5 Tips for Overcoming The-End-of-Holiday-Blues

  Happy New Year! If you are anything like me, no matter how much you were looking forward to the new year, there's always a bit of blues that comes with saying goodbye to another holiday season.  Life returning to "normal" sounds so good, and yet, is so uncomfortable-- and if I'm totally honest, a bit depressing. Over the years I've come up with some tried and true strategies and routines that help me combat those end-of-holiday-blues. Here's my top 5: 1. Do something to celebrate the putting away of holiday decor. We all have great memories of putting out the holiday decorations, right? Music, warm drinks, family, making our homes feel cozy.  Well, do something like this to celebrate the putting away of the same decorations.  Plan a special dinner. Listen to some favorite tunes.  Watch your favorite non-holiday movie.  Doesn't matter what it is, just something that makes you feel good that your house it back to normal and helps you look forward to that day each year. 2. Plan at least one vacation When I had my first job out of college, we went from Christmas until Memorial Day without another paid day off.  Ugh, it was always so depressing to look at the calendar 6 months out and not see any time off.  Instead, use January as a time to set up some vacation time for yourself.  Even if it's as simple as adding a mental health day to your schedule, or planning a weekend get away, or noting when a movie you are excited to see is coming out {Catching Fire expected release date: 11/22/13}.  It doesn't matter what it is, or how simple it is, just get somethings on the calendar that you are looking forward to-- before Memorial Day! 3. Pick a (or many) random holiday(s) to celebrate Between January and March there are all kinds of "random" events that make perfect holiday's to celebrate.  The super bowl, Valentine's day, President's day, St. Patty's Day are all great excuses to plan a dinner party, happy hour, game night, or pot luck. You don't have be super into the particular holiday-- it just gives ya a reason to do something fun with the people you care about. (I couldn't tell you who has played in, or won, the super bowl the last 5 years but I know which chili recipe I can't wait to have again on 2/3/13!) 4. Reflect over your past year & Name it There's a reason that resolutions are tied to the new year.  Reflecting back over our past year is a very nice way to remember both the good and the not so good we've been through, remember how far we've come, give thanks for the successes we've had, while getting clearer about what we want going forward.  One of my favorite ways to do this is by naming the past year.  Some sort of funny endearing name that will help you reflect back on your year with humor and appreciation while at the same time reminding yourself it is over. For me, 2012 is the year of "Fear."  2011 was the year of "Relaxation for Dummies."  You get the point. 5. Make positive inner-peace focused resolutions We've all done the whole "I will go to the gym 14 times a week and not eat a carb for 6 months" type of resolution in the past.  And how does that usually work out for ya?  Instead, focus on what you'd like to feel, experience, understand, foster within yourself when setting resolutions.   Take some time, sit down, and really think about how you felt last year, how you feel now, and want to feel next year.  Don't worry about what you want to do-- that will come if you start by focusing on, and getting clear about, how you want to feel.  Then, each day when making decisions, you can ask yourself, "Will _______ help me feel how I want to feel?"  I think you'll find it's a whole new way of going about the old resolution game.

