It’s holiday time again. The songs and carols remind us that “it’s the most wonderful time of the year,” and that we should be filled with merriment and holiday cheer.
Instead, many of us find ourselves riddled with stress, worry and anxiety as we anticipate family get-togethers, and race around trying to fulfill holiday obligations.
I’m by no means immune to the average run-of-the-mill holiday anxiety. It’s hard to release oneself from years of cultural conditioning, and all too often I’m chasing my tail in an attempt to create a “perfect” holiday experience for my family.
And this year a new and unexpected challenge sent my stress levels through the roof.
Kitty Wake Up Call
It all started a few weeks ago. I woke up and discovered that my elderly cat, Franny, had left me “a little gift.” I’d left my laptop open on my desk, and there splattered on the keyboard was the evidence of Franny’s latest bout of incontinence – or a symbol of her annoyance with me for being absent from the household most of the fall.
Whatever the reason, Franny had effectively derailed me from getting any work done that morning. I kicked into crisis mode, praying that my computer would emerge from this unscathed. (After all, I make my living with it these days.)
Hah! Wishful thinking.
I’ll spare you the details involved in the cleanup process, but suffice it to say I ended up with a computer screen that worked but a completely unresponsive keyboard. Fortunately, I was able to purchase a $10 external keyboard for a temporary fix.
However, I and my work were no longer very mobile.
I spent far to many hours discussing this with the owner of our local Mac store, and evaluating the various options – hoping to solve the problem without parting with copious amounts of cash.
And after half a day of dithering –with work responsibilities clamoring for my attention – I did what any reasonable person would do. I procrastinated the whole thing.
But this week my procrastination allowance ran out. I realized was just a matter of days before we were to leave on a 3-week trip. I need a computer to work from the road. I need to deal with this. Now.
I could feel my blood pressure rising just at the thought. I can have some fun geeking out with tech stuff – but when things go wrong I don’t handle it well.
Again, I’ll spare you the frustrating details, suffice it to say that Plans A, B and C were not working out. I had moved onto Plan D, which involved offloading some of my data to an external drive.
So, there I was at Costco, trying to find a low-priced external drive, but the flooding in Thailand has wreaked havoc in their factories, causing a shortage of these devices in this country. All that was left was the higher priced versions.
Why can’t things ever work out? I wondered.
Hmm, an indication of first-world problems? The factory workers in Bangkok are homeless, without work, and probably getting around by boat – and here I am moaning because I have to pay an extra $50 for a device that has nothing to do with survival.
But right then I wasn’t getting it.
Sweating, late, and hungry, I hurried through the store, expensive device in hand, steam practically emerging from my ears.
That’s when I ran into Teresa, a former neighbor from many years ago. Her children had been a bit older than mine and played once or twice. I never see her anymore. She didn’t look too good.
“My granddaughter just died,” she told me.
Her 14-year-old granddaughter had been killed in a car wreck over Thanksgiving weekend. I vaguely remembered reading the tragic story in the paper but had no idea I knew any of the people involved.
“My daughter’s just a mess,” she continued. “I don’t know what to do for her.”
Tears in my eyes I hugged Teresa as hard as I could. I choked out what condolences I could, I did not know what to say to heal the naked pain in her eyes.
And we parted ways, me holding this giant piece of cardboard and plastic encasing a device that had seemed so important minutes before.
And here I’d thought my little piddly computer problems were oh-so-important.
Talk about perspective whacking you in the head.
It’s not that I never remember to consider those less fortunate, or to enumerate all that I am grateful for. But it’s just so easy to forget and get caught up in an angry, stressed out state.
And that’s how cat poop on my keyboard helped me remember to count my blessings.
Don’t Let Stress Bite You
Even if your computer keyboard is fine, and your cat well-behaved, you might still find yourself whacked with a heavy dose of stress and anxiety this holiday season. Try these natural wellness ideas for taking that anxiety level down a few notches.
1. Rescue remedy
I’ve written about this life-saving flower essence combo before, but it’s not just for hugely traumatic events. A few doses (four drops at a time) of Rescue Remedy tones down that angry, excitable feeling and calms the mood.
A single flower essence that particularly targets tension and the three “i’s”: impatience, intolerance, irritation is called (of course) impatiens. I wish I’d had some on hand yesterday!
2. Avena Skullcap Combination Tincture.
Herbal tinctures can be stronger and more noticeable than flower essences because they work on the physical body rather than the emotional vibration. Herb Pharm’s Nervous System Tonic is my favorite for daytime stress because the herbs are not sedating.
“Avena” is Latin for oats – the same kind you use to make oatmeal. Oats are known to be nourishing to the nervous system, hence their presence in many stress and anxiety formulas. So, if you’re really prone to getting stressed, think about including more whole oats in your diet.
3. Aromatherapy Bath or Massage
Lavender essential oil is my favorite for uplifting the spirits and it also produces a calming effect on the body. For instant de-stressing, place a drop on each temple and massage for a minute. If you can, take a few more moments to breathe deeply and relax.
You can also add several drops to a full tub of steaming bath water. Or make a bath oil using essential oils: 10 drops bergamot oil, 5 drops lavender oil, 3 drops geranium oil and 1 drop neroli oil mixed into two ounces of a “carrier” oil such as almond oil. Omit the neroli oil if it is too expensive or hard to find.
The same combination can be made into a massage oil, just double the amount of carrier oil to four ounces.
For more aromatherapy ideas, check out my post Beat the Blues With Aromatherapy.
4. Herbal Footbath
A great solution if you don’t have a bath tub. Some people feel that footbaths can be even more effective in relieving stress and anxiety than a full-on bath. Our feet are a passing point for all of the nerves in our body, so when feet are treated well, the nervous system benefits.
Combine some relaxing herbs such as chamomile, hops and lavender, add in a little rosemary or sage. Use an ounce or two of herbs for a large pot of water. Cover the pot and heat till and simmer and let the herbs simmer on low heat for about five minutes.
Pour the herbal mixture into a basin and add some cool water – but not too much! Your footbath should be nice and hot. In fact, it’s a good idea to cover the basin with at towel after you’ve immersed your tootsies to keep the heat in. Sip on some chamomile tea or other stress-relieving herbal tea as you let your feet soak and your entire body relax
5. Attitude of Gratitude.
As I was reminded while racing through Costco the other day, cultivating appreciation for what we have been given goes a long way to relieving stress and reducing anger. A gratitude journal is one way to keep your appreciation in the forefront of your mind. I’ve read that spending just five minutes per week writing in such a journal can increase one’s capacity for happiness.
Uh oh, here comes Franny. I’ve forgiven her, but I’d better go find my gratitude journal.