing the very last cent out of your budget. Aside from taking actual steps to balance your budget, worrying about your finances at the expense of your peace of mind will not bring you into an easy, joyful mood, and honestly will not help your finances. Worry never helps! When you find yourself stressing over your expenses, refocus your attention instead on what is abundant in your life, such as the love of family and friends, the comforts of home, enough food to eat, and whatever else makes your life possible.
8. Let Go of Expectations. We often think that if we do and prepare everything just so, the celebratory gatherings will go according to our expectations. But let’s revisit Shakespeare here for a moment. He said, “Expectation is the root of all heartache.” And how right he is! If anything goes wrong when our expectations are high, we can be negatively affected. So the lesson here is to approach the upcoming days without expectations. While you may still prefer things go your way, this slight change in vocabulary can be the difference between a humorous chuckle and tears.
Barb is founder of Peaceful Mind Peaceful World, a community outreach program through Florida Atlantic University (FAU) designed to promote dialogue in the greater community on the topic of inner peace by incorporating workshops and weekly teachings with Barb and many of her esteemed mentors, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Dr. Jane Goodall, Dr. Andrew Weil, and many others. 

Barb is also the founder of Peaceful Mind Peaceful Life, a non-profit organization through which she teaches The Practice, a three-part guide to practical spirituality in the modern world and her tool for spreading her belief that “outer peace begins with inner peace.” Peaceful Mind Peaceful Life has rapidly expanded to include an online community via Facebook (with posts reaching over 10 million people), through their daily inspirational emails and weekly blogs. She is on the board of the Schmidt Family Foundation doing incredible philanthropic work.

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