Savvy Self-Esteem Lessons via Me

Pinterest   Did you ever have one of those years?  You know, the kind that test you, push you to your limits, make ya question everything and just leave ya feelin’ like you’ve been hit by a bus?  Well, that was my 2012.  As it’s {finally} coming to a close, and I am doing my usual reflect back on the year routine, I have to say- turns out, I am grateful for every single bit of it. Every. Single. Bit. Seriously. As hard as every obstacle has been.  As painful, and scary, and overwhelming that parts of this year have been, when I look back at these times now, I see…. growth. What I found most interesting, and inspired this post, was rereading something I wrote back in March (back when I thought messing up on my taxes, having our car explode/quit running, and our pug needing emergency surgery was as bad as the year could get- Oh SO naive I was).  I was contacted by one of my favorite bloggers, Jennifer Boykin, and asked to submit my response to the question: With respect to your Big Dream, how have you learned to move past your fear and just “go for it?” Here’s what I wrote: I’ve learned to look forward to the fear.  Sounds a little backwards, I know, but stick with me here.  Fear is actually our body’s way of loving us.  Our body uses fear to alert us of potential danger in an effort to keep us safe, both physically and emotionally.  It’s sort of like having our very own watch guard saying, “Hey, did ya see that iceberg?!” Whether we’re trying to do something new, or we fancy something special (like our Big Dream), fear, or our personal watch guard, will inevitably show up to point out any “icebergs” we may encounter.   Fear does not show up because what we are seeking is dangerous, but because the act of moving out of our comfort zone, into something new, puts our watch guards on high alert. When we approach fear from this viewpoint, fear looses all power over us, as fear then becomes our mile marker, or a way of detecting if we’ve pushed ourselves to new places.  No fear means, no movement, no risk of loss, and no new terrain.  So, as I go after my “Big Dream” I celebrate the moments I feel fear, I listen what they are saying to me, and I look to them as a compass that I’m on the right track.  What I realized tonight is that I actually had a year of fear!  2012 pushed me out of my comfort zone, into new terrain, every single chance it got.  It all happened so intensely, so close together, in so many areas of my life that I never had the chance to stop and realize it was fear- I was too busy hanging on for dear life!  So, I never surrendered to it; I couldn’t see it as a compass, or something new, or as growth, and instead I fought it every step of the way. I share all of this with you in hopes of encouraging you to redefine Self-Esteem, struggle and fear, for yourself.  Self-Esteem is not some unattainable, illusive, all good and never bad thing that we need to judge ourselves by.  It’s the exact opposite.  Self-Esteem is loving, caring, paying attention to, becoming aware of ourselves, what makes us tick, and what we are experiencing. I do this for a living.  Literally, I help people navigate the waters of their own fears and build a strong, authentic, congruent core-self daily, and yet this year I was the student.  I needed support, compassion, help, guidance, and new perspectives to get me through this period of time, and change in my life.  Giving myself this– showing myself compassion and listening to what I needed– is the only reason I am here writing this post.  Seeing my growth.  Celebrating the struggles I’ve been through.  Feeling stronger than ever before. And struggle/fear?  Well, they are just growth disguised.  They are how we know we are growing, changing, moving past our comfort zone.  If we get caught up in judging ourselves for what is happening, or defining these event as our Self-Worth, we miss the lesson, we miss the growth, we fumble the opportunity. It’s not about what is happening to us- it’s what we choose to call it that determines how it will effect us. Better things are coming!!!!!    

Relaxation Technique & Free MP3 Download

Here it is!  Finally the free MP3 download of my favorite relaxation technique! The video is just a quick instructional video that I use to go over the details of this technique, why it’s so great, and what “tapping” is.  Watch the video once to get the idea, and then simply use this MP3 download any time you’d like to experience this technique. Relaxation Technique MP3 PC users, Right Click to download link.                                                                                                  Mac users, Ctrl + click on link, then select Save Link As Enjoy!

Modern Day Journaling

The 5th tool I’d like to share from my toolbox is a new version of an old standby…. Journaling. Journaling is an important self care tool because it is a great way to 1. Keep track of your thoughts and feelings 2. Discover patterns in your life, and 3. Shines light on the places where you have grown vs. the areas you still need support. In other words, Journaling helps us to see not only where we started and where we are now, but also how we got here. I think what keeps many of us from utilizing this easy affordable tool is the misconception that journaling has to be time consuming, tediously detailed, only kept in a special journal or notebook, or be written in full sentences. None of this is true! We can use our cool gadgets and new technology to make journaling modern, simple, easy, and portable. Laptops, cell phones, iPods, and daily planners can all be easily transformed into modern day journals. Here are some examples of how to turn your favorite technical gadget into a useful modern journal. iPods
  • Create a “week in review” playlist by adding one new song each day of the week that sums up how that day went for you. Repeat this process each week.
Cell Phones
  • Using your calendar function you can either add descriptive words that summarize your day, or rate your enjoyment of tasks once completed.
  • You can also text yourself descriptive words, or even just a smiley face, when good things happen through out your day.
  • Or you can take pictures through out your day or week to document your highs and lows.
Email Accounts
  • Create a journal for yourself through email. Take a minute each day to type out a few sentences describing your day and then email them to yourself; this can be done at work or home, or if you have email on your cell phone while waiting in line, sitting in a waiting room, on your lunch break, basically anywhere. Next, create a specific folder dedicated to Journaling in your email account so they don’t get lost, or clog up your inbox.
Laptop/Desktops- There are so many communication programs to choose from, pick one that you like and make it your own. For example, you could….
  • Record MP3’s of your thoughts
  • Create picture journals by adding favorite photo’s into your favorite’s on Flickr
  • Create an Excel Spreadsheet tracking descriptive words for each day

