Try This 30-Second Centering Technique — Just in Time for Holiday Stress Freak-outs
There are so many reasons why the holidays can be stressful, even without an ongoing pandemic: Travel, family dynamics, financial stresses, event planning, and even holiday-related grief. There’s a lot to contend with, and it’s completely normal to love-hate or maybe even hate-hate this season. If the holidays are really hard for you, it’s important to support yourself with friends, family, or chosen family, and to get professional mental health support, if that’s what you need. In addition, here’s a technique you can try to center yourself when you’re in the midst of a holiday freakout and you need to take it down a few notches — fast.
Affirmations might seem corny at first if you’re not familiar with how they’ve been studied in social psychology. But when used effectively, the results can be quite profound. The idea is that affirmations change the core negative beliefs you have about yourself. (the ones that were instilled in us in childhood or through traumatic experiences.) Whether they’re ‘big’ or ‘little’ traumas, they can be set so deep in our hearts and brains that they need to be effectively re-wired. Navigating these beliefs with a therapist can be life-changing, but there is a lot you can do on your own, as well.
Here’s how to do it: Pay attention to your negative self-talk, and then tell yourself the opposite of that. So if you’re racing around your home with too much to do, too much noise, and too many demands, and you’re feeling bad, notice what that feeling is, exactly. Is it anxiety? Is it despair? Then, put into words what the belief about yourself is in connection with these feelings. Some common ones are, “I’m powerless,” “I’m not enough,” “I’m a failure,” “I’m weak,” etc. This has probably been your self-effacing mantra for quite some time. Once you have identified the core negative belief, then you can change it to “I’m powerful,” “I’m enough,” “I’m successful,” or “I’m strong.”
Affirmations are also useful for other types of holiday stress, like grief or loneliness. Sometimes our families are harmful to us, or you want to be with family and you can’t, or you’re missing a family you never really had. This is deep, and it comes up for a lot of people this time of year. Identify what the feeling is first, like sadness, grief, or longing. Some negative core beliefs that might come up are “I’m unlovable,” “I’m alone,” “I’m worthless,” etc. You can counter these negative beliefs with affirmations like, “I’m lovable,” “I’m loved,” “I’m worthy,” “I’m valued,” and “I’m sacred.” If you feel like you need someone else to tell you that you are all of these things before you can believe them, then, hi, here I am! You are loveable, loved, worthy, valued, and sacred. I’d love for you to say it with me and open yourself to feeling it.
Try experimenting with different positive affirmations until you find the one that lights you up. If you’re really feeling rough, it might feel like you’re just going through the motions, but do it anyway. Positive core beliefs replace the negative beliefs eventually with repetition, and even the act of trying this out is a great kindness to yourself — and that counts for a lot.
Pairing affirmations with some kind of gentle touch can help ground you. I like putting both hands over my heart as I repeat my affirmations because it feels like I’m placing the message right where I need it the most. Some other options include gently patting your arm or leg, bringing your hands to your solar plexus (the upper belly), patting your head or stroking your hair, or gently tapping your nose or forehead. The idea is that the touch should be comforting. If you prefer not to include the touch, that’s totally fine, too. Some people like to repeat the affirmation three times, but really, say it as much as you want, and as often as you want. You can’t overdo self-love.
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