The holidays lend themselves to extra stress. In Christmases past, I built gingerbread houses, trimmed trees, and made hot cocoa mix for the neighbors. I single-handedly hosted a made-from-scratch cookie Christmas party for my husband’s basketball team. We did the church program, the school program, and we spent Christmas day traveling from my in-laws in Indiana to my parents house in Illinois. I spent the entire season be-rating myself for not enjoying this madness, and I was beyond tired.
Notice I didn't mention the other stress I had from dealing with my family's alcohol use disorder (AUD). Ignoring those problems took more work than all of the baking, shopping, and wrapping combined, and were the real reason behind my anxiety. Stressors from that dysfunction affected me all year long for many years.
When our bodies process anxiety, it triggers the flight or fight response, releasing a surge of adrenaline. This worked well to protect our ancestors from dinosaur attacks and is still useful today in emergencies. All too often, our bodies are geared up to fight emergencies that never happen. In his book, Retraining the Brain, Dr. Frank Lawlis explains,
"Here's what's going on in the anxiety-filled brain: Fears and stress trigger an anxiety storm in your brain - which in turn creates chaos that your brain tries to resolve, but can't. Instead, it just lingers there, endlessly spinning with surges of raw shocks. In psychological terms, that means you're in a chronic (which means constant) state of anxiety."
When trouble hits, my adrenal glands leap into action, flooding my body with hormones. My heart beats faster and my breathing kicks into high gear. My muscles brace for the anticipated hit, and my pupils lock-in on the target. This is my body's conditioned response to stress, but my body couldn’t keep up with my fears. I eventually lost an adrenal gland. Dr. Lawlis's circle breathing offers a one-minute fix that turns my body around.
All too often the idea of pausing for a minute here and another minute there is lovely but impractical. To help you get through this holiday season, we've developed these simple Mini Mind Breaks. Each video lasts approximately one minute and is perfect for viewing on the go during holiday shopping or during a stressful day.
Please consider the one-minute beach vacay as my gift to you this holiday season. May every party, gathering, and celebration find you merry and bright. But if it doesn't, may you find a minute to get away and get re-centered.
A Reach Out Recovery Exclusive By: Pam Carver