Illustrations by Kate O’Leary
This is a stressful time of year. The holidays are here, and for many of us, our to-do lists are longer than ever. On top of that, we are feeling financially squeezed and calendar challenged. Our “free time” seems to be filled up with tasks, errands and the chores of usual life maintenance. We are stressed, overworked and overwhelmed.
We bring our challenged selves to work. Instead of calmly serving our clients, we may have difficulty performing optimally. We might even increase the tension in our treatment rooms. We are vulnerable to spreading our own stresses as opposed to facilitating health, peace and well-being. We can only share what we have to give! So, I thought I’d encourage you to adopt some new self-care—and client-care—strategies this season.
Time for Yourself
There are a variety of ways you can take care of yourself, and they don’t have to be complicated. Here are a few ideas for you to try: Opt out of buying so many gifts. Do potlucks instead of making whole meals. Put yourself on your own gift list. Pace yourself. Attend necessary events for shorter periods of time. Take time to relax, rest, exercise, pray, dance, meditate and breathe deeply. Remind yourself of what the holidays are really about. And, give thanks.
On top of implementing any or all of these ideas, I’d like to teach you how to calm your nervous system with affirmations. Affirmations are the things we say and think. They are, in essence, whatever we tell ourselves. And what we tell ourselves can encourage growth and healing just as easily as it can be destructive or problematic. We can rev ourselves up or settle ourselves down. A lot of the things we say to ourselves are basically negative affirmations. For example: “I have too much to do. There is no way I can get it all done.” Negative affirmations fuel our anxiety. The more we tell ourselves worrisome things, the more our systems register stimulation and agitation. We can actually even spiral out of control.
But, just as negative affirmations can cause anxiety, positive affirmations can calm your nervous system and promote well-being. You can use the power of your mind to heal your body during this holiday season. Try using a series of positive affirmations to heal your life. Make the decision to tell yourself nurturing, healing things on a regular basis, calming your anxiety and improving your performance during this challenging time.
At first, you may find yourself resistant to the idea of saying positive things to yourself that you “know aren’t true.” That’s okay—many people struggle with this issue. But the truth of the matter is that almost nothing we tell ourselves is absolute. Consciously or unconsciously, we choose what we say, and our bodies then respond to what we tell ourselves in a self-fulfilling prophecy. So the more we express worrisome thoughts, the more anxious we feel; while the more we express joyful, fulfilling thoughts, the more happy and peaceful we feel. In choosing to tell ourselves positive affirmations, we’re choosing health and well-being for ourselves and, as a result, for our clients.
Where to Start
You may be wondering how to begin using affirmations: What do you say? And where, when and how do you say it? Well, the best affirmations are the ones you choose or create for yourself because they speak back most directly to your particular blend of anxious self-talk. So I suggest you start creating statements that will speak to you, personally and directly.
This is a multistep process. First of all, create a list of all the negative, self-critical and worrisome thoughts you hear in your head. Then, once you have your list, write a positive antidote that expresses what you actually want. Make your affirmations in the present tense and avoid contractions.
Some examples follow, with the new affirmations in green.
Once you’ve created your list of positive thoughts, you might want to pick the top three and write each of them on a separate index card. Next, I suggest you read each of your affirmation cards aloud at least twice daily.
The more often you say your affirmations, the more successful you will become at reprogramming your negative self-talk. I usually find that reading or saying each statement three times in a row whenever I take the time to do the exercise is more effective than just silently reading each statement once.
As you use this affirmation tool, you’ll find yourself growing into each of the positive beliefs. When you find that a particular affirmation is no longer necessary, let go of it and create a new one to fill its place. You can use this tool forever!
You should continue to affirm yourself until you’ve adequately transformed your internal dialogue. Doing this exercise throughout the holiday season will probably serve you and your clients well. As the time feels right, slowly taper your use of affirmations until you need only occasional boosters. This is a phenomenally effective tool. Remember: You can do this! You can transform your thought patterns! You can affirm yourself to a calmer holiday season! And, you can spread more healing, peace and joy as a result.
Wishing you joy, peace, and love,
Eve A. Wood, MD
Eve A. Wood, MD, is clinical associate professor of medicine at the University of Arizona Program in Integrative Medicine. She is the award-winning author of There’s Always Help; There’s Alway’s Hope, 10 Steps to Take Charge of Your Emotional Life, and The Stop Anxiety Now Kit. Eve is also the host of a weekly call-in radio show on www.HayHouseRadio.com. To communicate with Eve, who would love to hear from you, or get more information, visit her website at www.drevewood.com.