Regrets of the Dying 

Dee:  This blog was inspired by “Five Regrets of the Dying” by Bronnie Ware.  

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Regrets of the Dying 

by Bronnie Ware 

For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives. 

People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them. 

When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five: 

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. 

This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. 

It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it. 

Dee:

I am blessed to have not been told I have “x” amount of time to live.  But I try to live as if I have.  I do try to live in the moment striving to have no regrets.  If this were my last day on the planet, I know I have done my best and I cannot think of any unresolved issues nor regrets that need tending to.

Ok, I could update my will and trust, but it actually is “good enough” as they are written.  I could clean up my paper trail, making sure that passwords and accounts are readily available for my loved ones.  I could get rid of a lot of my shit so that my family doesn’t have to encounter the mountains of possessions I’ve accumulated.

But this is more than that.  This is about being true to yourself.  This I did not learn until crawling out of the depths of my addictions.  And when I was given the opportunity for a new life, I ran with it.  This gift was given me by Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12 Steps are my toolbox for living a sensible and meaningful life today.

So living a life true to myself is a fabulous blessing.  By working the Steps with a trusted sponsor I found how fear-based I was living.  I was trying to live the life I thought others expected of me.  I was more concerned about getting your approval than my own self-worth and self-love as I wasn’t aware of what that was.

As I peeled away the layers of the onion skin eventually revealing the real me and learned to accept and love the real me, everything changed.  Everything got easier, lighter, freer.  I found happiness and contentment.  I found purpose.  I found compassion and empathy.  I found ME!

Yes, I still do for you today but not because I need your approval to validate myself.  I do it because I want to and it gives my heart joy.  And today I get to be the person I was meant to be, allowing the inner child to play and run free.  I get to be the responsible me, making sure commitments are being fulfilled and doing my best to help others and the planet.

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard. 

This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence. 

By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle. 

Dee:

For as long as I can remember I heard and learned how important it is to have more, and to do whatever it takes to get more.  So if that means sacrificing relationships, so be it.  If that means no date nights with your mate, oh well.  If that means missing your kids’ special events, there will be others.  If that means putting yourself at the bottom of the list, someday you will take care of yourself.

Does more money, more power, more stuff, serve us?  Hell, no.  We learn as we age that less is better, not more.  Finding peace and contentment with the simplest of needs frees us to enjoy what is really important…life itself and the relationships we were meant to have with each other and this wonderful planet on which we live.  So not being a slave to expensive, non-meaningful possessions is what we should be striving toward.  Basic needs, yes.  Comparing yourself to the Joneses, no.  Feel comfortable enough in your own skin to know, feel, what is best for you.  And if/when you can, find work that you’re passionate about…that fills your soul!

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.                                                            

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result. 

We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win. 

Dee:

Again, being true to yourself, loving yourself, valuing yourself, is key here.  That is where we need to start.  And, again, for me that came from staying active in a very strong support group of AA and using the tools they so freely offered.

There are many places to find support…your church, your doctor, your friends, your family (please, not your bartender), and a wealth of support groups to fit your needs.  Use them.  You never have to be alone to struggle through life.  They can teach you how to kindly express your feelings, stop walking on egg shells, be true to yourself.  

I learned that living from my heart and not my head (which rationalized any- and everything detrimental to my greatest good), was the way to go for me.  I learned that trusting in a Higher Power of My Own Understanding and turning my will and life over to the care of that Power Greater Than Myself, was freeing and took the burdens of life off my shoulders.  I learned that I have no control over people, places, or things, so go with the flow and just take care of my side of the street (so to say).

Getting rid of negative thoughts and feelings (resentments) is crucial to this process.  And learning how your part (if any) in these situations blew them out of proportion is vital to their resolve.  Fear-based?  Ego?  Selfishness?  Let it go.  It doesn’t serve you.  Be true to yourself and love yourself for who and what you are.  Be comfortable in your own skin.  And then you can comfortably speak your mind with grace and love.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. 

Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying. 

It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships. 

Dee:

Although I am not an avid supporter of social media, it has made keeping in touch much easier.  I have found long-lost friends on the internet.  Today we have relationships more priceless than we had when the memories that were conjured up in my brain even occurred.

When thoughts of long-lost friends arise, follow through on them.  There are no coincidences.  These thoughts arise for a reason.  Honor them.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier. 

This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again. 

When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying. 

Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness. 

