Ana’s Advent Calendar, Day 20: Christmas Stress

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Noelle will be attending family activities for part of the day today but will return later to respond to everyone’s comments.
 Christmas Stress

The holiday season is here, can you believe it? Are you ready? I’m definitely not…but then, I’m usually not ready. I hear for some, the holidays are magical and wonderful. I have no idea who those people are, but I’m guessing they’re aliens. Or have no responsibilities. Children. They’re probably children.

For most of us, though, the holidays are stressful. Kids are out of school, family descends (or, alternately, we invade the homes of relatives), holiday shopping (don’t get me started—Amazon is my friend), cooking, cleaning…it’s an endless list. So how do we unwind with all that going on? Some of us exercise, some of us eat (any of you chocoholics like me?), some of us journal, or spend obscene amounts of money on shoes, and some of us sleep. And in the past year, a lot of adults have been turning to coloring.

Yes, coloring. Believe it or not, coloring gives us an allotted time to zone out from obligations, to help us think of nothing more than what color we’re going to use to fill in which space. I don’t know about you, but most days, I’m ready to stop adulting by 10 AM. Sometimes earlier.

You might be wondering why I’m talking about stress. Well, one reason is because my education and training is in psychology, specifically clinical psychology. That just means that I was trained to do therapy with clients. One of the issues we were taught to help people with was stress. If left unchecked, stress can cause all sorts of problems in our lives—and not just mental problems. Stress can become really serious if we don’t learn how to cope with it in healthy ways. By healthy, I mean not drinking, smoking, or spending all your hard earned cash on shoes (actually, I’ve almost convinced my husband that spending an obscene amount of money on shoes is healthy, so don’t tell him otherwise, ‘kay?).

Psychologists often suggest exercise, journaling, and meditation for stress relief. We focus on repetitive motion (this will come back later in this post) during the exercise itself, which puts us in the moment. There’s a reason the twelve-step programs say to “Take one day at a time.” If we’re in the present, we cannot be focused on the past (e.g., regrets) or the future (e.g., fears, doubts, and anxiety). Additionally, exercise releases endorphins which are nature’s opiates (that means they make us feel good, or so I hear). So even after the movement is over, you get benefits.

With journaling, we write our emotions, thoughts, and ideas down. If we’re angry at someone, we might write a letter to them, explaining our anger (and NOT send it). It’s the equivalent of talking to someone to vent, but without needing another person. We also can find that when we write our thoughts and feelings out on paper, solutions to problems suddenly seem clear. Meditation is repetitive, just like exercise, except that instead of a body movement, the repetition is breathing. Like exercise, meditation helps us hold on to the present.

So why has coloring caught on so strong for stress relief? Because like exercise and meditation, coloring is an in-the-moment, repetitive action. Some people have suggested the activity helps us revisit our childhood, and if I were to choose between paying bills or coloring…well, hand me a pack of Crayolas.

Seriously, though, art has been my go-to stress relief for years. I was a studio art minor in college, before I surrendered it to the big, bad, soul-sucking thing we call grad school in order to get that fancy graduate degree. Luckily, I got back to it, thanks to writing colleagues who needed inspirational covers for their works in progress. If Amazon is my friend, then Photoshop is an intimate partner…and not just because my selfies suddenly look great.

But I digress. This post is about stress, and how to relieve it. So, what are some ways you relieve your stress? Have you tried anything in the past that just did not work, no matter how many people told you it would (*cough* jogging *cough*)?

 

Author Bio: Noelle Pierce is the alter ego of Elizabeth Bank (that’s one Bank, not many Banks). Noelle was born because, while Liz would adore being mistaken for a hot, blonde, Hollywood starlet, she is not, in fact, said actress. Therefore, the real name had to disappear for fiction, unless Google searchers were willing to trudge through fifteen pages of blonde bombshell first. Regardless of the name she uses, she loves the written word, the painted canvas, shoes, understanding behavior, and shoes. And the city. Please don’t ever suggest a camping trip to her, unless it involves a cabin, fireplace, and/or central air.

