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How To Have A Chilled Out Holiday Season

How To Have A Chilled Out Holiday Season

snowman

    Feeling snowed under in the run up to the Christmas?

    As kids we look forward to this time of year. There’s the advent calendar, lights, tree, decorations, school vacations, stocking, a visit from Father Christmas and, of course, the long anticipated presents.

    But sadly, once you’ve grown up, with all the responsibilities and obligations being an adult entails, your Christmas spirit can get snuffed out. Even thinking about the planning, preparation and costs involved can fill you with dread.

    Christmas Stresses

    There’s a lot of pressure involved in the festive season for us grown ups. Typical concerns might be:

    • The expense of travel and gifts.
    • Decisions about where to spend the holidays and who with.
    • Difficulties of spending time with people you don’t see often.
    • Worry about what to wear and who to talk to at parties.
    • Insecurity about what gifts to give and what you’re given compared to other people.

    Ridiculous isn’t it? Christmas should be joyful, not stressful. So it’s time to pare it back to the essentials, make sure there’s time for you and make your Yule cool again. Here are some ideas on how to keep your  Christmas season simple.

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    1. Gifts

    Make a list of everyone you have to give gifts to and come up with practical ways to deal with it. Make a decision to spend sensibly and only buy what you can afford. It’s true that it’s the thought that counts so it’s absolutely fine to give a home-made gift or something you got in a second hand shop.

    For friends or family who live overseas send an online gift voucher. Or do a long distance swap. My brother lives in the UK, I’m in Australia and we each have three children. Years ago, we agreed to buy low value presents for our own kids and wrap them up with tags from their aunt, uncle and cousins. That way we can easily pick things we know our kids will like and haven’t already got plus avoid crazy postage costs. We haven’t bought gifts for each other for years, but I’m looking forward to a phone call or free Skype video call with him.

    For adults

    Think about having a gift free year. Or give a home-made voucher for babysitting, a massage, garden weeding or a special meal you’ll cook them. Because it’s fun to have gifts wrapped under the tree for everyone I tend to get gifts for my husband that he needs anyway like a new shirt, some hot chili sauce or a camping chair. My husband doesn’t want any gifts but the kids like to have something to give him so that keeps everyone happy.

    For children

    Cash is always easy and always popular plus it keeps you out of the shops where you might end up overspending. Small denomination notes of two or four $5 notes with a total value of $10 or $20 will make most kids happy. Or if you want to give them a gift get something cheaper or on sale and don’t fall into the trap of spending twice as much as you need to.

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    For bigger family get togethers

    Suggest organizing the big day so each person only gets one gift up to a certain low value. Then everyone is allocated someone to buy for and can get creative by seeing the best present idea they can come up with for $10. We did this one year and I had to buy a gift for a male friend and came up with the idea of a miniature bottle of rum and a can of coke to mix it with. He was pretty happy.

    2. Family Matters

    Accept that there may be friction at some family reunions or events and decide in advance not to get involved. Avoid other people’s dramas and don’t create your own.

    To achieve this limit contact with people who annoy you and be the person who takes the high road. Vow to set aside your differences for the day or the week. Try pretending you’re the Dalai Lama or Desmond Tutu — then, no matter how other people behave, conduct yourself with grace and equanimity. Challenge yourself to keep it up for as long as necessary and have fun with the new peace-maker you. See if you can surprise your family and yourself with your chilled out behavior.

    Finally, remember, that just because you have to spend a long weekend with your family doesn’t mean you have to pass every minute in their company. Take time out for yourself. Go for a walk or nip off to your room to read a book for an hour. It’s your holiday too.

    3. Food and Drink

    If you’re in charge of food preparation make it simple. Design a basic menu or outline of meal ideas and tell people what you’d like them to bring. Think about who can supply the meat, fish, salad, nibbles and desert and don’t be afraid to ask for help on the day.

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    Or break from tradition with a barbecue or a pot luck meal instead.

    4. Parties

    There’s no need to buy new clothes, especially for a party. Wear your best and newest clothes or the old outfit that never fails to get compliments. Unless you’re an A-list star there’s no shame in being seen in the same thing twice or more.

    Limit your drinks, smile and try to talk to people you don’t know. Have fun and socialize. That’s what parties are for.

    If you’re really not looking forward to a party make polite excuses and stay away so you don’t bring anyone else down. Relax, give yourself a break and save the parties for when you’re in the mood to enjoy them.

    5. Kids

    Manage their expectations. Explain to them that the holidays are for spending time with family and friends and Christmas gifts are a bonus but not necessary. Television is the enemy and if your kids watch TV they’ll have seen many toys they want to buy or be given.

