Holiday Stress

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Holiday stress could mean holiday eustress or holiday distress.

Either is a physiological function of our thoughts.

Eustress is the physiology that comes with thoughts that my resources match the demands in my life.

For example, even though I have a busy schedule, I will be able to make time for Christmas shopping, and I will enjoy buying gifts for the people I love.

Distress is the same physiology coupled with thoughts about how my resources are not enough to handle the holiday demands.

Stress, whether helpful or not, exists in only one place, inside our bodies, and nothing outside of us can make us feel anything, only our interpretive thoughts make us feel.

And you may have grown up with the belief that stress is caused externally, anger is caused by someone or something outside you.

Not true.

When I run into this externalization question with my domestic violence guys or my anger management men and women, I ask them where they see me.

Most will report that they see me in my chair across the room. I tell them no, that they only place they can have the experience of vision is in their visual cortex, which is in the back of their brain.

Same for hearing, touch, taste, smell, all our sensory experience happens inside our heads, and is interpreted there, or words about whether this experience is good or bad, for example, are created inside, and we are responsible for those words.

This represents an opportunity for me, and for all of us, to learn to place new interpretations on our sensory experience, interpretations that lead to eustress rather than distress.

The one thing that the stress management folks never tell us is that our Central Nervous System does this stress creation thing really fast, in much less time than it takes me to blink my eyes, which takes 1/10th second.

And if you are male, and move into a fight or flight physiology, you will need to take a time out for 20 minutes to clear the stress neurotransmitters and hormones from your body.

Another issue that I routinely address in my psychoeducational classes is the one about "I am not stressed (or angry) until I want to throttle someone, and that only happens once or twice per year, therefore I am not a stressed (or angry) person."

So I pull out my Heartmath program on my computer and hook them up to a sensor and show them how even when they are sitting quietly, that changes in thoughts have an immediate impact on physiology, and stressful thoughts keep one measure of stress management, their heart rate variability, incoherent, which means they are getting ready for some action of some kind.

And then we use the heart rate variability biofeedback program to demonstrate that sitting quietly and thinking gratitude thoughts, for example, and attending to their thinking creates just the opposite response, heart rate variability coherence, which feels noticeably better, by all reports.

Then when a client has finished their heart rate variability biofeedback experience, I ask them if anything has changed in the external world?

Have they gotten richer or better looking, for example, two things our culture tells us we should be aspiring to improve by buying potions and pills.

Every client so far, out of hundreds, has said, " No, nothing outside me has changed."

And I reply that, "You mean to feel better, all you have to do is think gratitude thoughts and breath a little deeper?"

And to a client, everyone has understood that distress is handled by changing thinking patterns and breathing patterns, which actually does open up higher perceptual centers in the brain for significantly improved brain storming.

While all my clients have understood what the heart rate variability biofeedback tool was teaching them, it takes some practice to make it a habit to feel good regularly, to cue heart rate variability frequently, so holiday stress does not become holiday murder.

But you can do that, get in the habit of cuing holiday eustress every five minutes, simply because it feels good.

Feel good is what we are actually designed to do. Stress is only supposed to happen infrequently, so I believe that the heart rate variability biofeedback tool is helping us return to our natural state of good health.

Can you imagine feeling good every five minutes, because you can?

I guarentee you that if you do this feel good every five minutes process, every once in awhile, you will be out in public, feeling good, grinning big, and someone will look at you, and you will grin even bigger, because your smile just touched someone else.

Go for it.


Michael S. Logan is a brain fitness expert, a counselor, a student of Chi Gong, and licensed one on one HeartMath provider. I enjoy the spiritual, the mythological, and psychological, and I am a late life father to Shane, 10, and Hannah Marie, 4, whose brains are so amazing.

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