Thankful Stress

esther-adler-19November is upon us and with it comes the stream of holidays. I’ve already seen Christmas decorations up and Thanksgiving hasn’t even come and passed. The holidays swings everyone into a rush of conflicting emotions,  joy, love and for many stress and depression. The holiday season is a reminder of what we have to be thankful for, connection to our family and for those in grief a reminder of what and whom we’ve lost. It’s no coincidence that this time of year has the highest suicide rate. It’s not so much the cold, gray weather but more so the loneliness and grief so many feel during the festivities all around them. It’s a time that so many feel even lonelier amongst the chaos and bustling surrounding them.

The holidays also tend to create more stress in relationships. With the pressure of family get togethers, added cooking, and buying gifts, couples that otherwise have healthy relationships can find themselves at each others throats. Many separations take place during this time. The cracks in the relationship cause small stresses to spiral out of control.

What can you do to ensure you and your loved ones enjoy a truly happy and Thankful season?

I once saw a talk that Tony Robbins gave on the day of the September 11th attacks. It was during a conference he was leading in Hawaii and he first thought of cancelling the seminar, but then decided to use the trauma as a learning experience for all.

One of the first things he began with was making the audience aware that whatever emotions they were feeling were their “go to” emotions. If they were angry because of the attacks they got angry at every chance in other areas of their life as well. If they were grief stricken and sad then those same people found reasons to be sad before any other emotions emerged. The people who felt guilty also felt guilty before the attacks and so on. In other words the attacks were just another reason to get sad, angry, afraid and so on. Your primary emotion is something you feel whenever something happens in life. There’s a reason this happens. It’s to fill a need, whether it’s significance, certainty, or love and connection.

Understanding your “go to” emotions will help you see how you deal with stress. It will also tell you which need is your primary need and what vehicles you use to acquire it. If you experience anger before sadness. You seek out significance and certainty in life above all else. If you get sad first then love and connection is your primary need. This does not mean the needs you choose to experience are your chore needs. They are just the ones you are acting on at the moment.

IMG_1812When stressful events happens in life, the desire to get your primary needs met becomes more intense. If you’re highest need is certainty and you’re going through a divorce you might work harder, eat out less, and fight tooth and nail with your ex to ensure the same style of life you lived when together.

If your highest need is love and connection and you are going through a divorce you might seek out peaceful resolution or start a war with your ex. You might seek out old friends or create new ones.

We all have productive and destructive ways of meeting our needs, but when going through stress many of us turn to a more destructive way of getting the job done. Our emotions take over and we will do anything we can to ensure our needs are met.

During the talk I saw with Tony Robbins he brought two men together, one an Arab from Pakistan and one a Jew from Brooklyn. They both hated each other at first, especially given the circumstances of 9/11. During a process Tony put them through he helped them to realize how alike they were and that they both had the same needs and desires. They ended the day as friends and even created a foundation together to help teach peace amongst Arabs and Jews.

When you find yourself fighting with your spouse, feeling alone and overwhelmed with grief take a moment to understand what are the benefits you are gaining from those intense emotions. Make a list to see the benefits that anger, grief, sadness is giving you. Understand what arguing with your spouse provides.

Maybe you are seeking connection and the only way you know how is by starting an argument. Perhaps you lost someone close to you and the only way to keep them alive in your mind is to go over and over how much you miss them. Maybe you’re dealing with a separation and the only way to feel significant is by making the process painful for your ex.

When we become aware of what needs we are acting on we can begin to choose vehicles that will better serve us and help us get to our chore needs, which for most of us is love and connection.

If you’ve lost someone this year, the holidays can be especially difficult. It’s important to surround yourself with friends, family who support you and a guide, counselor or coach who can help you deal with your conflicting emotions that come up. It’s normal to at first feel like you’re dealing with things well and then a surge of emotions seem to come out of nowhere. It’s during these times that support is essential. Not everyone has the “Sex And The City” group of friends or a sister or mother to talk to. If you don’t have it you need to create it.

