#Holiday Stress: The 3 Major Causes and How to Deal

blog-managing-holiday-stress

– Natasha Sharma gives us our first holiday gift!

Back when I was a psychology grad student at Johns Hopkins, I took a class with a special focus on Anxiety. Somewhere in the textbook for this course there was a rank ordered list of stressful life events that could potentially lead to psychological distress, fittingly called a ‘stress scale.’ As I scanned the list, I saw many of the usual suspects: Divorce, dismissal from work, taking on a major mortgage or foreclosure of a house. Then my eyes flashed across a word I wasn’t expecting: Christmas. Incidentally, it ranked as more stressful a life event than experiencing a minor legal infraction! At first the foolish student in me laughed, but the more I thought about it the more it made sense.

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Stress is the body’s natural reaction to major changes in our environment, and it isn’t always a bad thing. In appropriate amounts and duration, stress can motivate us to identify and adapt to these changing events, a crucial life skill. Chronic and pervasive stress, however, may lead to unhealthy anxiety. The October through January 1 ‘holiday stretch’ usually results in a lot of extra stuff going on for many people. In my experience as a Psychotherapist, whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukah, or other cultural events, holiday stress usually falls into 3 main categories: Family, Keeping Appearances, and Time. Here is my take on why we get so stressed out at this time of year and more importantly, what to do about it.

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  1. Ah family. I’m talking about birth and extended family members, like siblings, parents, cousins, aunts, uncles, and in-laws. Some we like. And some we just don’t. And we typically come together with some or all of them over the holidays, often at multiple times. A lot of my clients worry about confronting difficult or annoying family members, the types who ‘shame and blame’, constantly criticize, brag and compare, or take not-so-subtle digs at them. Avoid letting these types get under your skin. Here’s how to deal: Expect these family members to behave that way, before heading to the gathering. When you expect it to happen, you take away all the fear and anxiety over wondering and worrying what they’ll be like, because you already know. Then if by chance they behave well, it will be a pleasant surprise. Either way, you’ll feel calmer. If people do fall out of line or hit below the belt, address it with them immediately, calmly, and firmly. And remember that they alone are responsible for their actions. You are responsible for your reactions.

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  1. Social pressure to ‘be’ or ‘look’ a certain way has always been nagging presence in life. From getting the ‘right’ gifts to having the perfect job, being in a great relationship, having the perfect marriage, house, and kids…this list goes on and on. The popularity of social media has inadvertently created the opportunity to compare ourselves to one another on a 24-7 basis. In addition, we invariably spend some of our holiday time updating and answering questions about our lives to people we may not have seen for some time. Here’s how to deal: Practice the art of gratitude. Be grateful for where you are and what you have. If you’re reading this article, chances are you already have more than many people in the world do, including health, shelter, food, and safety. The abundance of the holidays should be a stark reminder of that, but often they’re not. Mentally forbid yourself from keeping score in your head with who’s doing what, where, and how much they make. Be humble, be you, and be proud of all that goes with it.
  1. If there is ever a time in the year when we have a desperate lack thereof, it’s around the holidays. From office parties to family engagements, shopping and preparing, it’s no wonder we feel stretched to our limits. Feeling like you’re on a deadline you might not meet can cause a ton of stress. Here’s how to deal: Pace yourself and learn how to say ‘no’. You can’t do everything, so consciously choose what you can and can’t commit to around the holidays. Focus your energy on what you enjoy the most. If parties and gatherings are your thing, perhaps you can order some or all of your holiday meal pre-made. If you love cooking and preparing your home for the holidays, you don’t have to accept every invitation to events. Make lists, and avoid cramming too many things into one day. Most importantly, take time out of every day to unwind completely alone. Even if it’s only for 10 minutes. Your body and your mind will thank you!
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“I’ll do it tomorrow…” 4 Tips for How to Avoid Procrastination and Get Things Done!

procrastinators leaders of tomorrow

“I’ll do it tomorrow…”

4 Tips for How to Avoid Procrastination and Get Things Done!

By

Natasha Sharma M.Sc OACCPP

NKS Therapy

Natasha Sharma is a psychotherapist, doctoral student, author, speaker, and media spokesperson.

Natasha Sharma is a psychotherapist, doctoral student, author, speaker, and media spokesperson.

@NatashaSharma17

A stunningly high number of clients I see in my practice complain about the dreaded P-word: Procrastination. They have ideas, goals, small tasks and large ones, and never seem to complete any of them. When I ask them what gets in the way, the answer is often “I don’t know.” Procrastination – aka the ‘art’ of putting things off until another day – is incredibly common. Not that big of a deal for things that actually can wait, but perfectly annoying when there are things we genuinely need to get done sooner rather than later. It’s a problem that plagues the busy and the not-so-busy, over-achievers and under-achievers, the younger and the older. Why is this?

Human beings are creatures of habit, and our brains have a tendency to favour routine. So any tasks that drastically deviate from our daily routines require more effort from our brains, in the form of conscious self-motivation, organization, and initiation to those very tasks. And, in case you didn’t already know it, our brains don’t like to work! But constant procrastination often leaves us feeling disorganized, unproductive, and downright down on ourselves. And in the worst cases it can lead things to pile up forcing us to do everything at the last minute, which can be overwhelming and incredibly stressful.

