I recently read this blog post by Elaine Merryfield and had to share it with you (with her permission, of course). Elaine has fibromyalgia herself and specializes in helping people learn how to live well with fibromyalgia. Elaine also helps people learn how to reduce their stress.
Elaine and I share similar philosophies about how fibromyalgia has been a blessing, not a curse, in our own lives.
If you’re looking for someone to help you learn some great stress management techniques, see Elaine. If you need someone to keep you accountable for doing the exercises Elaine teaches, see me. =)
Offering Some Calming Cues for the Holidays
Guest post by: Elaine Merryfield
Navigating Life with Fibromyalgia
Yikes — our big end of the year holidays are now right around the corner. This is when many of us feel we must attempt to do it all AND do it all perfectly!
I view this approach to the holidays as a microcosm of our struggles with stress throughout the rest of the year. Our stress during the holiday season is just amplified by all the expectations we place upon ourselves to make these few condensed days into something perfect.
Unreasonable expectations for ourselves? Yes, definitely — many of us already have a myriad of other commitments on our plate in addition to the seasonal holiday planning, preparation, and execution.
So I am offering three tips that are just a taste of the many which can be applied to relieving stress both now and at other times of the year.
To Begin… Unwind & Relax
Consciously take a few moments each day to unwind and practice some form of deep relaxation to allow the body to release held stress.
- It can be as simple as pausing to take 3-4 deep breaths whenever you are waiting in line anywhere, sitting at stoplights, logging onto the computer, or when transitioning from one task to the next.
- Periodically, whenever you are seated, try releasing some held body tension by quietly scanning your body from head to toe — noticing where there may be any areas of tightness, then sending your next 2-3 deep breaths right to that area — while, in your mind’s eye, encouraging the muscles to let go and let down just a little as you imagine this tension melting and flowing out from your body on your out breaths.
- Find about 20 minutes to allow yourself to passively unwind a bit (can be a very nice treat at end of day as you prepare for sleep) by listening to some guided imagery. One of my favorites is a CD by Belleruth Naparstek, Ohio LISW, entitled Relaxation and Wellness. Her website is www.healthjourneys.com. Her materials are also available in Portland, Oregon, at New Renaissance Bookstore AND you can access a podcast of this CD for free through Kaiser Permanente. Enjoy!
Second… Consider simplifying some this year
To do this — first reconnect with yourself and the meaning of these holidays to you personally. Then it will be easier to identify what your true personal priorities are, ie., what to keep and what to let go… and what to experiment with by modifying.
Start by listing your usual rituals and customs (sending cards, decorating inside / outside the house, special baking projects, cooking special meals, gift buying, wrapping and mailing… just to name a few!) as well as the likely increase in social obligations (either attending others’ functions or entertaining in your own home) and decide which of these truly hold the most meaning for you (and immediate family members).
Don’t be afraid of changing things to better fit your life as it is this year. Be realistic about what else is presently on your plate. And please be realistic about your resources both in physical energy and financially. Why over extend yourself at a time when the point is to celebrate “the heart stuff in life” with each other? Why set yourself up for amplified stress by possibly creating an aftermath of physical exhaustion and financial overspending?
Keep the customs that you enjoy participating in the most and let the others go this year, modify them, and/or ask for help more often from other family members. You can always readjust again next year…nothing is carved in stone.
I encourage you to explore doing the holidays in just a bit different way than your usual this year — experiment and see if you can come thru this holiday season feeling that your heart is more satisfied and the rest of you is less frazzled.
Third… Be Present
Practice being really present in both mind and body for some of the rituals and customs you do choose to keep this year.
For example, when baking or preparing one of your favorite holiday dishes — instead of trying to multitask while doing it and thinking of a dozen other things you want to do next… SLOW DOWN and really enjoy the experience, or as the neuropsychologist Rick Hanson suggests — “take time to take in the good.”
This means savoring the aromas, sights, tastes, and textures of the ingredients you are adding to your special dish. Slow down, take a couple of deep breaths, and then open up to experiencing this activity thru your senses. Also be aware of the various sensations in your body as you move it about intentionally to measure, pour, stir, etc …and finally taste. Yum!
This is one simple example of cultivating more mindful awareness in your day—which means simply being more fully present in both your mind and body for what is happening in your life as it is happening…ie., letting go of distractions for a few moments. This is one example of a stress relieving approach which brings the mind and body together in mutual focus for a few moments and is restful for both.
The above are my offerings for your consideration as we begin this holiday season. I hope you will extend more self kindness and a little more ease into your holiday celebrations this year. I hope you will leave more space for relaxing moments spent in really “being” together with friends and family. And I hope you will come out at the other end of the holiday season with your heart feeling more full—from the moments spent on what is most personally meaningful to you at this time of year. Happy Holidays to you and your loved ones!
Elaine would love to answer your questions and help you alleviate your stress concerns at any time during the year. To reach her, please call (503) 972-8272 or email her. You can read more about her fibromyalgia story and see what she has to offer on her website.