It’s 2019 and everyone is telling you to have a Happy New Year. But you aren’t feeling particularly happy? No worries. You are not alone. Many of us, in fact, are even more anxious and depressed than usual this time of year. Yes, we all get frayed nerves and the blues every now and then, due for the most part, to the combined stresses of spouses, work, colleagues and kids. (Did I already say spouses?) I mean, who hasn’t had a morning when you just wanted to tear your hair out – or better yet, someone else’s. Or wish to spend an entire evening in bed – with a box of cherry-filled delights, caring not that they are milk, not dark, chocolate. And I have personally experienced those particularly exasperating afternoons when I felt my heart pounding so fast, I feared a coronary and considered seeking emergency medical attention.
This time of year, when the days get darker and shorter also tends to bring out even greater angst because, not only do we now have our everyday to-do’s, we are still suffering from having had to have been the best designated chefs, entertainers, gift buyers, wrappers, card writers, stage managers, set designers and family mediators of the season. (Did I already say family mediators?) The end result is that many of us become so distressed, unhappy and overwhelmed that we simply shut down, unable to process even thing more. There’s even an apt name for it: SADS – Seasonal Adjustment Depression Syndrome.
Alas, anxiety and depression are so common post-holiday, it’s almost come to be expected. Fortunately, though, there are some simple steps to help get you through the coming months. And I share because I care!
First and foremost, make sure your expectations of yourself and those around you are realistic and appropriate. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect; let some things slide so you can relax and take care of yourself. To that end, take ten minutes every day to think about and appreciate all youare fortunate to already have. “After all,” says Oprah, “if you don’t appreciate what you have, you’ll never have enough.”
Remember that when you least feel like taking care of yourself is when you need to most of all. Start by simply closing your eyes and breathing slowly and deeply for ten minutes. This simple exercise can be remarkably helpful when you feel under pressure.”
Know that happiness doesn’t just happen—it’s a choice that you make for yourself, each and every day. You can’t magically stop bad things from occurring in your life, but you can take charge of your stress and negative feelings by figuring out a more positive way to react to them. Consciously infuse your life with more positive thoughts, people, and habits. You have more control over your attitude than you think, so whenever possible, don’t project doom and gloom. In other words, stop agonizing over things that you only perceive will happen — and choose happiness, instead.
My friend Deborah Szekely, the founder of the famed Golden Door and Rancho la Puerta health and fitness resorts, once told me, ‘When you have given all you can give and the well is empty, you must replenish it in order for you to be able to give again.” That said, and courtesy of the “Rungs” in my new book, Long Live You!, here are some additional tips and tools that will help make your days happier, healthier, and Better Than Before, this month and beyond:
If you feel that your quest for perfectionism is causing you to be overly stressed, try to focus instead on the positives. Take a minute to think about all the things that you have accomplished rather than on the tasks that remain undone. However, if the symptoms of your anxiety and depression, like sweating, shakiness, intrusive thoughts, and poor sleep (to name a few), compromise your quality of life or sense of well-being, then it may be time to see a professional. And that’s okay too!
Go Tell it on the Mountain!
Henry David Thoreau gave us history’s best description of depression and anxiety more than 150 years ago when he wrote in Walden Pond that “The mass of [people] lead lives of quiet desperation.” Then he laid out a simple plan for treating that “quiet desperation” that is even sounder than the tight little cabin he built on Walden Pond: Live simply and wisely; get your inspiration from nature; lead a mindful life; challenge the status quo; shun materialism and luxury; meditate and follow the genius of your own intuition or “Realometer,” as he called it. The trick is, if you’re unhappy, depressed, or anxious, change the way you view and interpret life. Monitor your inner dialogue to edit out all the unhealthy, unproductive, negative thinking and cultivate all that is healthy, life-giving, and fruitful.
Weigh to Go
Based upon numerous medical studies linking our state of mind to various nutrient deficiencies, we now know that foods play a major role in dealing with our outlook on life. Emphasize those rich in folate, including legumes, walnuts, fruit, and dark leafy vegetables. Also helpful should be the mineral selenium found in whole grains; and the omega-3 fatty acids in wild salmon and flax seeds are extremely beneficial for better moods. Depression is also associated with decreased Vitamin B12. Beef, fish, and dairy are best, but vegetarians can find it in fermented beans. Be sure, too, to get enough vitamin D. The best natural source is sunshine, but for those living in the northern latitudes, Vitamin D supplements work well.
