Nov 20, 2009

WEEKLY UPDATE: The Right Frame of Mind (Holiday Grief)

Summary: This is a stressful time of year, especially for me. I use soothing self-talk as one means to help keep myself grounded in and accepting of my present (a la Abraham Low's group Recovery International). Are you grateful for today?

This time of year really stresses me out. I cope, but it takes a lot of effort. If I'm coping well enough, the best I can hope for is that very few people really get how stressed out and over-taxed I am—because they aren't mind-readers, and I'm not wearing my inner thoughts on my sleeve (or on my face or in my voice or my actions). In other words, I'm not transparent, because I'm continuously keeping myself as grounded as I can.

Sometimes I manage to achieve this through self-talk. Some years ago, I studied Dr. Abraham Low's Recovery, Inc. technique in Chicago (now called Recovery International). I still remind myself that the "symptoms" I'm feeling (physical ones like a racing heart beat and shallow breathing or emotional ones like anxiety, fear, impatience, etc.) are "distressing, but not dangerous."

Low coined the phrase, "Symptoms are distressing, but not dangerous," to help "nervous persons," as he termed it, to be able to self-soothe. Instead of getting caught up in thoughts that might go something like, "I'll never get all this holiday shopping done; I'm such a procrastinator; all the smart people were finished shopping by Halloween!" Low's idea is that we can all alert ourselves to the fact that we're getting "worked up" and change our thinking, which can then change our brain chemistry and our body's responses. We can efficiently—and regularly, when practiced regularly—calm ourselves down anywhere at any time, based on the way we speak to ourselves in our heads.

Hyper-focusing on the future or on the past are common ways to distort your thinking. What do you obsess over around this time of year? Is it future-oriented or something from your past?

Grief can be a major emotional complication around the holidays, especially as families gather from near and far to emphasize the gaps and holes we see around the table. While grief is highly individual in a lot of ways, it is also universal. A major key to staying present and grounded is the emotion of acceptance.

Soothing self-talk can be one way to practice acceptance little by little. This week, I'm starting my gratitude list and sharing part of it publicly in an effort to speak my personal truth—hopefully, with humility. Today, I'm grateful for today. What about you ...?

© KiKi Productions, Inc. 2009

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