 

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38 thoughts on “Ana’s Advent Calendar, Day 20: Christmas Stress

  1. kaisquared4 says:

    LOL re the camping and the jogging, so true for me as well.
    Stress reduction for me frequently involves making very detailed plans re an event, especially when there were lots of people involved, to eliminate as many unpleasant surprises as possible.
    Stress reduction in real life involves taking time to talk with family, read a good book, or do something with my hands like knit or crochet or build furniture.
    Also, voodoo dolls can sometimes be strangely cathartic 🙂

    Like

    • Noelle Pierce says:

      Oh, yes. Reading is one of my vices. My husband doesn’t understand it. He’s actually put his hand in front of my book while I’m reading…and/or taken it from me in the middle of a good scene. Really, he’s quite lucky I’m not violent (outside of my imagination) or I’d be a widow.

      Like

  2. Laura says:

    Liz/Joelle – I too think people who are gaga for Christmas are at the very least aliens and in fact are probably the devil incarnate. I’ll have to research this later.

    Coloring is one of my favorite de-stressing (I know it’s not a word but I don’t care) activities to do. I read a ton of books – I owe so many reviews I could start today and still not be done by next Christmas. In fact, there are quite a few authors on this page who if they knew how many I owed them they all would have spoons in their hand. All I can say is sorry and the line forms to the left. I also meditate. This all makes it seem as if I have life fairly well in hand. What a load of poopie. As I stated in previous answers this has been a god awful year and instead of trying some coping skills I wallowed. Turns out I’m a great wallower. Who knew? I have come to find out that wallowing is a stupid way to live my life. When I received Ana’s em about this blog something in me decided to at least try to re-engage in life. Turns out it was maybe my awesomest idea. I’ve started reading again just for the love of it and meditating. Coloring will be the next step in rejoining the human race. So thank you all for the cheer, lmao moments and insights into your lives. See ya tomorrow.

    Like

    • Noelle Pierce says:

      Laura – I’m so sorry your 2015 wasn’t great…that seems to be going around. Wallowing can be helpful, but I’m glad you’re back and re-engaging! I also owe a lot of reviews, so I’m feeling you there. Thanks for commenting!

      Like

    • Joelle Casteel says:

      Haha Laura, I was confused for a moment when I saw your post starting with Liz/Joelle… A bit of humor at my own expense, for all the years I rode a bus to school (most of them), starting around December, I would have bratty boys who’d sing “The First Joelle”- I still can’t listen to any Christmas songs with Noel in them without remembering that teasing. I’m sure the boys thought they were clever 😀

      Like

  3. SH says:

    Great post and a real coincidence for me. I was online with Amazon (I love them too) looking for coloring books for my daughter and grandbabies and ended up finding some for me too! I have always loved to color, the smell of a brand new box of crayons..sigh, but this time I ordered gel pens for me.

    I go to the gym four times a week, not my most favorite thing but it does make me feel better. But, the best stress reliever I have is my horse, hands down. I can relax and everything falls away except she and I. Perfect.

    Like

    • Noelle Pierce says:

      I’m so glad you found it helpful! I’ve never colored with gel pens, so I’ll have to try that.

      The gym is not my friend. It claims to be. Makes all sorts of promises. But in the end, the gym and I are just not on the same page when it comes to our relationship expectations and commitment requirements. She’s a demanding b****. Now a horse…I always wanted a horse. Parents never got me one, though. *pouts*

      Thanks for commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. JoanneBest says:

    Ok Noelle, do you have a camera in my brain or are you really working with Mrs. Claus? 😀
    If ever there was a timely post, this is it!
    Before I even turned on my computer I was frenzied with worry thinking about all the stuff I still need to do before Christmas, now, in the afterglow of your words, I feel so much calmer 🙂 Thank you so much for helping to calm me down. It helps knowing that I’m not the only one who is BFFs with Amazon.
    I still have so much to do, in fact, I just began to renew my relationship with Amazon yesterday and we will be spending more time together today….inbetween decorating the tree and food shopping and regular housework and Christmas prep and, and, and, and 😛
    I’m so glad I asked Santa for coloring books this year.

