The holidays are here, and as you cook your turkey diner you are probably reminded of just how stressful it is. As we reflect upon the holidays, it is perhaps fair to say that stress is the most ubiquitous shared experience common to people living in industrialized countries. It is, in fact, our love affair. Most of us, culturally, are workaholics, weekend (week-long) warriors, and/or weekend bingers, fueled by adrenaline, caffeine, alcohol, and poor diet. Whether or not we think we may, or may not, have any of these characteristics, statistically we would probably describe ourselves as “stressed and burned out”. The reason for this, in all likelihood, stems from learned inappropriate boundaries, in which we undervalue ourselves and consequently find ourselves overly obligated to our jobs, family, and most importantly to own preconceptions. Therefore, we oftentimes sacrifice our own personal truth for the idea of how we think our lives are supposed to appear. It’s no wonder that we find ourselves in a state of chronic, nervous tension.
When our lives play out against this background of chronic tension, we find ourselves in a state of perpetual “fight or flight”. As this productive stress, which we are designed to handle, is replaced by unrelieved, unproductive stress, a number of adaptive physiological changes become constant; first adrenaline, then cortisol levels rise; blood flow to the liver significantly decreases, the body’s inflammatory response increases, REM sleep is affected, etc. Symptomatically, one might experience; irritability, headaches, digestive issues, high blood pressure, general aches and pains, and sleep loss. All of these are frequently either ignored completely or mistaken for another illness, in the end creating a greater financial burden and more emotional duress for the individual.
Therefore, as we plunge headlong into the holiday season, it is perhaps the best time to truly pay attention to our heart, and honor and respect our own needs. This may be as simple as creating the time and space to reflect on ourselves, by passionately engaging in our personal hobbies or exploring more deeply our spiritual practices. This could also manifest as recognizing that we may need help dealing with our relationship to stress and the effect it has on our being. In any case, let’s at least commit to our own health and honor the warning signs are bodies are giving us. Lastly, as the holiday season approaches, let’s not forget that the only way we can be in open-hearted and loving relationship with our family is if we truly take care of ourselves first.