Managing the Stress of the Holidays With Chronic Illness

This quote has become my mantra for dealing with many of life’s situations:

“Not my circus. Not my monkeys.”

Although many people will tell you that positive thinking will solve all your problems, it won’t. What it will do however is train your brain to discover a new perspective on the events of your life, and this new perspective will prompt you to respond differently to situations that come up. We cannot control events or the behavior of others. That’s obvious. What is less commonly accepted is that we can control how we react to whatever is happening in our life.

I’ve heard much criticism about the power of positive thinking; people saying they’ve tried it and it doesn’t work. There’s the problem. There is much more to positive thinking than telling yourself a few words to “erase” the almost constant turmoil going on in your head causing you pain, stress or sorrow. It is not something you “try” – it is a way of life you embrace because you have had enough of dealing with the same upsetting situations over and over. You want change! Just think about all the years of negative thoughts that went through your mind; do you really think you can change the nature of your relationship to yourself, to others, to life… with a little try? Of course not. It takes awareness, or in other words: presence.

It is simple. It is easy. It takes practice. It does take work and a real commitment to self-care!

During the coming holiday season, you will almost certainly have an abundance of opportunities to be kind to yourself at an essential level. You can make a commitment right now to have a “better” time this year even if you have to be present at family gatherings that often inflict sensory overload on our delicate nervous system. Go ahead. What do you have to lose? OK then. Here’s my plan of action as far as my thoughts are concerned: You can tweak it to your preference and use it as your lifeline.

1. When I feel upsetting emotions rising up, I stop and ask myself: “Is what I am thinking true?” Do not believe everything you think! (Ex: Is my father always picking on me, or is this present situation just getting to me right now?)

2. Acknowledge and embrace what you are feeling. Repressing emotions does not serve you.

3. Breathe! A few “cleansing breaths” will help you focus. On what? On your mantra!

4. Repeat your mantra until you calm down. You’ll be surprised to see how fast this happens.

I chose “Not my circus. Not my monkeys” because it reminds me that what others do or say or even think about me, is none of my business. It has to do with them, not me. If someone says or does something that upsets me, I help myself with those four steps. I leave the room if I have to, so I can find my balance again and feel at peace.

You can see the holidays as disastrous or pretty good, all things considered. You are in control of your own vision on life. If you choose wisely what you focus on,  you can open your heart to the love you give yourself and then, spread it around!

Love and light,


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