    What do I do to help relieve my stress? Is there an app for that?
    Believe it or not, some of my stress relief comes from cleaning and folding clothes fresh from the dryer (anybody need some clothes folded? I’m your gal) although a nice long session with my kindle and some chocolate (with salted caramel please and thank you) is always a good thing, except for the cholesterol, calories, and hey, that was supposed to be a gift parts of that equation.
    Usually writing is my go-to de-stressor , but I’ve put it aside for this month and gave myself permission to accept it by telling myself I’m writing everyday here at Ana’s Advent Calendar, which is true, I may not be working on my blog or my WIP but I’m exercising my brain and using words and honestly, even commenting satisfies my writing cravings (have you *seen* the length of some of my comments? 😀 ).

    I know of some NSFA (not safe for Ana) ways of relieving my stress but I’ll save those descriptions for my WIP 😛

    This year will be, no, this year *is* really difficult to get through as it’s my first Christmas with both my Mom and Dad gone 😦
    Mom was so into Christmas and it was something we celebrated together all year long as we were always on the hunt for new Christmas ornaments to buy or in my Mom’s case, to make (more than half my ornaments on the tree were made by Mom). Dad didn’t care either way but after Mom was gone I’d go to the house and decorate for him and have him over for Christmas dinner. He passed away September 26th this year so the wounds are fresh and the holidays feel kind of empty this year. ❤

    Oh! I know! Hallmark channel is my friend! Doesn't matter how many times I've seen the same movies over and over but living in the fantasy Christmases played out in movies somehow seems to make me feel better, less stressed out….just listening to Christmas music strikes a sour note in me this year, but Christmas movies are warming my heart. Doesn't make sense to me either but it works.
    I've tried the usuals, jogging, walking whatever-ing, bah-humbug.
    I guess the best thing to do for stress is live in the moment as you said. I'm finding it difficult to make plans further ahead than maybe an hour or so, maybe because I feel pressure that I might not be able to do whatever I commit to; fibromyalgia flareups come more frequently with stress and I'm now in a head-to-head battle with a head cold determined to turn into bronchitis, so stress is not welcome here 😛
    My kitty-cats help me de-stress, they, especially William my 1 year old Siamese who is still in kitten-mode, make me laugh and a kitty climbing on my lap and purring like crazy is so soothing to me, they really do help me control my stress level. Unfortunately the cats can't help me decorate or clean or cook or shop or wrap gifts or, or, or, or….

    Could someone pass me some crayons please?

    Thanks again Noelle, I do feel better for now…I'll feel even better when I randomly pick the winner for my Blue Christmas post 😛
    ❤ xox ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Noelle Pierce says:

      Joanne – OMG. *eyes pile of laundry* I live in Atlanta. How soon could you get here?

      I have two cats and when they curl up, it’s so ridiculously relaxing! Just petting them (there’s that repetitive motion thing again). My kids do the same thing, but they don’t purr and they’re bony, so… 😀

      So glad my post helped! Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

      Like

    • catrouble says:

      Oh Joanne…If you want to come visit, I have plenty of laundry for you to play with as well as some lovely kitties. 😉 Of course, you can come visit without playing with the laundry. 😉
      Hugs and blessings…Cat

      Like

    • Irishey says:

      Not not not dispensing advice, but a thought popped into my head while reading your content, so sharing as food for thought…

      Make a holiday “pilgrimage” to honor your mother’s love of the season. Go alone with a photo of her in your hand/pocket/purse, or take a friend and share some memories while doing activities together.

      Your honoring trip(s) could be as simple as baking a batch of her favorite cookies and taking them to a senior center or nursing home; looking at albums or boxes of old holiday photos and recalling out loud the stories you know; window shopping at her favorite antique and gift stores; lighting some candles in her favorite holiday scent(s) and stringing popcorn while listening to her beloved old Christmas hymns and secular songs.

      You could find one simple little thing to do every day from now through New Year’s Day (or whenever she put the season to bed by taking down decorations. Celebrate the gift of your mother sharing her love of the holidays with you, and celebrate that she shared with you those other things that she didn’t like quite so much – long checkout lines, traffic, fruitcake, wrapping packages, whatever her pet peeves were. I am pretty certain the two of you had some grumbling moments and laughs over the irritating or ridiculous.