Dee:

Yes!  Yes!  Yes!  Release your inner child.  That beautiful, uninhibited YOU that you were meant to be.  Laugh.  Be silly.  Have fun.  Don’t worry about what others will think about you because “they” usually don’t give a shit anyhow.  They are too wrapped up in their own lives and egos to care.  Let them be on their own journeys.  Love them.  Accept them.  But don’t seek their approval.  Seek your own!  Be happy, joyous and free! and live a life that serves YOU as if today were the last day of your life!

Thank you all for reading and being part of my story.  With warmest aloha and best wishes for a wonderful New Year and New Life, Dee Harris

I use affirmations to keep me on track when the busyness of life takes me away from the moment in front of my nose.  They help recenter me.  If you’re interested in inspiring, even funny, affirmations, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  Mahalo and enjoy!

Note: This excellent article is mirrored from the original posted at Bronnie Ware’s website. “Based on this article, Bronnie has now released a full length book titled The Top Five Regrets of the Dying – A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing. It is a memoir of her own life and how it was transformed through the regrets of the dying people she cared for. This inspiring book is available internationally through Hay House.” 

Copyright Bronnie Ware. 

http://www.hospicepatients.org/five-regrets-of-the-dying-bronnie-ware.html 

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3 Meditations to Get You in the Holiday Spirit

Dee:  This blog was inspired by the Chopra Center’s                                                                 “3 Meditations to Get You in the Holiday Spirit” 

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3 Meditations to Get You in the Holiday Spirit 

By Melissa Eisler

The holidays are upon us again—a busy time of year filled with visiting with friends and family, shopping for gifts, and preparing special meals to enjoy with loved ones. 

The holiday season is meant to be a happy time; it conjures up images of cozying up by the fireplace, baking ginger bread cookies, giving to and helping those in need, and stepping away from the day-to-day grind to focus on family and loved ones. But it can also come with a lot of stress—worrying over extra expenses, navigating unpredictable family drama, and burning out from a jam-packed schedule. With all the hustle and bustle this time of year brings, it can be easy to get caught up in this stress and lose focus on the essence of what the holidays represent: feeling and sharing joy, kindness, and gratitude for all that you have in your life. 

Dee:

Ew.  The image just conjured up in my mind is one of incomprehensible demoralization.  Thank God I’m not that person today and I have a support group and a toolbox for living to keep me from going back there.

The image conjured up cozying up by the fireplace is one Christmas Eve years ago, opening gifts with family after a wonderful lobster dinner.  I think.  You see, I am an alcoholic.  Today a grateful alcoholic in recovery.  But then I was active in my disease.

Coming home after a full day at work (being a checker at a grocery store on Christmas Eve is no easy feat in itself), I made a lobster thermidor dinner for my family, which included my mom and step-dad who were visiting.  I must of had too many glasses of wine (which was a daily occurrence) because the rest is very fuzzy.

I wake up in bed on Christmas morning (or “come to” which was also a daily occurrence) not remembering if we had opened our gifts.  This Christmas I asked my boys to pick out one gift they would like to open on Christmas Eve.  They chose.  Then we opened them all except for that special gift we would save for Christmas Day.  I think.  I don’t remember.

When I “fished” for clues from my mom on Christmas Day what happened on Christmas Eve, she said she knew I was tired after a long day at work and making dinner.  Apparently I fell asleep by the wood stove (but really I passed out).  Shit.  I hate this story.  I hate my life.  I hate myself.

I am not going to say that the holidays were too stressful or that I did not meditate.  My story is that I am an alcoholic and one drink for me is too many because I will not stop until I pass out, kill you and your family on the road, and end up in an institution.

Meditation is a great way to help you refocus on what matters most this holiday season. You can’t control other people or events, but you can use meditation to help you navigate through the overwhelming feelings. Try practicing the following meditations to cultivate joy, kindness, and gratitude for 10 to 15 minutes each day from now through to the end of the year. 

Dee:

Since then I have gone to a recovery center, become an active member of Alcoholics Anonymous, and have learned a new way to live in sobriety.  Now I love my story, my past, because without the feeling of incomprehensible demoralization I would not feel the freedom and happiness I feel at this moment.

And I have learned that I am a gift and how to love myself in the moment with the many wretched stories in my past.  That was me then.  I am me now.  And tomorrow doesn’t exist.  And I practice meditation and I get quiet and know that there is a Power Greater Than Myself who is in control, driving my car, taking me on the ride of my life, introducing me to exciting new adventures and people, while I soak it all up in the passenger seat.  This gives me contentment and joy knowing all is perfect at this moment, that I don’t have to be in control, that I don’t have to think anymore and can live from my heart, knowing, trusting, that I am protected and guided by a Higher Power.

