from St. Helena Star

Doug Ernst, publisher for the St. Helena Star, included this item in the Thursday, November 20, 2008 edition. He wrote:
When I think of the “holiday season” I think about Christmases past and begin to worry about relatives and finances. My palms get sweaty. I start to come unglued.
In a recent seminar sponsored by St. Helena Hospital and Nimbus Arts, Arlene Taylor Ph.D. explained it like this: About 20% of what causes holiday stress is real and be avoided to some extent. Another 80% of the stress is imagined and can be totally eliminated with a few mental exercises.
Dr. Taylor is my new hero. Because of her seminar I am going to try her top five tips:
1.     Pre-plan your expectations. Agree to do some things, but not all things. “We choose our joys and sorrows long before we experience them,” she quoted a famous person as saying. In other words, accept holiday experiences that you think will cause joy but reject those that you think will cause sorrow. Dysfunctional relatives, for example, I can simply avoid.
2.    During trauma, shift gears.  Don’t waste time arguing with people who have different points of view. Instead, think of something funny. Laugh it off. “Well, I guess we don’t have the same opinion,” I will say, laughing all the way, ho, ho, ho.
3.    Breathe and meditate. Transferring oxygen to the brain can be done anywhere, anytime. Breathe in through your nose, count to four. Hold your breath, count to four. Exhale through pursed lips, count to eight. Think only about your breathing. Ignore all other thoughts. This holiday season I will repeat this exercise until I am calmed down.
4.    Recognize your emotions. Realize that spending money you don’t have causes you to feel sad or scared, but the emotion has nothing to do with the people on your Christmas list. Realize that packing the kids and represents for the long ride to the relatives may cause you to feel pressured but that it has nothing to do with the people you are visiting. Realize that some relatives may bring back memories of past stressful holidays events that have nothing to do with the present moment. IF I start to overreact this holiday season, I will stop, breathe, observe to see whether the reaction is due to a real event or an imagined one, and evaluate my emotional state.
5.    Stay balanced. Exhaustion will lead to depression. On the other hand, sleep will reduce stress. SO will relaxation, drinking lots of water, daily exercise, nutritious food, humor, a positive attitude and nurturing relationships. I will help myself regain balance by replacing stressful situations with healthful situations. I will balance my needs with those of my friends, family and fellow workers during the holiday season.
Thanks for reading.