Gail Devers Quote

Gail Devers

World Class Olympic Athlete, Woman, Philahthopist, #MOM

@imgaildevers

Here are 4 tips for how to avoid procrastination once and for all:

for how to avoid procrastination once and for all:

  1. Get a good night’s rest – every night! Procrastination is linked to the self-regulatory mechanisms of our bodies, also called executive functioning, which is chaired by the pre-frontal cortex area of our brains. Without adequate rest, this area of the brain simply cannot function at its optimal level, so organizing your time will be more difficult. Granted I said our brains are lazy, but don’t deprive them of a full 8 hours every single night. And if you can handle it, one good, strong cup of coffee in the morning will kick-start your pre-frontal cortex and get you ready for action.
  1. Don’t try to do it all; pick a few things! Picture this: You have a paper to write for a class you’re taking, your taxes are due, you’ve always wanted to learn how to build furniture, learn to speak Swahili, write a book…slow down! If your brain is overwhelmed with too many tasks, it won’t try for any of them! Instead, pick one or two things you really want or need to do and shoot for those to start. Once they are done, pick one or two more, and so on. Research has consistently shown that this method of ‘chunking’ things out helps to get things done faster.
  1. Write things down. This is an oldie but a goodie. Research has also shown that writing things down is more strongly correlated with completion of said things as compared to when we don’t write things down. Why? Accountability. Also, there’s a certain satisfaction in the physical act of deleting an item off of your “to do” list – it can be so gratifying!
  1. Use pleasure as a reward. Still got your pen out? Make a list of things you like in life; things that bring you sheer joy and pleasure. They can be things you do every day or things you occasionally splurge on. Be it an hour at the gym, taking a long hot bath, having a glass of wine, watching a ‘guilty-pleasure’ movie, whatever. Look at your list and use the things on it as rewards for getting something done. Promise yourself that: “After I write half of that report for work, I will watch an hour of TV” and “after I write the rest of the report tomorrow, I will play tennis with Bob.” And then make sure you do reward yourself with something after you finish. This is effectively training your own brain to anticipate rewards for not procrastinating, thereby doing it less and less frequently. Because in addition to being kind of lazy, our brains love to be rewarded!

Put these 4 tips into action and you’ll likely notice a big change in how often you put things off for another day. And in how you feel about yourself. Now if you’ll excuse me, my reward for writing this article is an episode of “Suits.” I’m totally addicted.

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How To Be Happy And Get The Most Out Of Life!

 How to Be Happy and Get the Most out of Life !

By: Natasha Sharma, M.Sc.

@NatashaSharma17

Natasha Sharma is a psychotherapist, doctoral student, author, speaker, and media spokesperson.

Natasha Sharma is a psychotherapist, doctoral student, author, speaker, and media spokesperson. Follow on Twitter @NatashaSharma17

Problems, as we all know, are a reality of living. Life can be unpredictable and will most certainly be stressful at one point or another. But it is how we respond to changes and solve a problem that have the most impact and influence to the quality of our lives, as opposed to the actual problem itself. In my practice as a Psychotherapist, I have worked with many individuals and families of all ages, ranging from issues as harrowing as psychological trauma in small children to more commonplace issues such as conflict in the workplace, or dating and relationship issues. Over the years, I have come to realize that a problem is a problem, relative to the unique context of a person’s life and individual phenomenology. Which is to say that they exist – or do not exist – based on our own personal circumstances and subjective experiences of life.

No matter what our individual circumstances are, there are things that all of us can do – whether we struggle with mental illness, extremely difficult living conditions, anxiety, depression, or just plain old boredom – to promote our psychological and emotional well-being, and therefore the quality of our lives. I call these the 4 pillars of LIFE: Love, Introspection, Fun, and Empowerment. Let’s take a closer look at each one working backwards:

Empowerment: Through constantly seeking knowledge and education about ourselves and the world around us, we Empower ourselves! That means we increase our capacity to make the best choices to suit our individual lives, and to transform those choices into the actions and outcomes that we desire. We feel stronger and more confident in our ability to control our own life and destiny.

Fun: Life is incomplete and boring without Fun! We express our individual selves every day through our tastes in food, fashion, travel, hobbies, social events, music, movies, and whatever else we are passionate about. Fun is the spice of life, and regular doses of it at every age are essential to our well-being!

Introspection: To increase self-awareness, we must look inward and recognize our unique strengths, our weaknesses, our areas of vulnerability, and our passions. We all have them. Become intimately acquainted with your unique self!

Love: Our well-being is truly enhanced by the love we receive and give to others. But most important, and foremost to good mental health, is the love we must have towards ourselves. This type of love comes through deep self-awareness, self-respect, and unconditional self-acceptance. When we are kind and forgiving of ourselves, we feel more secure and at peace. We gain more confidence, are more assertive, have more energy, are less resentful, and make good decisions that are of benefit to us. Simply put, the most important thing each of us can do to promote our own mental health is to fall in love with ourselves! When we do this, we are happy. And when we are happy, we are better mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, brothers, sisters, wives, husbands, and friends.

Many of the people I encounter in my world find themselves unable to let go of the past, or anxious about the future. We cannot change the past. But we can change the way we reflect on it and thereby re-write the story of our past. We cannot predict the future. But we can challenge our fears and assess the likelihood of events. Finally, we cannot always control life. But we can always control how we experience life.

No Mud, No Lotus

No Mud, No Lotus

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