      It just struck me that something like this ^^^ sounded like you, moreso than vegging/zoning out, trying to avoid the pain, or wallowing in the grief, and letting shades of doldrums or mild depression own your holidays.

      The real stressor here seems to be not being able to enjoy the holidays as you did with your parents. So, revisit those good time by honoring the memories in active ways.

      Or, decide Irishey is a fruitcake who got a little too much soaking in the rum sauce and needs to keep her ideas in the bottle. That’s cool, too. 😉

      (I am not imbibing while commenting, btw!!)

      Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Sassytwatter says:

    Holidays mean something way different for adults we are the ones who make the magic happen.

    I am a stress Eater of Swedish fish and the. I detox with hot yoga both are torture in my body. I recently picked up an adult coloring book and it gave my anxiety just flipping through it. Definitely not my thing. Now the shoes buying and Amazon ordering totally me! Happy holidays.

    Like

    • Noelle Pierce says:

      I’ve heard that from another person, too–she stresses over what color to use. *grin* Some of the ones that are busier and make my eyes cross can overwhelm me, too. I wish I could say I don’t have a few of those in mine, but I’m afraid I do. Didn’t realize how it would look from the computer to the page; but I know for the next one. LOL

      Oooh, shoes!

      Thanks for commenting!

      Like

  6. Sarah b says:

    I enjoy yoga, coloring, journaling, listening to music etc to relieve stress. So important to get stress out and not let it fester.

    Great post!

    Like

    • Noelle Pierce says:

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Sarah! I need to get back into yoga; I miss it since my previous class switched from meditative to power yoga. Grrr. All you yoga people are motivating me to find a yoga studio, and soon. 😀

      Like

  7. pieclown says:

    Hi. I have had a stressed year. My escape is movies and tv.. No I have not seen the new Star Wars,. Fight ing bronchitis. I have been enjoying cartoons on Netflix. I have a huge collection of VHS tapes, dvds, and blu Ray. I have from classic movies to B-horrir movies. Godzilla and cheap knockoffs. As for coloring, I have found that some is good. I tend to like color pencils. And I need a little bit of a challenge. I got bored coloring green Hulk on tan sand. I have to say that I spent more on Amazon this year then any other single store. . well I need to get moving. I had a nap, no to wrap so presents while watching Netflix

    Pie pie 4 now

    Like

    • Noelle Pierce says:

      Hey Pie! Thanks for commenting, and I hope you feel better soon. Bronchitis sucks.

      My daughter is a huge Star Wars fan (possibly more because someone told her she couldn’t like it because she’s a girl…she’s stubborn that way), but I can’t handle crowds so we’re waiting until the hype slows down a bit. If it does…no telling with SW fans. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Joelle Casteel says:

    I am in total agreement about camping 😀 But then I’m allergic to the sun so all sorts of outside activities get a thumbs down from me. Exercise for stress relief doesn’t work for me because exercise needs to have a point other than itself for me to engage in it- like riding my bike to the store (all bundled up in sun protection stuff lol) to reduce on gas use. I’m not even doing good at yoga atm because I was forced to pick up babysitting hours to try to make finances work and I hate it.

    My Little Ponies- classic or “Friendship is Magic” are good stress relief for me. I’ve really enjoyed the Christmas themed “It’s a Pony Kind of Christmas” since I found it. Coloring is good for me too. Two bits of ageplay that my dominant is actually not squicked by (laptime and snugly cuddletime) are big stress reliefs.

    I hope you’ve had fun at the family thing today. I’m still waiting on my dominant to manage making plans with my mother-in-law for the holidays.

    Like

    • Noelle Pierce says:

      Joelle – allergic to sun?? I grew up in Florida, so I can’t imagine. I completely agree about exercise for exercise’s sake. Blech. I have never been one of those people who gets gratification or make it a habit. Even after 6 months of going, you have to convince me it’s a good idea to leave my comfy house to go to a gym. 🙂

      Thanks for your comments!

