The green reed which bends in the wind is stronger than the mighty oak which breaks in a storm.”― Confucius
Control is a tricky thing. The harder we try to hold on to it, the more elusive it is. As we head into the holiday season, control is a key player in our stress and anxiety. Learning to be flexible will help drastically with our holiday experiences if we can learn to let it go.
The song "Let it Go" in the movie Frozen is about Queen Elsa who has magical powers to make ice. The more upset or scared she gets the more ice she makes and the harder it is for her to control herself and not hurt someone. But when she just lets those emotions go, and focuses on the love and not the control she can do amazing things with her power.
If you have ever gone swimming in the ocean and been caught in a wave that is knocking you down, you know fighting is useless. It just gets you tossed around more and you are way more exhausted. If you just relax your body or brace for it and not fight, you will come out the other side faster, less hurt, and not nearly as exhausted.
Do you feel like that? Like the harder you try to keep your schedule together, the more bruised and beaten you feel at the end of the week?
Do you freak out when the line at Starbucks takes too long, or traffic is horrible? Do you actually feel some anger when you or your kid get sick? Do you constantly feel like the world is out to get you when things aren’t going your way?
Trying to control too much can lead to stress and anxiety which are detrimental to our health. In the article “Nine Ways Stress is More Dangerous Than You Think” the author discusses that, “The accumulated stresses of everyday life can damage your health in irreversible ways — from early aging to heart problems to long-term disability.” He goes on to say that stress is bad for your heart and immune system, and it can also make you look older and make you gain weight!
As we head into the holiday season here are 5 ways to SLOW DOWN and let it go.
#1 BE MINDFUL
When you are overwhelmed try to engage with the only thing you can always control – the mind. You may not be able to control it in the sense that you can stop your emotions or thoughts, but you can control the minds reactions. You can slow down and try to focus on the now.
There is an exercise in dialectical behavior therapy, a psychological method, that asks you to describe something using all of your senses. So if you are in traffic and you are getting anxious and angry because you will be late, or just want to get home. Try describing something like a building or car using all of your senses.
What does the building look like, feel like, taste like, smell like, and sound like? Obviously you can use your imagination. It’s a great game to even play with others if you are not the only one in the car. It can definitely help you calm down and accept your lack of control. Leading to less stress and a better mood.
#2 BE FLEXIBLE
Set yourself up to succeed. When I was in film school I had a professor tell me about the rule of thirds. Not the standard description of how you break up your shots, but a way to set up your expectations:
33% of the time you should not budge on what you want to accomplish.
33% of the time you should be willing to compromise, but not give up your ultimate goal.
33% of the time: LET IT GO!
If you prepare based on this method then, 51% of the time you should be getting what you plan done the way you want, but you will have built in the flexibility to expect to let some of it go.
You have your spouse’s family coming in to town for Thanksgiving. There is bound to be stress. Set down some rules and talk to your spouse. You may like to control what your schedule is at night, for your kids bedtimes, or for your own sleep habits.
So if your spouse's family is in town for 5 nights. Explain that 2 of those nights you expect to be home and try for a normal routine. 1 of those nights you might be willing to eat out or do something late. But the other 2 nights you will go with the flow and expect that you may miss your night routine or have some grumpy kids in the morning. When you expect that your plans are going to be out of the ordinary it is not quite as shocking to the system. Plus then you can enjoy the two out of the ordinary nights because you are not trying so hard to control them and upset the whole time because you are ruminating on how tired you will be the next day. Plus you have the comfort of knowing that the next night or two you will get a break and have a semi normal routine.
#3 Stop, Drop and BREATHE!
Did someone just say something that made you livid? Is your kid testing you and you are about to scream? Did your spouse or roommate just do something you asked them not to?
Before you react – Before you can let it go you have to Slow down. Remember what the fire department taught you when you were a kid – Stop, Drop, and Roll!
Well if you are emotionally on fire I recommend Stop Drop and Breathe.
STOP – Whatever you are about to do -STOP. Don’t talk, don’t throw something, don’t even look at whatever or whomever has lit you on fire just stop.
DROP – Drop whatever you were doing. Playing with the kid- walk away. Talking to your spouse – walk away. About to answer the phone at work – DON’T.
BREATHE – Then Breathe. Close your eyes and breath in and out for 10 seconds. If you need longer, do it again. Then ask yourself how you feel.
If you are thinking – I can’t just stop what I am doing I have responsibilities. I can’t just walk away from my spouse in a conversation. I can’t just leave my kid (if they are too young put them somewhere safe first obviously – pack and play, high chair), or I have to answer the phone - you are forgetting something.
YOU ARE ON FIRE! What happens when you are on fire and you stand near someone else. They light on fire too!
What happens when you get angry at your spouse and you hang around – Is it a calm calculated conversation where you both feel heard? Nope. It escalates and then you are both angry and on fire.
What happens when you get angry at your kid and yell. Do they say yes mommy and do what they are told. Nope. They cry or tantrum or yell back.
What happens if that next phone call is an important one and you are short or not thinking straight does that look better then just calling back 2 minutes later? Nope.
When we stop, drop, and breathe. It may not fix everything, but you get a chance to think. It will stop the craziness in your head for a minute and give you a chance to think.
Remember if you don’t learn to let it go you will hurt those around you, just like Elsa in Frozen. If you can prepare yourself for flexibility, be mindful and slow down, you will be healthier for you and those around you.
Kristin Cronin Boone