Less Stress, Greater Choice
This article on stress is brought to you by the holiday season, now in full swing, but begins in another realm altogether. My gifted (and funny) acupuncturist, Stacy Snyder*, noticing the way people tend to create drama and distress in their romantic lives, likes to offer this blessing to people entering a new relationship: “I wish you a high joy-to-anguish ratio.” I love this. And as I watch people enter this holiday season, and marvel at the way our culture accepts—even embraces—this season as a time of stress, I echo and adapt her example: I wish us all a high joy-to-stress ratio for the holidays.
Stress is optional.
For the record, stress is hardly ever a given. In war, maybe—but in holidays? Have we gone insane, treating a time of vacation, sacred celebration, gift-giving, and downtime with loved ones as if it's a time of war? If nothing, as Byron Katie teaches, is inherently stressful—our thoughts about what's happening make it stressful—then we have, as a culture, a boatload of crazy, stressful thoughts about the holidays.
Choice antidotes victimhood.
Those familiar with my work have probably heard or read my words about choice as an antidote to victim mentality. I talk about cultivating a consciousness of choice, getting 100 percent behind your choices, and finding whatever fragment of choice you have in any situation that seems to give you no agency. It's hard to be a victim, or to be focused on what someone else or life is visiting upon or withholding from you, when you're firmly planted in choice.
Choice antidotes stress.
Here, I offer choice as a potent antidote to stress as well. There's certainly overlap in the realms of victimhood and stress. It's stressful to be a victim, and we've come to accept, as a culture, that we're somehow victimized by the great bogeyman of Stress, a monstrous force that's somehow beyond our control. Our language, the best cue to alert us to our victim mentality (“I have to, ...” “I can't, …” “I'm stuck with ...” “It all falls on me,” “It's too much”), equally serves to show us where we're allowing the holidays (or anything) to be defined as stressful: “I have to go to the office party,” “I have to host my in-laws,” “I have to buy gifts for, ...” “We need to make this really special.” Actually, you don't have to do those things, but you may certainly choose to do them—or not.
If attendance at the party isn't or doesn't seem to be optional, then by all means, choose to go. Choose it because you value this job: it's worth it to you to attend the occasional required gathering. (You could just as well choose to quit your job, or to simply let your boss know you won't be attending and stay tuned for what happens next.) Choose to visit or host family because you want to foster connection with these specific human beings, and this season looks like the best time to put that into action. (Do I need to say it's a valid option not to visit or host them?)
Duty and tradition aren't choice busters!
I urge you to remember you have choice, and to apply it. So many people automatically go by duty and tradition to plan their holidays. If this is you, consider this: You get to define duty. You get to follow, toss out, or recreate tradition. If you want to continue to visit certain people during this time of year, that's a fine choice. But it is a choice: embrace it as such. You're someone who wants to do his or her duty, who wants to follow tradition. Maybe other things motivate you: you don't want to be disowned, or you don't want to deal with disappointing your family or having them be mad at you. Any number of factors may inform your choice. (These factors can be questioned; they can also simply be noted.)
All things considered, you're still in choice. Don't lose sight of this! It's an option to disappoint, or to anger, or even to be disowned. Do realistically note that you may equally disappoint or anger family members in your presence and participation! And if being disowned (or some less extreme family relationship threat) is a land mine in your reality, then it's probably a series of land mines that a whole lot more than the holidays could trigger. You get to choose how and whether to let tricky issues inform your holiday choices.
If you choose to host or visit family—whatever your reasons—get 100 percent behind your choice and stop talking about everything that's hard or tricky or a pain about it. Remind yourself that you actually want to be with family for the holidays. Become a master of extricating from the experience all there is to enjoy.
Ask yourself clarifying questions.
It may help to consider more deeply why you choose what you choose. How does it serve you to maintain good relations with those you work with? Can you best do that through sugar, alcohol, and tiresome conversation? What do you value or even love about being with family? What is it doing for you and yours to take a trip during vacation time? What's behind the choice? A very simple question to ask yourself is, What do I hope to get from this? A nice follow-up question would be, Is this the best way to get it?
Clarity helps you get behind your choice.
If you're out of touch with the underlying aim or value, you may sabotage the very thing you're after. For example, let's say you want your kids to have grandparent time. If you focus on everything your parents or in-laws do that make you crazy, the kids may get grandparent time, but they may also get a confusing experience of divided loyalties; they may wonder if it's really okay for them to cozy up to these people you seem to despise. ... Choose clearly and consciously, and get behind your choice by connecting to, speaking about, and interacting with what you love and appreciate about these grandparent figures.