      Like

      • Joelle Casteel says:

        I was born this way- with the exception of a short time during puberty- so thankfully it’s not something I miss nor do I have it so bad as some of the people with extreme cases like get onto talk shows; I have about 15 minutes that I’m safe and don’t have to be super careful. I only remember overdoing it bad enough to get hives maybe a few times- and those were super extreme cases of too much time in the sun, no water drinking, high heat.

        I simply can’t do a gym; exercising in front of other people? 😀 Although I did okay for a few weeks of going to a yoga school; I struggled to justify the cost though, especially when you can find decent yoga teachers on youtube for free

        Like

  9. awesomesub says:

    Hi Noelle, I love this post and definitely agree on how important stress relief is. We are having an awfully busy time here, and up to a certain point, busy feels great, but beyond that it kind of sucks. I am with you on the shoe shopping, though my favourite ways of getting stress out are drawing, painting, gardening, sewing and having time to connect with hubby and close friends. Lazing around on the sofa is great too, I like that but it does not happen often because it has too much of ‘doing nothing’ in it (so, maybe perfect to destress). 🙂

    hugs

    Nina

    Like

    • Noelle Pierce says:

      I wish I could get into gardening. Honestly, my grandmother used to get so frustrated with me, and I would love to have fresh veggies, but, alas, my thumb is sorta…well, not fully black, but maybe a muddy green? It’s a pain. LOL

      Lazing around the sofa??? I *think* I remember a time when I could do that. Vaguely…

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Like

  10. Julie says:

    I’ll confess to not being stressed, at least when it comes to the holidays. I suspect not having children may have something to do with that. 🙂

    I’ll also confess to being a very serious chocoholic. 🙂 But, like others, my primary stress relievers are exercise and reading – in either order. Oh, and wine.

    Wine is magical.

    Like

    • Noelle Pierce says:

      Chocolate!! I hear there are stress relieving properties from that, too. If I’m not mistaken, eating chocolate causes the release of dopamine in the brain, and dopamine is responsible for our feelings of pleasure. Orgasms also release dopamine. Just sayin’.

      Like

  11. catrouble says:

    Thank you Noelle! Now when anyone comments on my shoe and boots, I will simply inform them that my clinical psychologist says that it is healthy to buy them! 😀

    My stress relief is tai chi or painting, and I get even more stressed if I can’t paint. If the weather gets bad (e.g., overcast, dreary, rainy) for more than a day, my stress levels go through the roof. Have never felt the endorphin’s that everyone claims to feel after exercising…just counting the minutes when I can be done!

    Oh and BTW…camping…no thanks and that cabin better have indoor plumbing with cold and HOT running water. 😉

    Hugs and blessings…Cat

    Like

  12. Irishey says:

    Chocoholic – check.

    Hi, Noelle! Good post. Thank you.

    Now that I think about it, as much as I love chocolate, I don’t suffer as an “oholic.” I can do without it, and have for long periods, without stress or suffering. I simply prefer to embrace chocolate in my life. Dark chocolate, rarely milk chocolate, never white chocolate.

    Following that ‘oholic line of thought, even if I was a chocoholic, I doubt I would suffer because of that. I doubt many others view it that way, either! Hmm, I suppose one would suffer if it caused heavy bingeing, or sugar comas, or? Tragic.

    While I am checking things, yea or nay, for stress relief:

    Exercise – yea! So, why the heck haven’t I been doing that these past few years?! I have some very good and valid reasons, and I have a many bad excuses.

    Journaling – on the fence. I don’t journal. Never filled up more than a few pages in the couple diaries I had as a child/teen. I was enamored of the idea of keeping a diary, but I think it must have bored me to write to myself. I didn’t even follow through with keeping journals of my children’s milestones as I intended.

    Every once in awhile, I find myself wishing I had kept up with diary/journal entries. I truly did wish to do that so I could have records of events, thoughts and feelings that were important to me at the time. I knew I would love being able to read about those things years later.

    I still haven’t convinced myself to start journaling. However, I used to write letters to lots of people, but never send most of them. I also wrote and write emails, blog posts and comments that remain in draft folders or get deleted.