A Meditation for Cultivating Joy 

The stress this time of year can sometimes leave you feeling exhausted, often zapping the joy that the holidays are supposed to bring. Meditating not only helps you be more joyful and present, but it can also help you spread joy to those around you. And spreading joy, lifting others, and being jolly are central to the holiday spirit! Try these simple steps to cultivate that joyful, jolly feeling: 

•Find a quiet area—this can be in a room in your house, an area in your garden, or next to the fireplace when everyone else has gone to sleep.                                                                                        
•Sit in an upright position. Close your eyes and take a deep breath in through your nose, and exhale through your mouth.                                                                                                •Continue with five deeps breaths. Pay attention to how you are feeling, finding any discomfort or pain points and adjusting yourself to be more comfortable.
•Continue to breathe, focusing on the feeling of your chest rising and falling.
•Now, turn your attention to your thoughts. Your mind may be racing with your holiday to-do list; if so, visualize yourself crossing the items off and feeling accomplished. Know that you are taking this time for yourself, so that you can have the energy to tackle that list joyfully.                                                                                   •Now that you are clearing your mind and making room for joy, think of a holiday memory from your past when you felt deep joy. This could be a joyful holiday moment from your youth or from a recent memory. Focus on the details of that moment as you attempt to relive it in your mind, like you were watching a movie of that memory.                                                                •As you bring that moment to the center of your consciousness, pay attention to the joyful emotions and sensations that you felt, the smells that you experienced (ginger bread and peppermint, perhaps?), and the rich tastes of the season. Stay with the memory for a while.
Next, think of a way to recreate those feelings in your life today, perhaps with different people, a different location, and a different activity, but working to cultivate the same mood of joy for yourself and those you would like to share those feelings with.                                                                                                                                       •Release that visual and take 10 deep breaths, inhaling to fill yourself with the holiday spirit of joy, and exhaling to send joy out into the world.
•When you’re finished, sit quietly for a few moments before gently opening your eyes. 

Practice this meditation daily, focusing on cultivating and spreading joy. With repetition, you’ll be able to tap into those feelings more readily, even when faced with the stress of the season. 

A Meditation for Cultivating Kindness 

The holidays are a great time to give back and spread kindness to your loved ones, strangers, and even to those who you are not on good terms with. Kindness is about extending grace, compassion, and love to others, and you can use meditation to improve your capacity for empathy and compassion. Try these simple steps, a derivative of the Loving-Kindness Meditation: 

Before you start this mediation, set a timer for between 5 and 20 minutes and think of a few phrases that invoke kindness and compassion toward others. String three or four short phrases together. Write them down if it helps you memorize them. If you can’t think of any, try these: 

“May you be at peace.” “May you be healthy.” “May you feel free.” “May joy fill your life.” 

•As before, find yourself in a comfortable area where you can focus on your meditation without distractions. Sit in a comfortable position and start to take five deep breaths. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth, while tuning in to any discomfort in your body and adjusting as needed.                                                                                                            •Continue your rhythmic breathing and pick someone (or yourself!) or a group of people that you will channel loving-kindness to (for example, your family, your neighbors, your community, your country, or refugees across the world that you read about in the news).
•With this person or people clear in your mind, repeat your loving-kindness phrases silently for the duration of your meditation:                                                                                                “May you be at peace.” “May you be healthy.” “May you feel free.” “May joy fill your life.”                                                                                                                                          •When your timer goes off, sit quietly for a few moments, smiling at the kindness you have sent to others, and gently open your eyes. 

Try practicing this meditation when you wake up and before you go to bed, so that you start and end your day with loving-kindness. You can change the beneficiary of your meditation each time you do it if you’d like. It will help you practice kindness to everyone on this planet during this holiday season. 

A Meditation for Cultivating Gratitude 

Being grateful is something you can practice year-round, but the holidays are often a time to be especially reflective on your life. This meditation will help you think about what you are grateful for and how to express that appreciation. Try these simple steps to develop a gratitude mindset: 

•Find a comfortable, quiet location to begin your practice. For this one, find a sunny spot on your patio, take a seat next to warm fireplace, or curl up in a warm blanket on a cold winter day.
•Sit up straight, adjusting your posture as necessary to ease any pain points.
•Start by taking a series of deep breaths. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Lightly close your eyes and continue a rhythmic breathing pattern.                                                           •If you are sitting outside on a sunny day or next to the fireplace, notice how the warmth embraces you and melts the cool winter chill. Breathe and enjoy the sensation of warmth flowing through your body.
•Start to reflect on the gifts that life has given you today. What can you be grateful for today, in this very moment? You can choose something specific that happened today or even the simple fact that you are alive and breathing and practicing the gift of meditation.                                                                                                                               •Bring to mind all the potential comforts that you have in your life, for example:                 