Walk in a Winter Wonderland.
One of the best things you can do to alleviate anxiety is to exercise. Exercise encourages good oxygen flow to the brain, which promotes effective information processing. Finding 20-30 minutes in a day a few days a week to do some form of exercise — even just a brisk walk — will work wonders to naturally elevate your mood.”
Let Us Spray.
Using a facial mist after cleansing and before moisturizing will both rejuvenate your complexion and your attitude. That said, there are a few different ones to consider – Aromatic, Hydrosol and Nutritional. For aromatic benefits, look for mists containing essential oils in either citrus or floral. Citrus such as orange and lemon are “happy” scents, and florals, for example lavender rose and Ylang Ylang, create feelings of euphoria. Make sure, though that they come from 100% pure essential oils. Hydrosols are flower or herb waters made by distilling plant material and have the same uses as their essential oils. The ones from plants such as cucumber, pure rose, organic rose geranium, and lavender give the best results. To make sure your skin is getting the nutritional benefits it needs, choose mists containing peptides, proteins, and/or organic extracts such as hydrolyzed rice or jojoba protein, green tea, pumpkin or grapefruit seeds.
How Sweet It Is
As we search for organic and natural health remedies, it’s only logical that we return to the old-folk remedies that are tried and true. And honey, which has been used for centuries as an effective treatment for many ailments, should be found in every home. Indeed, its natural sugars energize and stimulate the brain which helps stabilize moods and emotions. It also has the ability to calm frayed nerves. Taken in warm water, warm milk or in a hot cup of tea, such as chamomile, honey also has a soothing and relaxing effect. Additionally, eating an apple with cinnamon and honey also makes a very effective mood lifter. Buckwheat honey, in particular, is a powerful antioxidant. Put some on your toast or oatmeal in the morning to stay happy and productive throughout the day.
Make your Spirit Bright.
Take a break from every day realities by going outside and absorbing the spiritual energy in nature. Back to Thoreau. He called it “generative energy.” Suck in the breezes. Wonder at the light. Wallow in the grasses. Gulp the air. Press the mulching leaves and rich soil to your nose. Marvel at the birdsong. Listen to the bullfrogs. Taste what’s on the wind. Laugh out loud. “The aim of life is to live,” observed novelist Henry Miller, “and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, divinely aware.” If you’re joyously, drunkenly, divinely aware, anywhere you are becomes a portable day by the ocean.
Rock Around the Clock
Engage in creative activities such as painting, creative writing, playing music, singing and dancing. you see, using the creative part of our mind – not for problem-solving, but for fun activities – stimulates our brains in positive ways that help reduce stress. Moreover, being creative can help repair the damage done to our brains by constant stress. Think about whatever “being creative” means to you, and then do it.
Roast Chestnuts on an Open Fire.
Connecting certain fragrances to an emotionally uplifting situation will trigger a response to reduce anxiety and increase happiness. “The primary reason for this,” says Dr Alan Hirsch, neurological director of the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, “is that the part of the olfactory lobe in the brain which governs your sense of smell is actually part of the limbic system, or the emotional brain. Thus, the quickest way to change a mood state or behavior is with smell. Feel anxious or claustrophobic? Green apple and cucumber can calm and relax. Either purchase beauty products with those ingredients or whirr them through a blender and take a whiff. Happy odors, according to Hirsch, induce nostalgia, such as flowers or potpourri. especially ones that contain the scent of pine. Want to instantly reduce anxiety? “Try the smell of barbecue.” (Yes, that surprised me, as well!) Simplest to do is to buy a a bottle of sauce, open and inhale!
Do You Hear What I Hear?
When you catch yourself talking negatively, work to change it. Ask yourself what you would tell a good friend or relative who was talking to themselves the way you are. Would you tell them to push even harder, or take a break and relax? Would you let them talk about themselves harshly or encourage them by reminding them about all the wonderful qualities they have? All day long, you have a radio station inside your head that tells you all sorts of things. If you don’t like what’s being played, you can learn to change the station. At the end of the day, you will discover that learning to love yourself will also make you more pleasant to be around. And that’s a plus for everyone.
Good Will to All.
Most importantly, learn to feel good about yourself for doing positive things for others. Pass on the love that has been given to you. That is, above all, what the true spirit of 2019 should be the all about.
Happy New Year to my beloved audience. I wish you all a year filled with an abundance of love, light and blessings, so that you can continue to be Better (and Better) Than Before!