It's the most stressfulest time of the year...

The holidays are full of fun, festivities, family... and yes, stress. Ever wish you could just calm down, cozy up and enjoy the ride without getting caught in the angst?

There are concrete steps we can take to tame the beasties of stress. And it all begins with a basic understanding of the human nervous system -  that's the key to grasping how stress works. 

You see, when the nervous system perceives a stressor (like say, 24 gifts to buy in 48 hours), it "hijacks" the brain. It takes the controls away from the prefrontal cortex - that lovely lobe at the front of your brain responsible for curiosity, creativity, empathy and logic. And it puts the amygdala, or "Lizard Brain" into the pilot's seat. That's the emergency responder part of our brain, developed way back in the days of our reptilian ancestors. And we need it to deal with immediate and temporary emergencies - like being caught in a burning building or chased by a hungry tiger.

Unfortunately, our Lizard Brain is not so great at stepping back, seeing the full picture, and figuring out how to diplomatically tell your 15 relatives from out of town that you can't fit them all on your pullout sofa for holidays. The Lizard Brain only knows how to lash outrun awayshut down, or submit to unreasonable demands. And once it takes up residence in the pilot's seat of your cranium, it does not like to give up the controls.

So how do we get out of Lizard Brain mode and gain back our resourceful thinking, creative problem solving, and clarity - so that we can make conscious choices and actually enjoy the dang holidays?

six key steps that will shift your brain from chaos to clarity

In the first foundational coaching session that I do with new clients, I teach them how to: 

  1. Notice your state. Learn the physiological clues that your nervous system has been activated.
  2. Establish safety. Develop strategies for hitting the pause button on stressors.
  3. Reset the brain. Practice mindfulness and body-based techniques that interrupt the panic spiral.
  4. Practice self-empathy. Uncover your feelings and needs.
  5. Set boundaries. Get clear about what you will and won't accept.
  6. Take action. Create a game plan to consciously address your needs.

try this now:

Acknowledging feelings and needs is one of the most powerful pathways toward transforming anxiety.

 Which 3 feelings are most present for you right now?

  • Afraid
  • Frustrated
  • Confused
  • Anxious
  • Angry
  • Ashamed
  • Depleted
  • Hurt
  • Vulnerable
  • Sad
  • Numb
  • Comfortable
  • Optimistic
  • Excited
  • Curious
  • Appreciative
  • Caring
  • Moved
  • Happy
  • Expectant
  • Surprised
  • Relieved

 

Which of these needs calls out to you the loudest right now?

  • Comfort
  • Spontaneity
  • Respect
  • Connection
  • Compassion
  • Meaning

Now, what is one thing you can do today to address your top need?

What person, place or activity in your life nurtures your need for ______ ?
When will you connect with that person, place or activity? Make a plan.

What do you notice?

Go back to your top three feelings. Has anything shifted? What is the intensity level of your stress now versus when you began this exercise? Take a moment to sit with what's present now.

what's next?

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