By Margie Pensak
Does the mere thought of preparing for Pesach stress you out? When we get stressed, says psychologist Sarah Chana Radcliffe, three intermixed areas – cognitive, physical, and emotional – affect each other, but no worries! These 15 strategies can create a calm, loving environment for your family heading into Yom Tov or any year-round stressor.
Cognitive distortion makes problems that are not true emergencies seem larger than we can manage. Our physical body reacts to this with a stress response and stress chemistry that makes us feel more stressed, emotionally – i.e., rapid heartbeat, tense muscles, poor sleep. The way we think about something will determine whether we will work ourselves up to a tizzy or calm ourselves down. Change your perspective and reframe the situation cognitively to bring yourself back in touch with reality.
1. Put your full attention on what you are doing at the moment to “turn off” the emergency. When we do one thing at a time with full attention, the mind and body think everything is fine and enters an extremely soothing flow state.
2. If you feel overwhelmed with everything you have to do, make a list of what needs to be done. Chunk things down, one thing at a time.
3. Imagine yourself during the post-event period – keeping your eye on the prize can take the strain off.
4. When dealing with the normal mini-crises of life, e.g., getting the kids to bed or out the door, or getting your work done, remind yourself that these are the normal things of life and, baruch Hashem, your children are healthy enough to be rambunctious and you are healthy enough to be able to look after them.
5. Keep the goal of creating a calm place on the top of your mind. Turn off the screeching and screaming to reach your big goal – creating a peaceful atmosphere for your family.
Are you snapping at everybody? Do you have pressure from work deadlines, a family upset or health crisis? Go through any physical route of the body to calm down the nervous system. Try one or more of these strategies. On a bad day, you may want to try them all!
1. Relax the muscles of your body and improve your sleep with aromatherapy. A combination of Saje’s roll on Stress Release and Rescue Remedy is enough to take very intense, overwhelming levels of stress down to a normal level in your body.
2. Turn on calming music while you are getting ready for dinner or doing housework. Your heartrate will respond and you will be giving your body a very big break from stress.
3. Take a mindful walk, even for three to five minutes. Pay attention to all of the sounds around you – your own footsteps, bypassing cars, birds, kids, etc. Turning the volume up on them quiets your brain down.
4. Walk, talk, and eat slower than usual to calm yourself down. It will signal to your brain that you are no longer in a state of emergency, but rather, a state of recovery.
5. Be cognizant of the fact that when we are actively stressed and screaming, raising our voice, criticizing, etc., we are stressing ourselves out. These actions tell our body to send us more stress chemistry; it gives our body feedback that we are in some sort of emergency.
Here are some ways to turn the emergency responses off by soothing ourselves, emotionally.
1. Say good, positive things. Praise yourself to soothe your inner child instead of beating yourself up. When we praise our family members our system is soothed and calmed; when we criticize them or yell at them, it irritates our own nervous system.
2. Listen to your pained and exhausted parts, as if you are your own therapist. If there is someone inside crying for help – “I can’t do this anymore; this is too much for me; I’m too tired” – instead of being a slave driver to that part, acknowledge the exhausted part and speak to it as a nurturer to take care of yourself.
3. Reward and treat yourself during a rough period to soothe the emotional system. Enjoy reading that novel, schmoozing with a friend, or eating that piece of chocolate.
4. Surround yourself with positivity; avoid negativity. Concentrating on problems – the world’s, other people’s, or your own – adds stress to our systems that we can’t afford during periods of high stress.
5. Our minds thrive on opportunities to learn, to be creative, and to hope.
It is only normal to stress out when we are faced with any deadline – be it Yom Tov preps, hosting company, a test, work project, etc. But, if you follow these practical strategies, you will pass your nisayon with flying colors as you create a calm, loving environment for yourself and your family.