On the other side of a stressful fall and winter holiday season is the peace and solace that holiday magic can bring. Getting to a place where you can enjoy the gifts around you is possible no matter what your story is. It’s a matter of setting yourself up to enjoy it.

Tasting The Real Spice Of Thanksgiving & Every Holiday

Do you have a special feeling for each holiday? For example when Christmas comes around do you get into a certain spirit? What about Thanksgiving? Does it spark a certain something? I feel every holiday has a certain energy and “feeling” associated with it. Some of us can feel the unique energy of each holiday,while others of us don’t seem to really experience that much difference between them. Some of us view it simply as a chance to get together with family. This can be enough and rewarding in it of itself, but truly feeling the energy of the day can add a special “spice”. It’s the kind of feeling you can talk about to your grandchildren one day, as they sit there smiling at you, imagining what that might’ve been like to sit in a room full of pure cinnamon bark, singing holiday songs, telling jokes and celebrating the day without cell phones and the TV blaring.

When you try to do the holidays as a new single mother, grieving a loss or dealing with a major change creating a holiday spirit can seem impossible but can be that much more needed.

I grew up in an ultra religious orthodox Jewish family, where we celebrated many deeply rooted traditional holidays. Each of these special days were filled with customs, special clothing, special foods, all producing specific feelings for each specific day. I fell in love with the special uniqueness each holiday provided. I had always wondered if this “feeling” was felt in the secular holidays of the world. I knew other cultures with deeply rooted traditions probably understood what I was feeling, but what of the holidays created by a country rather then a culture or religion? Can the same unique feeling come out or is it just another gathering of people eating good food and hanging out? And if that’s the case does it matter either way?

Growing up there was no celebrating the secular holidays, even Presidents Day or Memorial Day was not considered any different then any other day of the week.   As I  began to open my mind to new thoughts and ideas and ways of life I began to explore all the different holidays the world celebrated, what was eaten, the traditions, why they celebrated and the “feeling” associated with the holiday. I began to celebrate these different holidays but always felt something was missing.

What I found was although there were specific foods for many of the holidays such as Thanksgiving and Halloween the unique “feeling” was not there. Even when exploring some of the religious holidays in American culture, the deeply rooted feeling of celebration seemed to be missing. I wondered why. What has happened? Was it ever there?

As I continued to explore I found that even in the Jewish culture, only a small percentage of the Jews still had that energy, scent, a feeling you can taste that specific spice for that day. I wondered what happened to us as a nation. Why has holiday time become almost like a quick TV dinner, with no flavor, feeling of love all over the home, an aroma you want to keep with you?

The answer I got is our lives have become watered down. Most of us eat our dinners in front of the TV or computer daily. We barely know how to carry on a conversation, texting most of the time rather then real communication. Anxiety is on the rise, keeping us away from truly experiencing anything. With this environment experience quality holiday aromas, a true spice of experience cannot happen. How can we change that? If we chose something different, what would it look like?

I invite you to do something crazy this holiday. Imagine turning off all your cell phones and on your long drive to family have long conversations, sing songs with your children and spend time in silence with your loved ones. While cooking your Turkey, close the radio or TV and experience what the house smells like. What does it look like? Can you buy special candles only meant for that day?

If you are experiencing Thanksgiving for the first time without your kids or it’s your first without your loved one, add something special that is about you. Make it a celebration of you, your beauty, your power, your uniqueness. When you celebrate it next time with your children you can make it about them. Creating a unique celebration of life on these special days, where you can truly bond with yourself, can make it not just memorable but healing and empowering to you and everyone you therefore touch.

Everything is energy and we can create the energy we want. By simply putting intention out and quieting our lives enough to hear, see, smell and taste it that feeling of that specific holiday will be felt and enter our cells so we can activate them next year. The beauty of doing it this way, rather then the way I grew up is you can hand pick each desired feeling you want for each specific day, making it even more memorable than a 2000 year old tradition.