Treasuring

Another favorite tool in my personal toolbox is called Treasuring. What is Treasuring? Treasuring is similar to positive thinking, but instead of taking what is and trying to see it from a positive lens, you dream about already having what you want. In treasuring you pick something you really desire like love, money, a home and spend 10 minutes imagining you already have it.  The more detail you bring into this imagination exercise the better! The goal of this exercise is letting yourself believe that you already have the desired thing and then letting your mind move backwards in the time line of how you got it. One of my favorite authors, Martha Beck, describes this technique beautifully in her book Steering by Starlight. How to use Treasuring Treasuring is another, and sometimes easier, way to bring positive thinking into your life.  Remember this post about Gratitude and why gratitude is important?  Treasuring is a simple way to create some of these new positive pathways, I discussed in that post, in our brains. I have found that because treasuring involves more imagination, and already having what you desire, many people find treasuring easier to do and more enjoyable than positive thinking.  Myself included. Some days or events are so hurtful it’s too hard to try to see them positively, this is when I turn to treasuring.  It’s a great, healthy, and easy escape from whatever might being going on in my life.  You’ll notice that once you’ve spent 10 (or more) minutes dreaming about having what you desire, whatever is actually going on seems smaller and less hurtful. I find I am able to see the current situation differently, from a more positive place, after spending some time treasuring. When to use Treasuring Martha Beck recommends you do a treasuring meditation 10 minutes a day for 30 days.   While I think this 30 day goal is totally useful and highly recommend it, I have found treasuring to be really useful even in smaller periods of time. So if creating a goal to do this exercise for a week feels more attainable for you, go with that! I find with my clients, breaking this assignment into weekly goals vs. monthly goals makes getting started much easier.  Also, I have discovered that my clients dreams actually get bigger and evolve if we re-evaluate the assignment each week.  It seems setting a monthly goal can leave us feeling as if we need to do the same thing over and over again for the whole 30 days. **An Interesting Thing About Treasuring** I can always tell which of my clients are doing their treasuring homework, Martha Beck says the same thing in her book.  Treasuring tends to decrease the physical appearance of stress in people.  After spending a week doing this exercise my clients actually look different- lighter, younger, healthier, more confident, glowing and radiant. So what do you think?  Is there room in your toolbox for treasuring???

Happiness Project Toolbox

So far this month I have shared 3 of my must-have toolbox items with you, and I’ve got 4 more to review with ya before the month is over.  Not to mention the free MP3 download of my favorite relaxation technique will be available before the end of the week! Since Creating Your Own Toolbox is our topic this month, I wanted to share an interesting site I came across with you.  One of my favorite blogs, The Happiness Project,  had this post yesterday about their very own toolbox website.  Cool, right?! The Happiness Project Toolbox is another great resource for building, and even storing, your personal toolbox.  When you sign up, this site provides you will 8 tools to help you create your own personal happiness project. Remember, variety is an important component in a helpful toolbox.  Having an assortment of tools that both help you create happiness, and simply soothe you when the chips are down, will not only make your toolbox its most useful, but also allow you to create and maintain balance in your life. Maybe you’ll be able to find something useful for your own toolbox on their site…… A quick review of the 4 guidelines to having an easy to use toolbox
  1. Your toolbox can be literal or figurative as long as you can easily access it
  2. Add Variety to your toolbox
  3. Think of your toolbox as a living thing, allow it to grow and evolve over time
  4. Toolboxes and toolbox use are not black and white assignment

