Monday, December 1, 2008

De-Stress the Holidays By Making It About One Thing

Nearly everyone says the holidays are stressful and even depressing for some. We all wish they went a different way. Well, think about it for a moment. What is the polar opposite of stress?

The answer, of course, is peace. What a revelation, since peace is exactly what the holidays are supposed to celebrate.

Well, there it is: the solution to holiday stress. Make the holidays all about what it is supposed to be about. Make it about one thing: being at peace and nothing else. Make peace the most important thing you do every day.

Fortunately, peace couldn’t be simpler. Here’s what you need to remember about peace and what to do to turn peace into a dynamic attitude.

1. Peace is quiet, so start each day this season in quiet. First thing each morning, practice setting a peaceful day in motion. Close your eyes or take a downward gaze. Tilt your head toward your heart. Follow your breathing. Feel each breath softening your heart and opening it wider. Feel appreciation for the gift of another day of life. Set your intention to have a great day, filled with achieving things, feeling peaceful inside, regardless of what is happening outside.
2. Peace is spiritual, so take spiritual breaks. During the day, every couple of hours look out the window for a minute or so and let your mind go completely. Observe what the sky is doing. Watch the wind blow, the sun shine, or the snow fall. Allow yourself to feel connected to life.

3. Peace is grateful. So, once a week, before going to sleep, count your blessings. Name three things that happened this week for which you are grateful. Then name three aspects of your life, generally, for which you feel blessed.

4. Peace is spacious. Every now and then, take a time-out, close your eyes and talk to your mind like this: Please, mind, go a little slower. Don’t be so nervous. Open a little
wider. Think less, love more and believe this: Everything is going to be alright.

Then go out into the world and smell the roses (or the holly). Hug the people you love. Watch children play. Play closer attention to this moment,right here, right now and let life surprise you.
5. Peace is forgiving. 100 per cent. So forgive everyone and every bad thing that has happened, is happening now, and is sure to happen again. Forgive the past so completely that you hardly see the past any more.
6. Peace is intelligent. It finds the middle path, the place of balance, where you don’t eat too much or spend too much or withhold too much. Where you don’t overdo much of anything. Also, peace is not a doormat. Equally, it is smart enough not to stand in harm’s way. So if someone or some situation is abusive or stupid or dangerous, remove yourself.
7. Peace is secure within. So don’t worry about anything. Make it a pledge that during the holidays you will practice not worrying.
8. Peace does not judge, so judge nothing that occurs. Don't judge yourself when you slip up, become stressed and maybe even behave badly. Let it go and choose peace all over again. The same goes for other people's nonsense. Enjoy the dance of life on Earth and don’t judge any of it. Life isn’t supposed to make sense; neither is love. It’s all a mystery. Just listen and feel and see with such empathy that it no longer occurs to you to condemn any part of what you are hearing or feeling or seeing.
9. Peace is adaptable. If you are not at peace and peace of mind feels a thousand miles away, use the back door. Be at peace with your non-peace.
10. Peace is faith. So have faith. There is no degree of stress in any situation that faith cannot remove. Often the problem in life is not the situation we face but the lack of faith with which we face it.
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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The End of Worry

These days, with the economy tanking, the internet is full of stress busting lists that suggest everything from breathing slowly to jump-starting a time management strategy to rewarding yourself in some way at the end of a stressful day. These are good ideas but they miss the crucial point that, biologically, stress is fear. If we want to end stress we need to get to its source, which is fear in whatever form it takes. Stress is a brain wired for survival that chronically perceives threats, even in the smallest matter. It’s called fight or flight. Most of the time, fight or flight begins with fearful thinking that generates negative emotions that together create the perception of a threatening world. When these reactions are intense they send the body into an uproar. Forty per cent of us are wired this way to a great degree; often more than we realize. Another forty percent are wired to a lesser degree.

The good news is: we can change the way our brain is wired. It takes a change of mind that generates the opposite experience of stress, which is peace. There are lots of ways to be at peace. I provide a list below. Applying just one of these attributes fully is all that’s needed to achieve a significant change in your level of stress.Recently, my friend, Martha, was asked by her mother-in-law to drive a neighbor to a doctor’s appointment. “She is very elderly,” her mother-in-law said. Martha was surprised to find that the woman was not as elderly as she expected. She looked to be in her mid to late seventies. “Do you mind my asking how old you are?” Martha asked on the drive to the doctor. “Ninety-three,” the woman answered. Martha was astonished. “You look so much younger,” she said. “What’s your secret?” “Twenty-three years ago,” she answered, “I made the decision to stop worrying. I have not wasted a moment on worry since.” As a result, biologically she is younger than her chronological age. On top of that, she has greater access, neurologically to creative and emotional intelligence because her brain is not toxic with stress hormones. Who does not want that?

Read the attributes of a dynamically peaceful attitude, listed below, and practice one for a week. See what happens to your brain.


  • Unafraid
  • Unhurried
  • Free of worry
  • Self-confident
  • A calm, clear sense of our own personal power and the integrity to assert our power without overpowering others
  • Open-minded, receptive, and accepting
  • A curiosity that is fully present
  • Faith in the face of adversity
  • Trust in the process
  • Joy in a challenge
  • A kind and empathic heart