Access to water and food                                                                                                        Clothes
Electricity
Home                                                                                                                                      

Friends, family, and pets 

Technology
                                                                                                                                                        One by one, think of all the special people or animals that are a part of your life, both directly and indirectly: 

Family
Friends
Pets
Coworkers
Mentor
The farmer who grew your food
The officer who keeps your neighborhood safe
The engineer who constructed the school your kids go to 

Now, think about something in your life that you are grateful for that was new in the last year.
Now, think of one talent or skill that you possess that you’re grateful for.
Now, think of one thing that you are really looking forward to in the future.
Now, think about something that makes you smile or laugh, and observe the emotions that flow through your body. 

•Release the gratitude images, take a few deep breaths, and finish by taking inventory of how you are feeling. Without judgment, simply observe. 

When you are finished, you can gently open your eyes and bring the feelings of gratitude with you into the rest of your day. 

When you practice these three meditations, you are actively working to cultivate feelings of joy, kindness, and gratitude this holiday season, benefitting your well-being as well as those around you. What better way to get into the holiday spirit, and in turn, make it contagious! 

Dee:

I have GOT TO do this!  I have GOT TO add “self” to my list of to-do’s.  I randomly, fleetingly, have thoughts of how grateful I am, how compassionate I am for those who have less.  But if I set that timer for 5-20 minutes for ME and make that time for getting centered, getting humble, and getting back focused and in the moment, I know in my heart that the day will unfold more smoothly and effortlessly than had I not.

I shall start today, right now, by adding in my list of daily activities in my phone: 5 MINUTES OF MEDITATION.  When I turn off that damned alarm and get quiet, take those deep breaths, I might just adjust that timer for 20 minutes.  

Then I’ll get to finish decorating the house, finish writing the Christmas cards, finish the orders that need to be finished before Christmas, eat some lunch, take a shower, get ready for tonight’s guests…

Thank you for taking time for yourself and knowing we are all crazy and stressed this time of year.  Just breathe…  Wishing you Mele Kalikimaka with warmest Aloha, Dee Harris

For those interested in Art with a Message of Self-Care, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  Mahalo and enjoy!

About the Author 

Melissa Eisler (/bios/melissa-eisler)
Certified Leadership & Career Coach, Yoga & Meditation Instructor, Author 

Melissa is the Senior Content Strategist at the Chopra Center. Also an ICF Certified Leadership and Career Coach (ACC) and certified meditation and yoga instructor, she is passionate about motivating people to live a healthy, balanced, and purposeful life. You can learn more about Melissa’s coaching practice at MelissaEisler.com (https://melissaeisler.com/). Melissa is also the author of The Type A’s Guide to Mindfulness: Meditation for Busy Minds and Busy People (http://amzn.to/1J1dYvz), a practical guide for new meditators in the modern world, and the creator of mindfulminutes.com (http://mindfulminutes.com/), a… Read more (/bios/melissa-eisler) 

The Chopra Center

The Impact of Holiday Stress on the Mind and Body

Dee:  This blog was inspired by the Chopra Center’s “The Impact of Holiday Stress on the Mind and Body” 

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The Impact of Holiday Stress on the Mind and Body 

By JenniferWeinberg

‘Tis the season for joyful gatherings with family, remembering your blessings, and celebrations. But it can also be a season full of expectations and stress as you scramble to deck the halls, bake endless batches of cookies, and pick out the perfect presents. Even festive demands create stress on the mind and body; understanding the way that your body copes with stress can help you employ strategies to enjoy all that the holidays offer without suffering the consequences of unneeded holiday stress. 

The holidays bring many stressors, including a lack of time to fit in all the holiday parties, the pressure and financial burdens of picking out the perfect presents, the tensions of long-standing family dynamics, and the temptation to indulge in different foods—on top of your usual workload and obligations. It is no coincidence that you always come down with the annual cold or flu during or just after the winter holidays, or that your pants seem to shrink in January. 

How Your Body Handles Stress 

Stress refers to any type of perceived or real demand or threat—positive or negative. It is the way that your body reacts to and responds to demands that can have short- or long-term effects on your mind and body health due to the powerful mind-body connection. 