You Can Heal Your Life

If I were stuck on a desert island and could only bring one book with me, this would be the book!  You Can Heal Your Life by Louise L Hay.  It’s a must-have in my toolbox. Louise wrote this book back in the 1970’s- it’s a precursor to the recently popular book The SecretYou Can Heal Your Life describes the “Law of Attraction” in a spiritual non-materialistic way. Louise L Hay explains that things like health, relationships, confidence, forgiveness and wealth come into our lives based on our thoughts. You may remember this post on gratitude thinking and why our thoughts are so important. I keep this book in my toolbox because I love pulling it out when I am feeling down.  I like to use it as a starting point when I feel overwhelmed in a situation and as a way to gain some clarity on that situation.  Reviewing this book always reminds me that “this too shall pass.” It helps me gain some perspective on how I got where I am, where I want to be instead, and gives tangible affirmations to start my journey towards that better place.  It also has an amazing chart towards the end that Louise uses to help us connect physical ailments like headaches, digestive issues, depression, anxiety, hay fever, and even acne with the negative thought pattern that causes them. Check it out sometime, you may find it to be a nice fit in your own toolbox as well!

I wish we could google…

Have you guys checked out the website  i can read before? I found the above photo on this site and I just love it. Too often we assume that the important (and not so important) people in our lives just know how we feel about them… but you know what they say about ass-u-me-ing things, right?  Especially in our long term relationships, we get comfortable and spend a lot of time pointing out our partner’s short-comings, but how much time do we spend pointing out or acknowledging their strengths and appreciation that they are in our lives? So here’s my challenge to you- start telling the people in your life how you feel about them! We are coming up on a new month, so it’s a perfect time to create a month long project out of this.  And here’s how…. Spend the next week creating your “plan of attack” for this challenge.
  • Figure out who you are going to include in your project and how much focus you want to put on each person.  For example, if you are in a relationship, maybe it’s just your partner you want to focus on, or maybe you want to pick a different person for each day of the month.  Totally up to you, but it’s easier to have a plan up front.
  • Next start creating a list (mental or hard copy) of the things you appreciate, love, respect, cherish, make you giggle, rely on, take for granted about the person or people you’ve selected.  Remember April has 30 days so if you are focusing on your partner, you want to have 30 things in your list.
  • Then figure out how you’d like to communicate these things with the people you’ve selected.  It could be with daily emails, text messages, hand written notes, little presents or treats that represent your specific feelings.

Like maybe you want to give your partner or friend a role of Life Savers candy because they saved your life, or project in some way.  Maybe there are some cute songs (like “My Life Would Suck Without You” by the cast of  Glee) that you can burn or gift through iTunes.  Or maybe you either print out or create the month of April from a calendar and then each day, write a new thing.

It’s up to you how you present the info, but it will be easier to complete this challenge if you have a plan ahead of time.  You can even use some of the planning time to purchase some materials, or save a few draft emails, what ever you need to make the next 30 days easier.

But have fun with this part.  Get creative.  Trust the process and know that it will get easier and more fun the more you do it.

Then, on April 1st begin your project!
  • Spend a just a few minutes each day telling the people in your life how important they are to you, how much you appreciate them, how much they make you laugh or keep you on track.
  • Do this for all 30 days in April!  It’s only 30 days, you can do it.
  • Along the way, notice the differences this “challenge” is bringing into your relationships and self.  We get what we put out, so even though this challenge is based around giving to other people it will be impossible for you not to start feeling more loved, appreciated, happy, and hopeful along the way!
Finally, take this challenge and make it your own!
  • Maybe it’s something you do once a quarter with your family, maybe it replaces Christmas or Birthday presents this year, maybe showing appreciating and love becomes a weekly task for you…. doesn’t matter how you do it, it just matters that you do it, and that it fits for you.

Why IS Gratitude Important?