    Look at toy catalogues and go through them with your kids. Mine seem to be satisfied if I acknowledge their wishes, make a note of the things they want by circling them in the catalogue or writing them in a notebook. But I explain that they will only get one or two things and that some things they like are too gimmicky, too expensive or not suited to our lifestyle.

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    For example, all my kids want a computer game you plug into the TV, but we just tell them they already have enough screen time and they’ll have to wait until they can afford to buy them themselves. They accept that and look forward to playing these types of games at their friend’s houses. Their friends are fed up with them already so I feel justified in my choice and am determined not to be swayed by peer pressure. I love my kids and I don’t have to show it by buying them expensive toys that will end up in a landfill.

    Hopefully reading this gave you a few ideas on how to make your Christmas a bit more chilled out. Stay away from the hype, advertising and shops as much as you can and your stress levels will reduce instantly. I realised that just the thought of going shopping was making me feel irritable so minimising shopping is crucial for me.

    There are five of us in our family and we’ll have an auntie and cousin on board for the big day. I’ve got a master list of who’s giving what to who and I’m keeping it simple. We’ll be staying at home in the morning, playing and relaxing, then heading to the beach in the afternoon.

    Whatever you’ve got planned I hope you’ll have a chilled out and fun festive season.

    What are you doing this Christmas and what tips have you got for surviving the silly season?

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    Last Updated on August 20, 2019

    How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

    How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

    Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life.

    Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affect your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality. (And here’s Why Your Perception Is Your Reality.)

    I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive and just a general waste of energy.

    You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

    Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Become the master of your mind.

    When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

    I currently have few thoughts that are not of my own choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

    Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

    Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in charge of your thoughts. If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

    Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create the most unhealthy and unproductive thoughts:

    1. The Inner Critic

    This is your constant abuser who is often a conglomeration of:

    • Other people’s words; many times your parents.
    • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples expectations.
    • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media.
    • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

    The Inner Critic is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance and lack of self-love.

    Why else would this person abuse you? And since this person is actually you– why else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

    2. The Worrier

    This person lives in the future; in the world of “what ifs.”

    The Worrier is motivated by fear which is often irrational and with no basis for it. Occasionally, this person is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

    3. The Reactor or Trouble-Maker

    This is the one that triggers anger, frustration and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

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    This person can be set off by words or feelings, and can even be set off by sounds and smells.

    The Reactor has no real motivation and has poor impulse control and is run by past programming that no longer serves you, if it ever did.

    4. The Sleep Depriver

    This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

    The Sleep Depriver’s motivation can be:

    • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
    • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
    • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity and generalized anxiety
    • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

    How can you control these squatters?

    How to Master Your Mind

    You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You must pay attention to your thoughts so you can identify “who” is running the show; this will determine which technique you will want to use.

    Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

    There are two ways to control your thoughts:

    • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
    • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

    This second option is what is known as peace of mind!

    The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go to” thoughts in the applicable situations.

    Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier; and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

    For the Inner Critic

    When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

    You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

    For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

    You can also have a dialogue with yourself with the intention of discrediting the ‘voice’ that created the thought, if you know whose voice it is:

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    “Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

    If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready. This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

    • They rile up the Worrier.
    • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
    • They are often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
    • They are a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
    • They are the destroyer of self-esteem. They convince you that you’re not worthy. They’re a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get them out!

    Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

    Replace them with your new best friends who support, encourage, and enhance your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

    For the Worrier

    Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

    Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind and creates anxiety in the body.

    You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

    • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
    • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
    • Muscles tense

    Use the above stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

    If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

    Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

    “Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

    Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense; both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

    If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

    Now take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like!

    Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

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    For example:

    If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

    “I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place. Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

    Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

    “Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

    Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

    For the Trouble-Maker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

    Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers; but until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

    The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain:

    • Increased heart rate and blood pressure; surge of adrenaline
    • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
    • Muscles tension

    I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

    Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds; just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

    Breathe in through your nose:

    • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
    • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
    • Focus on your belly rising.

    Breathe out through your nose:

    • Feel your lungs emptying.
    • Focus on your belly falling.
    • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

    Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize.

    Now you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior.

    One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting, or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

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    Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

    For the Sleep Depriver

    (They’re made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

    I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

    Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

    1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
    2. Then I came up with replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

    When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and I choose quiet.

    From the first time I tried this method I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

    For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (Closed, of course!). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

    If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

    You can also use this technique any time you want to:

    • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon.
    • Shut down your thinking.
    • Calm your feelings.
    • Simply focus on the present moment. 

    The Bottom Line

    Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or for destructive purposes.

    You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

    Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. The choice is yours!

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    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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