    The writing does de-stress, somewhat, but the not sending and not being consistent causes another kind of stress. Meh. On the fence.

    Meditation – I don’t do any “formal” meditation, but I do take time to reflect or ponder on things. Does that count? I would think so, unless that caused negative emotions instead of release, relief or resolution.

    I find it often calms me when I pray the Lord’s Prayer, Psalms, or other Bible passages or verses. This can be construed as a type of meditation.

    As a young teen, I also learned the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear from Frank Herbert’s novel, Dune. This was my go-to (mantra-ish) to help calm myself about things that made me fearful, very nervous or anxious. It worked well.

    Coloring – I don’t like most of the patterns and drawings in the adult coloring books I’ve seen. They make me feel…spinny…or like spiders crawling in/on me. The drawings are way too busy!! I liked coloring with my kids when they were little – in their books – but even some of those drawing felt like too much busyness and not enough simple subject to me. I like happy cartoon-type drawings – characters, animals, flowers and other vegetation, places (Disney and Looney Tunes, etc.).

    Camping – I enjoy it. It can be very relaxing, but it also can be quite stressful. AND, ya just never know which one it will be!

    I think Ana’s Advent Calendar is a good stress reliever. Good company, good atmosphere, good discussions, feels relatively safe and fun for the open Internet. This event is the right format for relaxed and relaxing socializing.

    Seasonal destressors for me: watching snow fall; watching twinkling or blinking lights on a Christmas tree; listening to Christmas music and watching Christmas movies/special programming; watching a fire burn in a fireplace or even a flickering candle flame in a darkened room; smelling the seasonal aromas; decorating cookies; playing cards or other games with my children; and NOT having to wrap a single package (wrapping packages is stressful to me because I just do not like doing it).

    Things others have recommended and I have tried in the past to relieve stress, but didn’t work…

    Shopping for or buying shoes. (I know, I know, but I don’t like it!)

    Shopping for almost anything except books and stuff for my kids.

    Gardening. I like the idea and planning of it, and love the crops. The dirt digging and other interim activities are more stressful than stress relieving.

    There are many other things on both lists of what does and does not work to relieve stress. Now, knowing that I know which is which, why is it that I continue to do those things that don’t work and actually end up causing me stress, and why do I *not* do more of those things I know reduce stress? (I know why, I just need to get over the hurdle to turn that around.)

    I challenge Joanne Best for long posts. 😉 This seems a good place to stop writing.

    Hugs!

    Like

    • Noelle Pierce says:

      I so hear you on the journalling thing. I advocate it because it *can* help, and I also wanted to do it, but I’ve never been able to. And I also wish I had done it when I was younger so I could look back on things, but, alas…

      Re: snow falling being stress relieving
      I lived in Michigan for 10 months and LOVED that part. Always felt like I was in a snow globe, which consequently felt magical. The fact that it’s quiet (versus rain) just adds to it. Sigh. It doesn’t snow nearly enough in Atlanta.

      Thanks for commenting!

      Like

  13. renee200 says:

    I bought my teen daughter a coloring book for her birthday last year. After it came and I watched her coloring I realized that my adult daughters could probably use this type of relaxing. I sent each of them coloring books and pencils. When they received the books they were like ummm why did you send us these? I told them to just try them. This Christmas I noticed our oldest has added another coloring book to her list. I read to de-stress but have told my girls that I will try coloring this year. Blessings. R

    Like

    • Noelle Pierce says:

      I love reading, too. The escape of it is wonderful, and though I write novels, too, I have to admit it’s easier and less stressful to read others’ work. 😀 Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

      Like

      • nancygoldberglevine says:

        I have so much stress, espcially at this time of year. Plus this year I got really sick in October and November and was in and out of the hospital with an infection that kept hanging on plus blood pressure issues. I didn’t feel like doing anything (and most of the time I didn’t). I’ve heard that coloring relieves stress so I ordered a coloring book from Amazon and am waiting for it to get here. Other things I do to relieve stress are listening to music (and audio books) and laughing but those don’t work if I’m in a bad funk.

        Like

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