The holiday season is in full swing. Signs of it greet us everywhere; decorations line the streets and fill the stores and Christmas music fills the air. While the holidays have a reputation for being a time of joy, for many people they are a source of increased stress or even depression. If you find yourself feeling less than joyous this holiday season and are wondering why, you’re not alone. Keep reading to better understand the sources of holiday stress and what you can do to improve your holiday experience.
Have you ever wished you had a guidebook for your child? Thanks to Dr. Alan Kazdin, you can have the next best thing. As a parent, you will get a lot of (often unsolicited!) advice, much of it conflicting. It can be difficult to know who to listen to or what to do.
You like to think of yourself as a good, conscientious parent. You try to protect your child from the negative influences of the media. You don't allow your kids to play violent video games (or play these games in front of them) and you only allow them to watch television shows designed for children.
"The What to Do" Guides are a series of books by psychologist Dr. Dawn Huebner for helping children deal with a variety of problems ranging from every day difficulties, like how to respond to anger, to diagnosable problems, like OCD.
Just as tensing muscles first helps adults ;earn to relax (see yesterday's post), it also helps kids learn to relax more than they would by just thinking relaxing thoughts. To keep the exercise interesting enough to keep kids engaged, a little creativity is needed. You don't want your kid acting out more to avoid a boring activity! In my practice, I provide parents with a script to use every night with their kids. They tense their muscles by doing fun exercises like pretending to squeeze lemonade from lemons, stretching like cats, and chewing jawbreakers. Another blogger has written about a creative spin on a similar script: relaxation flip-books for kids. She provides images and instructions for turning the script into portable flip-books so you can not only teach your child muscle relaxation, but also have a fun reminder on the go!
Because many of us are so used to carrying around tension, it can be difficult to recognize when our muscles are tense. Even when we scan our bodies for tension, we may overlook it because it feels "normal." In order to increase your awareness of tension, you have to learn to recognize it. Try intentionally tensing a muscle for 5-7 seconds and then quickly releasing the tension while paying close attention to the sensations of tension and then relaxation. Relax each muscle for about 30 seconds. (This is best done lying down so you don't have to rely on your muscles to support your posture). By doing this with each of our muscle groups, we can learn to more easily identify and release unnecessary tension throughout the day.
Not sure how to tense a certain muscle group? Check out this chart.
Tracking positive events is a great exercise for children, too. This can be especially helpful if your child tends to complain or focus on the negative. Sit down at the end of the day and make a game out of seeing how many positive events you can list for the day. This can help them learn that even when things aren't perfect, they're rarely all bad.
Keeping track of positive events is a great way to improve your mood. Each day, make a list of every positive event that occurred that day. Nothing is too small to count for this exercise. Did you enjoy the weather? That counts! Did you hear a song on the radio that you really liked? That counts! Did you find your keys that you thought were lost? That counts!
Some people also like to think of this as counting their blessings or keeping track of what they have to be grateful for. Whatever you want to call it, add up those positives, and watch your mood improve!
Check out this article for more insights on the power of gratitude.
In our go-go-go world, it can be hard to find time to relax. Worse yet, many people find themselves feeling guilty or anxious about taking time to unwind. If you feel like you need to be productive all the time, give yourself permission to take a break. Not only will you feel better, but research shows that taking small breaks (e.g., 5 minutes out of an hour) actually helps you to be more productive when you are working.