Editor’s Note – New Website / Domain name – Due to my recent divorce, my branding will be Lori Finlay. PLEASE keep your eyes out to accept Lori@LoriFinlay.com as my new address to receive emails. My new website will be launched in early 2023 after I get situated in my new place.
Greetings from Winter Wonderland of the beautiful Salt Lake City! It’s quite chilly, but oh, the music, the lights, the laughter, the love, and the hugs!! I hope you’re enjoying lots of joy and festivities, whether Yuletide, Hanukkah, or Kwanza.
Last week I shared about ways to optimize your sleep during this busy time of year. Today I am sharing some tips to help you turn Yuletide Crazy into Yuletide Cool.
You know that when we are tired, rushed, over-scheduled, sleep deprived that it’s much easier to get cranky, especially if we are at a big gathering with some people who have triggered you in the past. We have all been there, right? In an earlier post, I went into detail about the Serenity Prayer. In addition to this powerful tool, below are a few more of my favorite tips I have learned over the years that help me respond with mindfulness vs. reflexively reacting and bring me back to enjoying the true holiday spirit.
Timeless Stress Hacking Tips
I have found for myself one of the greatest gifts of meditation is that I get to create my day and have a dress rehearsal, if you will, of who I’m going to be in various situations. I can rehearse who I will be when a stressed shopper cuts in line, who I will be if a crazy driver cuts me off, and who I will be if a family member makes a snarky comment – to anyone. If I start my day with meditation, I can rehearse in my mind what I want to create, how I want to respond, and who I want to be.
At the end of my day, I can meditate and review my day. Was I responsive or reactive? Then I celebrate my wins, even the smallest ones. I can also see where I can uplevel my Yuletide cool plan and make plans for a better day tomorrow.
If I’m just too pooped to do this mindful evaluation, then I can at least use a simple app. My favorite is the Small Seed Still app.
Flipping the Switch
You’ve heard for years about your fight or flight nervous system that can get triggered during high-stress or demanding times.
The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) is divided into two parts. The Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS), aka our Survival / Stressed out Nervous System, and ParaSympathetic Nervous System (PSNS) – “Pretty Safe Nervous System”. As I’ve mentioned in the past, the risk of repeatedly triggering your SNS is the impact on hormonal balance and a cascade of nasty effects on every system in the body.
Like turning off a light switch, you can literally “flip the switch” and turn on the SNS before you make a knee-jerk reflexive, reactive response. The simplest and fastest way to Flip the Switch is with diaphragmatic breathing.
First thing in the am, I apply high-grade essential oils to my body and turn on my diffusers. Of course, adding yummy, healthy scents to a home can bring joy and Yuletide spirit, but they can also calm your nervous system, too.
A simple stress-hacking recipe that I use is with Lime and Clove oil.
Take one drop of each oil and apply it to the palm of your hand. Then combine them in a clockwise direction. Then apply the oils down your vagus nerve, right under your ear lobe, on both sides of your neck.
This little hack can quickly switch OFF your SNS and turn ON your PSNS. I have measured my HRV (Heart Rate Variability- which is an indicator of PSNS activity) after the oils and have seen my score rise by even 10 points. That’s a big deal! I keep these oils on my desk and apply them during the day too.
When I was in graduate school over three decades ago, music therapy was a burgeoning field of study. Now, there are thousands of articles outlining the benefits of music to support the body in many ways. One important effect of music is the ability to enhance PSNS stimulation.
The experts at Music Health summarize some important information.
The vagus nerve is in close proximity to the ear, through which we hear sound and music. When we listen to music, the vibrations of the sound resonate in the eardrums before traveling through the vagus nerve. Since the vagus nerve is associated with important physical functions like heart rate, taste, swallowing, and digestion, it’s closely related to the “rest and digest” PNS. When the vagus nerve is activated, it stimulates the PNS and sends a signal that it’s time to relax.
When you apply the right music for your mind, you’re really choosing music that resonates in the vagus nerve to trigger a parasympathetic response that soothes the body into a calmer state. This is how the vibrations of sound can soothe your physical body, which in turn soothes the mind.
While listening to music is great, you can also stimulate the vagus nerve by making your own music. Think of those “om” meditations you do in yoga class – have you ever wondered why they’re used in the practice? The larynx, or voice box, is connected to the vagus nerve. When you sing, hum, or say “om,” you activate the nerve. If you’re in a pinch and need to calm yourself down, try humming – you’ll likely notice that your heart rate slows and you feel more relaxed. Humming also forces you to control your breathing, which is linked to the vagus nerve. In combination with controlled breathes, activating your vagus nerve will have you closer to zen in no time.
Lots of Laughter
In 1990, Bernie Siegel, MD, a renowned surgeon, released his book entitled Humor and Healing. We learned of the critical importance of incorporating humor into our daily lives to improve our physiology. Humor not only improves the immune system, but it also turns down stress hormones.
During this holiday season, perhaps you can take some time to play a funny game with little kids or gather around the big screen and watch a funny movie.
A few of my favorites are
Now, if you’re looking for more ideas, here’s a link to family-friendly (my speed) movies you may enjoy. For those of you who may want additional ideas, here’s a link to a broader range of humorous holiday movies.
Sit back, grab your healthy low-carb, no-sugar snacks and laugh your head off!!
Wishing you a joyous holiday!
I hope these tips will support you in hacking the Yuletide stress and leave you Cool and Calm. I will be with my family watching fun movies by the fire, making snowmen, singing carols, and sharing all kinds of memory-making moments. Here’s to your beautiful holidays for you and yours, too!