Support your choice with other choices.
You can also, as a way of life, be conscious of making ongoing choices to support an important choice you've made. You may, for example, support a holiday choice by choosing to take excellent care of yourself while in someone else's home or while others are in yours: carve out alone time, eat in a way that doesn't throw you off or make you feel bad about yourself, tune in to your true yes/no on/off responses so you're not perpetually doing what you don't really want to do. In this way, you can get 100 percent behind your choice by making sure you keep choosing toward what you need to support that choice—to make it possible or sustainable.
Have emotional support in place.
Since you could get thrown off despite your best clear choice-making, have someone in place you can call or pull aside so you can vent to a kind listener who will love and support you. When I need an ear, I go to someone who can compassionately hear whatever I'm feeling but won't treat me like a victim or support me in vilifying someone else. (This is very important to me.)
If there's no such person, use a journal. Try questioning your thoughts using The Work of Byron Katie. You can self-facilitate in writing with the One-Belief-At-A-Time Worksheet. You can also call Katie's free helpline—not a crisis line, but you're welcome to be in crisis when you call. Volunteers post their available times on Katie's website, and you just need to fill out a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet (go ahead—spew out on paper all the ways they make you insane) and call the available person at the posted time.
Have a healthy and happy holiday season.
You actually have choice in this matter. Plenty of it!
Love & blessings, Jaya
*If you don't already have an amazing, wise, intuitive, knowledgeable, love-being-in-her-presence acupuncturist & Chinese herbalist, here's Stacy Snyder's phone number: 607.277.9403. Her office is in downtown Ithaca. You can also visit her online.
I plan to hold two Visioning 123 workshops in Ithaca for women who want to enter the new year with a clear vision. You'll articulate the vision, collage the vision, question thoughts that get in your way, and connect to all that supports you. Start with as clear a vision as you've got--it's enough. It will expand during this process and beyond. ... I love this workshop and look forward to guiding and holding space for the particular amazing women who'll show up this time. Can't wait to see who that is.
I run these in my home and therefore have a limit of 7 participants.
Saturday, December 22, 2012,
9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Saturday, January 5, 2013,
9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Details and registration for Visioning 123 workshop.
If you have interest in my bringing this workshop to your town in later January or February, contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 607.339.9714.
Curious about Coaching?
I offer a free 60-minute exploration session. I'll leave you with plenty to think about and the possibility of stepping into new perspectives that move you toward peace, personal empowerment, and greater trust in life. To schedule this session, simply follow this link: http://www.jayathetrustcoach.com/consultation-contact.html
Recent Jaya the Trust Coach Facebook posts that generated lots of likes and/or comments:
(On Thanksgiving Day)
Today, in between making gratitude lists, look for that thing in your life you're not grateful for. There's something, right? And once you've located it, antidote your lapse in gratitude by CHOOSING IT. Choose the five years into being single, the relationship you're not sure about, the ongoing battle with your kid, the job that's just a job. Choose it, because this is your beautiful life. Give thanks for it. Find how it actually serves you, benefits you, grows you. And after this, nothing stops you from (in fact, you may feel renewed energy for) taking clear steps to create a new vision and move toward that vision.
Here's a very simple ritual I offer, and ritual is saying much for how simple it is! I first used it for people who still want to be with someone they're no longer in a relationship with, but it applies so beautifully in so many realms of relationship. Simply say out loud or in your mind, when you catch yourself grasping, "I release you to your life, and I release myself to mine." Freedom for all concerned.
Think of the weird, often beautifully idiosyncratic gifts people have. Could be their way of cooking, listening, showing, fixing, inventing, explaining, feeling, connecting, concocting. Could be their sense of humor or irony or beauty in pathos. Could be the way they seem to land where people or creatures need help dying or giving birth. Your weird gift may not be clearly correlated with a career path. Will you still own it and use it every chance you get? You've probably already seen it evolve. What could happen if you gave it its full due and allowed it--and yourself using it--to become something you haven't even begun to imagine?
Isn't it strange that we so badly want to be loved, adored, cherished, and found to be attractive but we walk around treating ourselves like we're just kind of, well, unh. Make a project of being in love with yourself. Aren't you funny and creative and passionate? Don't you have fascinating interests and ideas? Revel in your own beauty. If you've lost track of these things altogether ... time for a quest.
Visit my page anytime. You don't need a FB account to stop in--it's a public page. Daily posts to remind and inspire.