Dee:

Great to know that stress can be positive as well as negative.  I’ve always perceived stress as negative.  I try to always look at the glass half full and turn every negative into a positive, but stress wasn’t a word that held a positive image for me.  I shall look at stress differently as of today!

Emotions such as anxiety or fear can trigger physiological changes in your body involving a cascade of stress hormones (like cortisol and epinephrine) as you attempt to maintain balance and ensure survival. This stress response involves neurological pathways and biochemical reactions throughout the body that you may recognize as a pounding heart, rapid breathing, muscle tension, sweating, and/or digestive upset. This is why major life events like holiday traditions, stressors like coping with family gatherings, or emotions like those that arise around giving and receiving gifts may trigger physical symptoms. 

This combination of reactions to stress is also known as the fight-or-flight response since it evolved as an adaptive coping and survival mechanism, enabling you to react quickly to life-threatening situations. Unfortunately, in modern life multitasking, juggling too many things, lacking true meaningful connections, and bombardment with constant stimulation are a regular part of life, especially during the holiday season, making stress incessant in many people’s lives. 

Over time, your body can also overreact to stressors that are not life-threatening, such as family difficulties, packed shopping malls, or the awkward office gift exchange. These types of chronic ongoing stressors can contribute to inflammation, irritability, anxiety, and chronic disease. 

Holiday Stress and Metabolic Imbalances 

The stress of the holidays can be a major contributor to weight gain and metabolic imbalances. 

Cortisol is one of the hormones that your body releases in response to stress, helping to provide enough energy to cope with threats and challenges. During the stress response, blood sugar levels rise in an effort to enable fighting or fleeing from a threat, after which insulin is released to bring the blood sugar levels back into a normal range. 

Insulin plays a key role in regulating the amount of glucose being taken from the bloodstream into the cells, but when this cycle is chronically and repeatedly activated due to stress, the signaling process can become impaired, and your cells can become resistant to insulin, which has far-reaching consequences. Some common metabolic consequences of stress and imbalanced cortisol levels are insulin resistance, blood sugar imbalances, and weight gain, especially in the belly area. 

The threat of holiday weight gain is increased further when you are tempted with so many holiday treats and foods that may not normally be part of your lifestyle. Emotional eating, or turning to food to cope with the extra stress of the season, is often exacerbated during this busy time of the year. 

A busy holiday season is not necessarily a bad thing, but there are some steps you can take to cope with holiday expectations and obligations to minimize undue stress and its impacts on your mind and body. The key is to build resiliency so that you can respond to stressful situations without triggering the alarm system every time. 

Recognize Your Holiday Stress Triggers 

The holiday season brings many demands that can contribute to overwhelm. Recognizing the types of triggers that send you into a stress response can help you take steps to reprioritize your choices and plan ahead to find greater balance. 

Go into the season with an awareness of potential holiday demands to give yourself the chance to mindfully choose where to spend your time and energy so that you can manage stressful triggers. 

Common holiday stressors include: 

Overextending yourself by accepting every holiday party invite
Feeling immense pressure to find the perfect present
Trying to make everything for your holiday meals from scratch
Going beyond your budget for gift and food shopping, adding to long-term financial stress                                                                                                                                   Excessive drinking or eating foods that aren’t ideal for your individual body or needs                                                                                                                  Unrealistic and overly high expectations of what makes a “perfect” holiday season                                                                                                      Family tensions and arguments 

Listen to Your Body 

Learning to recognize the symptoms of stress and when they are becoming overwhelming or harmful to you is the first step in effectively managing it. Paying attention allows you to identify emotions as they arise, recognize when stress threatens to become overwhelming, and choose how you react and dedicate your time and energy. 

Stress can lead to emotional, cognitive, behavioral, and physical symptoms when it is too intense or too frequent. Red flags that can alert you to excessive stress include: 

Difficulty sleeping
Cold hands and feet
Racing heart
Mood changes or irritability
Nervousness or shaking
Weight gain, especially around the belly                                                                                        Exhaustion that interferes with daily life activities                                                                                 Rapid breathing
Tension headaches, backaches, or other excessive muscle tension
Clenched jaw and teeth grinding
Changes in digestion, including constipation, diarrhea, nausea, or abdominal pain 

Build Resiliency to Enjoy the True Meaning of the Season 

As you start to pay more attention to how you spend your energy and the ways in which different demands affect your body and mind, you can choose your priorities and begin to build resiliency. This will allow you to take control of the holiday chaos in a way that brings more enjoyment and meaning to the season. 

