Stress - A term in psychology and biology, borrowed from physics and engineering and first used in the biological context in the 1930s, which has in more recent decades become commonly used in popular parlance. It refers to the consequence of the failure of an organism - human or other animal - to respond adequately to mental, emotional, or physical demands, whether actual or imagined. When the person perceives a threat, their nervous system responds by releasing a flood of stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones rouse the body for emergency action. The stress response is the body's way of protecting the person. When working properly, it helps in staying focused, energetic, and alert.
Stressed about the holidays
The holiday rush can add even more pressure on many people who are already experiencing unusually high stress, says psychologist Dr. Laura Maciuika, author of Conscious Calm: Keys to Freedom From Stress and Worry.
"Almost half of adults in the U.S. have reported feeling more high stress than they did a year ago," explains Dr. Maciuika, a Harvard-trained clinical psychologist. "The holiday rush and economic pressures can make that stress even worse - and yet we're supposed to be celebrating and having fun! Plus, there is so much information out there about stress, including popular myths - it can be hard to know what works for lasting stress relief, or figure out where to start."
To help separate the stress myths from realities, Dr. Maciuika has a free Special Report on Stress Myths at www.stopstressandworry.com
Dr. Maciuika suggests three Conscious Calm Tips to ease the holiday stress, feel more relaxed, and be able to enjoy the holiday season more fully:
Conscious Calm Tip #1
Notice the difference between the outside stress (shopping, parties, finances, etc.) and inside stress. Most of us do not pay enough attention to what we're doing on the inside, in our minds. What we tell ourselves all day long, what we decide something means, how much story-telling we do - these are inside actions we do have control over. They make a huge difference in how we feel. Bring awareness to how you may be adding to inside stress for more choice, control and calm.
Conscious Calm Tip #2
Once you have more awareness of internal stress-creation, remind yourself these are choice points where you do have control. Where you put your attention makes a huge difference in how you feel. If you notice yourself focusing on problems for too long, or telling yourself stressful stories, interrupt those patterns. Choose to put your attention somewhere else. Focusing on deeper, slower breathing can be a useful here; so can focusing on what you're grateful for. Interrupting automatic pilot thinking is important for getting back to present time and more ease.
Conscious Calm Tip #3
The holiday season can bring "have to attend" parties and other obligations. Be sure to balance those with gatherings or rituals that hold meaning for you. Set some limits - compromise or say "No" if the obligations get too much. The holiday season is a powerful time to create positive memories for yourself and your loved ones. Be sure to include and prioritize activities and get-togethers that will add to that treasure chest of good memories.
About Dr. Laura Maciuika -Dr. Laura Maciuika is a Harvard-trained clinical psychologist and the author of Conscious Calm: Keys to Freedom From Stress and Worry. Dr. Maciuika has taught in the U.S. and internationally, with topics including adult development, and trauma and healing. She has helped hundreds of people transform stress and worry into greater happiness and success. In addition to her Integrative Psychotherapy practice in northern California, Dr. Maciuika also consults with individuals and groups on transformation strategies for inner freedom and success.