Gratitude mentally outcompetes anger so when your family proves stressful this holiday season implement my favorite rule: say something you appreciate about them. This means that you can’t be angry and grateful at the same time- it’s measurable in brain waves!
“My mother is pushing my buttons, she knows that I can’t stand when she criticizes me passive aggressively!”*
Quickly insert “I’m grateful for the nourishing food she provided me tonight.”
BOOM: love over hate essentially, with the brain having preferential tendencies towards love.
Holiday season can be hard on our stress systems. Every person has their individual stress threshold, meaning how much stress we can handle before our stress cup spills over and you start chucking sweet potatoes at grandma. There are things you just can’t interfere with; those aren’t the aspects to address. Minimize the micro-stressors that you CAN control like minimizing triggers: waking up to twitter, social media, hitting snooze on the alarm. Beginning your day with more room for the things that are out of your control. Another great tip from Dr. Rangan Chatterjee is to begin each day with 3Ms:
Mindfulness- breathing exercises, bringing awareness to your senses
Movement- gentle stretching, walking the dogs, playing outside with your kids
Mindset- affirmations, positive book/podcast, gratitude list
With these items checked off first thing in the morning you will find yourself to be more tolerant, resilient, and even-keeled throughout the day. Something ticks you off- your first reaction won’t be an impassioned diatribe about chunky vs smooth mashed potatoes because your cup hasn’t been filled yet.
Let’s rewind a bit, what is stress?
The body has a sympathetic system (fight/flight/freeze) that gets initiated under stress. However, the exact same response is initiated whether the stress if physical, emotional, or perceived. This means that the sweet potatoes grandma flung back at you (physical stress) generates the same response as if you had just imagined her doing it (perceived stress). That’s the power of perception. Anger, anxiety, jealousy incite damaging effects as powerful as the evolutionary intention of stress like a tiger running at you. It’s crucial to transition from the physiological state of stress to rest, and it takes active work to do.
How stress affects aging
Telomeres are considered biological aging markers. They are little caps on the end of your DNA that shorten naturally with age. When they shorten to a specific distance the DNA shuts down. Factors like stress, poor nutrition and rumination can accelerate their shrinking!
*Mom, this was not a realistic example and not based on you <3