Stress arises from the ways in which you respond to challenges, so a great start to reducing your holiday stress is to slow down enough to have the freedom to choose your priorities, recognize your interpretation of what is happening around you, and decide how you want to move forward. Remember the distinction between events and your experience of them. This allows you to start to leverage challenges as opportunities to grow and evolve, which in turns builds resiliency and buffers you from the negative impacts of stress. 

One way to keep the holidays manageable is to plan ahead to keep realistic expectations. Reflect on what matters to you and make deliberate choices to create a season that feels meaningful. This allows you to set boundaries and focus on what’s important to you so that you have the energy to savor each experience more. 

Dee:

This reminds me to just stay in the present moment, that which is right in front of my nose.  I can feel the breeze now and hear the leaves rustle.  The thoughts come of the 50 million things I should do today, but the rustle gets louder.  STAY IN THE MOMENT, Dee!

Turn it over to my Higher Power who will do the driving today and take me to where I need to go and who I need to see.  Aaahhh.  It’ll be a piece of cake!  But you need to finish and send out the Christmas cookies.  Ssshhh, Dee.  Hear the leaves.

Hope this article helps you when you’re wigging out with holiday stress.  Just remember to breathe, be grateful, and turn it over.  Everything is perfect at this moment.  Do your best and be at peace with your achievements.  Love yourself.  Nurture yourself.  Appreciate yourself!

Mele Kalikimaka with warmest Aloha,

Dee Harris

For those interested in Art with a Message of JUST BREATHE and CHILL, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  Mahalo and enjoy!

With some planning and awareness, you can recapture the magic of the holidays. Understanding some of the science of stress and increasing your ability to pay attention to your body will help you to find peace, joy, and better health throughout the holiday season! 

*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center’s Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program. 

Give your body, mind, and spirit a fresh start—and commit to healthier habits—at Perfect Health, our intimate wellness retreat customized just for you. Learn More. (https://www.chopra.com/live-events/perfect-health- program).

About the Author 

Jennifer Weinberg (/bios/jennifer-weinberg) Preventive and Lifestyle Medicine Physician and Author 

Dr. Jennifer Weinberg, MD, MPH, MBE is a preventive and lifestyle medicine physician, author, corporate wellness specialist, blogger, and the founder of the Simple | Pure | Whole Wellness Method. (http://www.jenniferweinbergmd.com/) Weinberg offers innovative online wellness and education programs for individuals looking for sustainable optimal health as well as health care providers seeking health communications support and corporations wanting to integrate a comprehensive approach to corporate wellness. Get a free preview (http://bit.ly/PQNnH0) of her best-selling stress management guide 

… Read more (/bios/jennifer-weinberg) 

The Chopra Center

Advice for Grinches: How to Avoid the Holiday Funk 

Dee:  This blog was inspired by the Chopra Center’s                                                       “Advice for Grinches: How to Avoid the Holiday Funk”

Dee Grinch 12:7:18

Advice for Grinches: How to Avoid the Holiday Funk 

By Sara Schairer 

The holidays are here, and they bring with them an abundance of twinkle lights, parties, cookies, and joy. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right? 

Yes. For some lucky people. 

Perhaps this line from the Dr. Seuss’ book, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, is a more accurate depiction of how you feel about Christmas: “Hate, hate, hate. Hate, hate, hate. Double Hate. LOATHE ENTIRELY!”  The Grinch’s comments refer to his feelings for the Whos, and it quite accurately describes his feeling about the holidays. 

Do you have an inner-Grinch who comes out this time of year? 

Despite the festivities, the holidays bring sadness for many. Feelings of grief and loneliness may rise to the surface. For me, this time of year reminds me of the loss I’ve experienced over the years. I miss my deceased father every holiday season, and I feel sadness about my failed marriage. 

Dee:

A bit of sadness surfaces for me as well as our home is no longer filled with excited-for-Christmas children.  But I still hang lights inside and outside the house.  I put up a small  tree for my husband and me.  I hang stockings.  I send out Christmas cards with a short year-in-brief note.  I bake cookies.  

I do this for ME!  It gives my heart joy.  No sadness necessary for wonderful past memories.  I must stay in the moment and be grateful for them and this moment present in front of my nose.  I lack for nothing.  I am grateful.  I am humble.

But you don’t have to stay stuck in sadness during the holiday sadness. Here are some simple tips to help you stay less Grinch-y and more positive this holiday season. 

1. Self-Compassion 

Self-compassion meditations and simple practices can help you gracefully navigate sadness and grief. By remembering the three main pillars of self-compassion (mindfulness, common humanity, self-kindness), you can stay attuned to your suffering with more grace and ease. 

