By Lori Ann King
The holidays are a time for family, celebration, joy, and giving. They can also be a time of loneliness, financial strain, sadness, and an endless list of activity. While the holiday season can seem over-whelming at times, there are things we can do to reduce stress and exper-ience more happiness.
In my new book Come Back Strong, I tell my per-sonal story of being thrust suddenly into menopause after having a hysterectomy and oophorectomy. With my uterus and ovaries gone, my hormonal balance shifted dramatically overnight, it felt like every single area of my life needed my attention. As I put each area of my life under a microscope, I dove into a world of self-discovery and awareness. I worked to balance my physical systems. I also began seeking solutions to regain my emotional balance, such as incorporating joy and peace into everything I do.
Enjoy the following excerpts from Come Back Strong. The tools listed below can be used by anyone seeking to reduce stress to live a more balanced life in wellness.
Wishing you a holiday season filled with peace, joy, and happiness.
Chronic stress that goes untreated can affect body, mind and emotions. Mine also made my menopausal symptoms worse. To find balance and avoid burnout, I had to find ways to reduce stress.
Our health is affected by the decisions we make daily. Stress is often not a result of one factor, but the cumulative effect of many factors. It helps me to look at what I can control now. In this moment, I may not be able to leave a stressful job, but I can decide not to eat the cookie someone has offered me or reach for caffeine to get me through my day.
I’ve also learned to say no more often, especially to things that don’t align with my healthy goals, purpose, passion, and priorities. Some weeks I still cross off the morning and evening hours on my calendar and schedule those as sacred “me” time. I do my best to create good habits with food and exercise, and I now build in time to rest and recover, practice yoga and meditate.
These are all part of my system of self-care that helps to reduce stress, alleviate symptoms, and bring me back into balance. As a woman I tend to put others first, to my own detriment. This leaves me compromising on my needs, especially when it comes to relaxation and self-care. After surgery and during surgical menopause it was important to make myself a priority. I learned what I required to relax, and I asked my family to adjust.
Yoga is a major support in stress reduction for me. It helps me to calm my body, which in turn, quiets my mind. In the past few years,
I have explored many different forms of yoga and I’m still learning. When I take care of myself and practice yoga even once or twice a week, I’m more connected to my body and spirit with a sense of calmness.
My friend Theresa, who is a yoga instructor and owner of Anahata Yoga and Healing Arts in Kingston, New York, says: “Yoga’s unique effect on the mind-body connection is one of the reasons it is routinely used to help overcome stress, depression, and other unpleasant emotional states. Even the simple act of stepping into our practice, and of committing to ourselves, sends self-love messages to the brain—and self-love is sometimes the most powerful medicine we can give ourselves.”
Self-love was a powerful component of my healing. Most religions and spiritual traditions teach a version of the principles “love thy neighbor as thyself.” It’s the premise of showing the same kindness to others that we want to be shown to us. The problem is, we don’t love ourselves enough, which adds to our stress levels.
During surgical menopause, we hate our symptoms and our bodies. But the last thing any of us needs is hate, especially when it comes to ourselves. Think of a child who falls and skins her knee. Her caregiver jumps in with gentle kindness and kisses the boo-boo to make it better. What if our symptoms are our bodies’ ways of saying, “Hey? Love me. Hug me. Nurture me. Think good things about me. Get more rest. Stop feeding me that.” Are we listening?
Self-love includes taking care of our bodies and health, showing respect for ourselves and our well-being, taking responsibility for our happiness. Self-love is accepting and embracing all the past, present and future.
Meditation was a tool that helped me create balance and reduce stress. The more my symptoms spun out of control, the more I required the silence that meditation brings. Meditation is a form of quiet listening and turning within.
When my life gets hectic or symptoms get intense, I have a real choice: I can listen to the noise, focus on the symptoms, and pay attention to the minutia, or I can tune into the still small voice within me and listen for its guidance. I can learn to calm the chaos in my body and mind, which results in more peace and harmony in my life.
My meditation practice began with a daily fifteen-minute “sit.” At first, the only goal was to keep my body still for the entire time. I’d often start out all bundled up, snuggled under a blanket. Halfway through, a hot flash would hit. I had two options.
- Kick the blanket off, end my sit prematurely and proceed to freak out.
- Sit still and observe, allow the hot flash to come and go and be unimpressed by it. I don’t always get it right, but it has become an invaluable tool, nonetheless.
Meditation can also be practiced through making art or music, writing, coloring, and even gardening. When you think about how you plan to meditate, permit yourself to add any activity you do on your own where you go into the “zone” to the list. Meditation can be done seated, walking, or dancing. Look for places where you flow naturally and effortlessly in life.
For information about Lori or her new book, Come Back Strong, visit www.LoriAnnKing.com/ComeBackStrong