My blog post from yesterday got me thinking, and I realized that while gratitude is something that you probably often hear about in relation to creating happiness, you might not know why it’s important. So that’s what we are going to talk about today- why gratitude, or positive thinking, or acknowledging what you are grateful for is actually important. (Gotta add a little green for St. Patty’s day!) Gratitude thinking is not the “band-aid on a gun shot wound” sort of treatment that you may think it is. It’s not suggested by therapists, life coaches, and ancient wisdoms to distract you, or make you “touchy-feely,” or to down play the difficult things that may be going on in your life. Honestly, it’s not. Gratitude thinking has the ability to physically reorganize our brains so we can treat the cause of the problem not just the symptoms. So instead of taking Pepcid AC when your tummy gets upset, you avoid getting the upset tummy all together. Does that make sense? To start, we have to understand the human brain just a little bit more (promise I won’t go off the deep end with this, hang in there with me for a few sentences). Our brain is an organ like every other body part we have. This particular organ is like an elaborate map of dirt roads in our heads. There are endless twists and turns and ways of getting to our destination, and like driving on a dirt road, the paths we use most often become the easiest to travel on because they have nice deep tracks already created. If we take these routes we are able to follow along in the tracks, and have a nice smooth ride. Our thoughts work the exact same way. The thought patterns we use most often have the deepest tracks, and therefore are the easiest to use. So if we are constantly thinking “something is going to go wrong,” or “I hate this,” or “nothing good ever happens to me” that is the pathway with the deepest tracks and the route our brain sends all it’s thoughts through. Gratitude thinking changes this. By including gratitude thinking in our day, and forcing ourselves to see things from a new angle, we physically create a new pathway (or dirt road) in our brains. As the tracks in this more positive pathway become deeper and deeper it becomes easier and easier for our brains to send information through these tracks. The more information that goes through these positive tracks, the easier it is for us to see things more positively, and to feel more positive and hopeful. Gratitude thinking has the same snowball reaction that negative thinking does, and as your positive tracks deepen it becomes easy to see the good side of not-so-good things.  Like in this blog. Another way to look at it is that gratitude thinking is actually exercise for our brains. It helps new muscles develop and strengthen, and literally changes the physical look and function of our brains just like bench pressing changes our physical bodies. So next time someone tells you to “think positively” don’t write him or her off so quickly. Maybe they are on to something……

The Happiness Project

I found this great blog over the weekend (thank you Hulu!).  http://www.happiness-project.com/ What I love about this project is that the  author, Gretchen Rubin, “test-drives” different theories, suggestions, and methods to create happiness in her life;  she takes a suggestion or method and sees how it fits for her. This is the key to creating more happiness in your life! Happiness is not a one size fits all thing, it’s not supposed to be, and it’s OK that your happiness is different from my happiness.  The only thing about happiness that matters is that it actually makes you feel happy vs. should make you feel happy. For example, in this post Gretchen talks about test driving a gratitude journal, which is a pretty common suggestion for creating more happiness in your life.   She says,

“Gratitude is extremely important to happiness, and keeping a ‘gratitude journal’ is an often-recommended exercise, but my gratitude journal never had much effect on me. I just found it annoying, and my journal was very dull. On this charming site, Thxthxthx, however, the writer manages to be very funny and engaging — and also show genuine gratitude.”

Gratitude is an extremely important component of happiness, however there are countless ways track and acknowledge gratitude and a journal is just one of them.  Creating happiness in your life comes from hearing suggestions, like adding gratitude into your day, and finding a way to make it work for you. Instead of a journal maybe you….
  • Send yourself or your love ones emails about the things you appreciate
  • Place post-it reminders around your house
  • Use your egg timer to spend just 1 minute a day making a mental list of the things you are grateful for
  • Set reminders in your cell phone to stop and be grateful 2,3, or 4 times a day
  • Create a “appreciation jar”- you and your family write down 1-3 things you are grateful for each day and place into the jar that you read together once a week
  • Create some sort of an “appreciation challenge” with your partner or kids to see who can come up with the most things to be grateful for
  • Use a chalk or white board to track your appreciation
  • Pick one thing you are grateful for each day and then just count how many places you encounter it through out your day
  • Text yourself a G, each time you feel grateful
The list could go on and on… it’s not about what or how you do it, it’s just about doing something that feels good to you.