Dee:

For me self-compassion and meditations both bring me back to this present moment.  In this present moment I don’t have to pick up a drink or drug.  That wasn’t always the case.  I would be hanging up Christmas lights in a snow storm on a metal ladder.  Year after year.  Stupid.  Drunk.  I would bake cookies, wrap gifts and decorate the inside of the house to all hours of the night.  Year after year.  Drunk.  High.  I would black out and then pass out while opening gifts.  Sick.  Sad.

No more.  Today I have a choice to not pick up a drink or a drug.  For that and Alcoholics Anonymous I am truly grateful and truly humble.  I can practice self-compassion and love myself for who and what I am…today…one day at a time.

2. Gratitude 

Research indicates that a daily or weekly gratitude practice enhances overall well-being, and a simple gratitude practice can take just five minutes or less of your time each day. 

At the end of the day, write down three things for which you are grateful. Instead of the normal responses like my health and family, ratchet up the practice by looking back on your day and picking out specific highlights. For example, you could write, “I am grateful for the lunch and laughs I shared with my co-workers. We ate outside and enjoyed the crisp air and sunshine.” 

Dee:

I start my day and end my day in bed, duh.  Before getting out of bed to face the day I turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understand God, a God of My Own Understanding to whom I was introduced working the 12 Steps of AA.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am not promoting AA.  I am promoting YOU and your well-being.  There are many support groups in your neck of the woods that can help walk you through whatever ails you.  AA was introduced to me in rehab and they loved me until I could love myself.  Find your tribe!

Before falling asleep I again deeply connect with my Higher Power so thankful for his driving me around throughout the day while I enjoyed the passenger seat.  I got to meet new people, experience new adventures, all without having to be in control or affect the outcome.  Everything turned out perfectly!

3. Cultivate Joy 

The human brain focuses on the negative, which means you need to intentionally cultivate more positivity in your life. It’s referred to as the brain’s negativity bias and research suggests that you need a three-to-one ratio of positive feelings to negative feelings in order to flourish. 

Dee:

It seems like the older I get the harder it is to muster up any energy.  So when I do scoop up a pile or two of energy, I choose to use it in a positive way.  I remember how exhausting it was to live a life in active alcoholism, having to drink everyday, but more exhausting was the guilt, shame, hiding, lying and cheating.  That negative shit took all the energy I had and I had nothing left for me, let alone joy.

One way to add more positivity is through self-affirmation. Take time each day to think of things you appreciate about yourself. A gratitude practice also infuses your day with positivity. 

Dee:

One thing we did in rehab was to make up an affirmation and recite it to the group every morning for 28 days.  I chose, “I am a good person.  I am a whole person.”  At that time in my life I felt anything but good nor whole.  I was a piece of shit wasting space on the planet with no purpose.

But reciting this affirmation has helped me tremendously to get back in the moment, to remember where I am today and how I got here.  As I peeled the layers of the onion skin off of myself I realized that I do, indeed, have a purpose.  To share my experience, strength and hope with those who enter my Dee Bubble.  Those who are going through tough times, whether from addictions, abuses, or just too much on their plates.

Today I am able to use my tough times to help me stay grounded, grateful and humble.  I needed those tough times to bring me to this calmness and lightness in my life.  So I share with you that you are not alone on your journey.  And that everything is perfect right now.  Just go in faith and not fear.  Live from your heart and not your head.

4. Minimize Social Media Consumption 

If you’re regularly (obsessively?) checking your Facebook and Instagram feeds, try to bring awareness to how you’re feeling. Do you notice sadness, uneasiness, or any tightness? Your mind might be comparing your life to the lives you see online. Since most people only highlight their best moments on social media, you are most likely not getting the full picture of someone’s life. Comparing your normal, flawed life to one that appears to be perfect is a recipe for sadness. 

Try putting your phone down more often and staying off of social media. Notice if any of your feelings shift. 

Dee:

I use social media mostly to promote my business.  But getting on Facebook or Instagram draws me in to life outside my Bubble.  I experience everyone’s journeys and get to be a part of.  I get joy from these long-distance interactions.

I no longer need to compare my journey with yours as I know now that we are all alike with both good times and hard times.  I finally feel good enough in my own skin that I don’t need to impress you.  I have my own gifts as you have yours.  And sharing our gifts with one another makes the world a better place.

5. Find a Holiday Accountability Buddy 

Do you know someone else who has experienced loss or has a tough time during the holidays? If so, reach out to that person and see if you can lean on each other every day. Send this person a quick text once a day to check in, and he or she can do the same for you. 

