How a break in routine and some gratitude at Thanksgiving can lower stress
According to the National Institutes of Health, “Taking the time to feel gratitude may improve your emotional well-being by helping you cope with stress. Early research suggests that a daily practice of gratitude could affect the body, too. For example, one study found that gratitude was linked to fewer signs of heart disease.” In addition, research shows that taking a short vacation, even if it is at home, is effective in reducing stress and improving cognitive performance. So, yes, taking a break for gratitude can reduce stress.
Here are two ways to use Thanksgiving to lower stress
Celebrate what IS
Start by noticing the good stuff in your environment. Our brains are programmed to look for problems to solve. It is easy to dwell on unmet expectations – or to hold yourself to unreasonable standards. Your life may look messy when held up against your cousin’s glamorous home and business. That’s ok. The trick is to back up, focus on what is good, and celebrate it. By expressing gratitude for what is good in your life, you change the focus from looking for problems to concentrating on the positive. That switch in focus reduces stress.
Gratitude celebrates what IS rather than focusing on what “should be.” One of the big lessons I learned from my heart attack and recovery is the importance of celebrating what IS.
- No, the first months with our daughters weren’t close to what we expected, yet my husband and I were there. Our girls got to have two parents. That was a reason to celebrate.
- My vision of motherhood involved a lot more dress-up and tea parties and less ‘stop that’, but our girls have grown into incredible young women – something to celebrate.
- My body doesn’t function quite as it used to, but I can still sail and walk with my husband. I can do yard work and challenge myself – reasons to celebrate.
- While my business may rest in the shadows of more successful speakers, I got to be home with my daughters while they were growing up. Now that they are in college, it is time to grow the business, travel, and have a wonderful home life with my husband. I am grateful for all of that.
The celebration doesn’t have to be a big deal. Here are some ideas to find gratitude:
- Voice your appreciation for a finished project, a successful outing, or the security of home.
- Write a list of what you did well this year and who helped you along the way.
- Think about when you helped someone. Remember how it made you feel.
- Scroll through the pictures on your phone and think about the moments you value.
- Call or text someone who had an impact on you this year. Thank them.
- Write a list of projects you completed this year (at home and work.)
- Think about what you stopped doing (and are happy to have stopped.)
Permit yourself to disconnect.
The four-day Thanksgiving weekend is perfect for taking a break from routine stressors. Of course, the holiday itself can be stressful, and I have some tips for that as well. However, any time you disrupt your everyday routine, it signals to your brain that something has changed, and it can stop pumping the stress hormone cortisol into your system. For the break to work, you need to give yourself permission to disconnect from your regular sources of stress – most often entering through your phone!
Here are some tips for disconnecting and allowing the Thanksgiving break to reduce your stress:
- Start the night before Thanksgiving by launching an autoresponder. It could read: “You’ve reached me during the Thanksgiving break. Happy Thanksgiving. I will respond to your message on Monday.”
- Set your phone and other devices to “Do Not Disturb.” Silencing the notifications will allow you to focus on something else.
- Do something different. Take a walk outside, engage in a hobby, call a good friend or do something else that allows you to disconnect from your routine stressors. Embrace what you need to disconnect – whether you need quiet contemplation or to be highly occupied. Find out if you are an iguana or a border collie regarding activities that allow you to disconnect here.
- Sleep! Most of us don’t get enough sleep each night. A post-Thanksgiving meal nap is a great way to catch up on a few ZZ’s and sleep is the most efficient way to process the sleep hormone cortisol out of your body.