In today's episode, we will discuss how to get off that emotional road to the holidays and buy yourself, or your brain, some time and peace. Thanksgiving just passed, and I hope you all had a great holiday. Maybe you are so excited that you desire the next holiday is just as perfect. However, for many of us, the reality is that we may be pondering thoughts such as it could have been better, I shouldn't have invited so and so, why didn't I include so and so. Or maybe it didn't meet your high expectations. Are you saying, "Oh My Gosh, next year, I am going to do it differently." And then there are all the other parties, the additional week later Friendsgivings, Holiday Parties and let's not even mention gift giving. If this is stressing you out, hang on. Do a little dance through my jingle and take a couple of deep breaths. I think I can help!
Hey there, Alexa Z here. The stress of the holidays comes in so many forms. I can't tell you how many people that I have spoken to who don't like the holidays, never liked the holidays. People have lost their loved ones; people have family members who are sick; it always seems like you more of this during the holiday, but it goes on all year long. However, it feels like it's added stress during the holidays. Did you lose a loved one this and you miss them this holiday? You are in company with many people, but it still feels like it is a weight you have to carry on your own. Maybe you are on social media, and you see how incredibly joyous and perfect everyone's holidays are going; we know it's not reality, but it does make things more stressful.
We spoke of compassion on Episode 10 – compassion being defined as "suffering with others" and that compassion is adding the desire to help to our empathetic hearts. I always talk about compassion this time of year because we want to slow down and be more compassionate, kind human beings, so we can bring that fantastic feeling into the holidays. Where does it go, when everything seems so emotional? I found out my neighbor had a lovely thanksgiving. They ordered their entire thanksgiving meal at Whole Foods. It was fabulous, healthy, and exactly what they wanted. It took minimal effort, and it allowed them to spend a lot more time with their families. Next year, I may also do that
I had to take extra time off from work to clean, additional embarrassment that the house was not clean enough, extra worry that there would not be enough food. Then comes all the other parties. We all have heard of FOMO, the fear of missing out, so we keep agreeing to go to all the holiday events. Then all of a sudden, we are completely exhausted. Here's another term, JOMO, the joy of missing out, which I think the comedian Jim Gaffigan said. How many times do you make plans, and you really don't want to go? Are you happy when you can say you are not going to make it?
Let's talk about meditation, your brain, and what is happening. Meditation calms your nervous system, and it trains your brain to be more focus, engaged, and less reactive. We want all of those things. Meditation strengthens those things. There are many parts of our brain, executive, emotional, logic, reason, and fight or flight. In order, we have our fight or flight, puppy kitty, emotional memories, and our CEO part of our brain. We don't use all the parts of our brain. We get stuck where we think we need to be. We put our attention where we believe it should be — usually resulting in fight or flight or total logic and reason. We want to take a step back and use some self-care so that when we hit the emotional rollercoaster of the holidays so that we can take a step back, and our rational mind can catch up to our emotional mind. Do you see the order of that? The rational mind must catch up to our emotional mind. Throughout the season, we are stomping on our emotional mind because we need to be logical to get the shopping done, get the house clean, invite family members over. If we are stomping on our emotional mind, then rational is out the window. You can't have thoughts without emotions.
In the base of your brain, at the top of your spinal cord, is your brain stem. Stimuli comes through your brain stem first as it works it's way through your prefrontal cortex, you have to process those emotional stimuli. A significant stimulus causes an emotion. That is what an emotion is; it's a reaction to a substantial stimulus. If you skip over all of that, maybe you are caught up in total joy and can't get organized, or perhaps you are caught up in sadness. Whatever it is, you have to identify it. That's the hard part. It seems to attack us, and we end up in our executive brain, functioning before we process the emotion. That is when we want to scream at our family, kick the dog, quit work, or give up. We are trying to slow it down just enough so that our rational brain can catch up to our emotional brain.
Everyone who is listening to this has an IQ. Your IQ is how you learn from 15 to 50. You have personality traits that you can't change. I am an introvert hiding in an extrovert's body. Those are my traits. I need activity in my life, and I need quiet in my life, I can't change that. The one thing I can change is my emotional side, my emotional intelligence. People in your life that you want to emulate are typically emotionally intelligent. Those with high IQ but low EQ are usually passed over by those who have high EQ and lower IQ. We are not just talking about jobs or leadership. We are talking about how we want to be as human beings. We want to be emotionally intelligent. In stressful times we tent to only drop into logic and reason to make decisions, or we base our decisions based on emotions. If that is what you are doing, how is it working for you? Probably not so well.
Go back to the meditation definition, calming our nervous system, training our brain to be more focused, engaged, and less reactive. This training is going to help you process those emotions before they run away with your mind. Most of you wonder how will you have time for meditation because we are all so busy. Training your brain doesn't take a lot of time. Meditation builds the muscle. Mindfulness is how you live your daily life and using what you learned from meditation.
You don't want to forget the holidays. You want to be there for every moment. I still remember my presents under the tree as a kid. I remember how my sister and I would take the lights out of the windows and shine them on our gifts, counting how many we each had. I remember the boxes, the toys, and the Christmas tree. Can you remember exactly how your house was decorated last year? Maybe you can. I don't quite remember what we did last year. But I remember things I did slowly. As a kid, my mind wasn't so cluttered. My kid mind slowed things down enough so that I could enjoy every moment and remember them. We say time flies by, and the holidays fly by. We're complaining about them and the next thing you know, they're over. Time goes by quickly because we are going so fast, which results in us forgetting the details of the day, the moment, and maybe even what we had for breakfast. The practice of meditation and mindfulness will help slow everything down so that you can be present. You want to slow down to be present, but you also have to decide to be present. Mindfulness means being a beginner. They say the smartest person in the room is a beginner.
For the holidays, back up and pretend you have never done this before, there is no right, there is no wrong. I would love for you, in the midst of this crazy holiday, to make it less crazy by going back to your practice. When you meditate, you are uniting your brain. I am asking you to do some work during the holidays. Do some work, so you don't harm your loved ones, and you are taking care of yourself. If you wait until after the holidays to pick up the practice you had, or to start one, you are missing out on slowing your mind, finding more time, remembering what's important, noticing your compassionate, loving, kind spirit, and being exactly who you want to be. Take a few minutes to step back, or take a brief walk, get some fresh air. Wake up 15 minutes early to practice your meditation. Wake up, get in your chair, give yourself some deep breathes, drop into the awareness of who you are, get out of the waves of the holidays just for a bit. Give the gift of meditation.
May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you know that you are loved.