You might want to use this accountability as a way to start or enhance your daily gratitude practice. 

Dee:

In AA it was suggested I get a sponsor, someone I trust, with whom I can share my journey and who could walk me through the 12 Steps of AA.  So I did and she has helped me to grow in ways far beyond my wildest dreams.  She is my accountability buddy, not just during the holidays, but everyday!

And when she is unavailable I have the fellowship of AA to nurture, protect and teach me.  I am never alone, nor are YOU!  Find like-minded people for your tribe to help you through the holidays and to enrich your life.

6. Take Deep Breaths 

If a formal meditation practice isn’t your style, you can experiment with a brief breathing practice to help you bring awareness to the moment and calm yourself. Research shows that by taking a big, slow, deep inhale, and then exhaling slowly, you can calm your body’s response to stress. 

Dee:

We all experience holding our breath in that fight or flight situation.  But why am I not taking deep breaths in calm situations?  If you’re like me it takes getting back in the moment, knowing we are being cared for and protected, getting out of self that brings by breathing back into a healthy rhythm.  It takes practice but I hope someday to breathe deeply naturally.

7. Practice Generosity 

While it is said that, “it is better to give than to receive,” you might not feel this around the holidays. The added expenses, packed stores, and overall stress that comes with holiday gift-giving might make you feel like giving is not the best way to get out of your Grinch-y attitude. 

True, heartfelt generosity doesn’t equate to stress, however. You can be generous with your time, your hugs, your smile, and your listening ear. If you do have extra funds, you can support nonprofits who might rely on end-of- year giving to support their work. 

Dee:

I learned early on in my recovery that unless I give it back, I won’t keep it.  And I found that to be true when I got complacent in my sobriety, stopped going to meetings, stopped AA altogether and found my defects of character, my old sick way of being and doing and thinking come back…one day at a time.  And then I drank.

I cannot afford to let down my guard.  My disease of alcoholism deserves the respect I give to the ocean.  I am careful.  I don’t turn my back on it.  I must take nothing for granted.

So I give back.  This time of year especially and year-round as well I give my Art with a Message of Hope and Inspiration to local fundraisers, especially to AA.  I give a portion of my earnings all year-round to our local AA, which gets doled out to the district, the area, and the world.  If I don’t give it away, I can’t keep it.  Today my life is good.  I want to keep it that way!

8. Volunteer 

Speaking of nonprofits, many of them can use an extra hand during the holidays. The need for many services may increases during the winter months. Find a nonprofit in your community that needs help and spend some time serving your community. 

Because of your compassionate feelings, you just might feel a boost. 

Dee:

One volunteer commitment that is sure to give me that boost is speaking once or twice a month at our local DUI classes.  I do this not as community service but as a service to my community.  My hope is that one person will leave the class feeling hopeful and optimistic by hearing my experience, strength and hope.  Hopefully, I can change a life for the better.

And with the holidays just around the corner, what a hard time to try to get and stay clean and sober.  So I’ve volunteered to lead one of the 24-Hour Alkathons that the newcomer or person struggling can attend non-stop from Christmas Eve through Christmas Day.

These volunteer commitments get me out of self.  They help to remind me where I’ve come from and how good it is today.  They help me to not drink one day at a time and to give back what was so freely given me when I needed it most – compassion.

Thank you for being here and I hope I was able to offer you some hope and optimism.  Wishing you the happiest of holidays and, if you feel overwhelmed, know that you are not alone.  Help is just a phone call away.

With warmest aloha, Dee Harris

For those looking for Gifts with a Message of Hope and Optimism, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com.  Mahalo and enjoy!

Try out some of these techniques and send your inner Grinch into hibernation this winter. 

Learn a natural, effortless style of meditation that helps invite renewal and freshness into every day with Basics of Meditation, a self-paced online course guided by Deepak Chopra.

About the Author 

Sara Schairer (/bios/sara-schairer) 

Sara Schairer is the founder and executive director of COMPASSION IT (http://compassionit.com/), a start-up nonprofit organization and global social movement whose mission is to inspire daily compassionate actions and attitudes. She created the one-of-a-kind reversible COMPASSION IT wristband (http://compassionit.com/wristbands/) prompting compassionate actions on six continents, 48 countries, and all 50 states. Wristband sales fund compassion education programs for youth, teens, and adults. As a public speaker, Sara encourages her audiences to “compassion it” in their daily lives. A Stanford-certified instructor of Compassion Cultivation… Read more (/bios/sara-schairer) 

The Chopra Center