De stress these holidays - and make the season bright

The holiday season can be a stressful time for many. Stress can build up trying to work out what to buy people, family issues, how long visitors stay, dealing with in-laws or friends, lack of money all contribute to stress. But there are things that you can do to help you to de stress these holidays.

One thing that we always have power over is our own attitude. Our attitude and the way we talk to ourselves, can either contribute to stress or help to reduce it. Have you ever found yourself mulling over a situation and then finding yourself getting more and more stressed? Well now... what if you were to mull over things that you enjoy, beautiful places in nature that you love to go to, music that you enjoy, looking at the garden starting to bloom, how does just even thinking of these things start to make you feel? Does your body start to unwind? I know that mine does.

Some years ago I watched Tony Robbins work with someone to help them change their attitude... he asked them to focus on what made them angry and resentful, he asked them to tell him about the situation, and as the person talked, Tony fed back all the angry responses, the person kept getting more and more angry... then - he asked them to stop and think of the first time that they had felt really loved and really happy in love and what was happening then... the person switched from their angry state to a state of peace and happiness. He then got them to think of that angry time again and kept switching the person from the angry memory to the happy memory... till the person started to laugh. Once we realise how we can talk ourselves into either emotional state, we can choose which emotion we wish to be in, by the thoughts we think and the self talk we use, and by what we keep talking about. It was an interesting exercise to watch, and it is an interesting exercise to practice.

So, what emotional state are you talking yourself into this season? Some people say they no longer decorate their house over the Christmas period because their children have grown and moved away. Some say it makes them sad to see the decorations and think of all the Christmasses past. Well sadly, by doing this, it actually makes them miss being in the present moment - a place where we can create even more wonderful memories from. But what if... what if they decided to do that decoration, even if it is for their own delight? And then enjoy the colours, the light, the fun? What if they shared the delight with passers by the house by creating joy in decorating trees at the front of the house? Have you ever seen a child's eyes light up seeing Christmas decorations? If not, I hope you do one day, it may just encourage you to decorate your tree.

We only have the present moment, the past is gone, the future not here yet. What if today, you decided to make kindness your reason for the season... what if today you made someone else's day? With a compliment, a kindness, a caring word, an offer of help, without requiring a reward? What if today you caught yourself mulling over the things that make you angry and sad, and switch to the things that you love, and enjoy? Just maybe, you may find stress leaving, a new way of thinking developing, and a bright new way of life emerging.

Four Life Lessons We All Need to Learn

As unique as we all are, an awful lot of us want the same things. We want to shake up our current less-than-fulfilling lives. We want to be happier, more loving, forgiving and connected with the people around us. So...we make decisions ("I'm going to hang out with happy people!"); we give ourselves lectures ("If you'd just stop feeling guilty, you'd able to do what you want); and we strive for markers of that accomplishment ("Just go to the completely intimidating party and meet one person!").

BrenĂ© Brown, PhD, LMSW, author of The Gifts of Imperfection and research professor at the University of Houston, has spent the last 12 years figuring out what keeps us from the living—despite our best efforts—the kind of wholehearted, fully involved existences that we're trying to lead. It turns out that a lot of the assumptions we hold so dear and we believe will turn around everything are...well...just plain wrong.

1. Fitting In Is Not Belonging

There are so many terms we use every day whose meanings are gauzy, if not downright imprecise—which makes it hard to get your head around what's really going on in your life. For example, contrary to what most of us think: Belonging is not fitting in. In fact, fitting in is the greatest barrier to belonging. Fitting in, I've discovered during the past decade of research, is assessing situations and groups of people, then twisting yourself into a human pretzel in order to get them to let you hang out with them. Belonging is something else entirely—it's showing up and letting yourself be seen and known as you really are—love of gourd painting, intense fear of public speaking and all.

Many us suffer from this split between who we are and who we present to the world in order to be accepted, (Take it from me: I'm an expert fitter-inner!) But we're not letting ourselves be known, and this kind of incongruent living is soul-sucking.

In my research, I've interviewed a lot of people who never fit in, who are what you might call "different": scientists, artists, thinkers. And if you drop down deep into their work and who they are, there is a tremendous amount of self-acceptance. Some of them have to scrap for it, like the rest of us, but most are like this neurophysicist I met who, essentially, told me, "My parents didn't care that I wasn't on the football team, and my parents didn't care that I was awkward and geeky. I was in a group of kids at school who translated books into the Klingon language. And my parents were like, ‘Awesome!' They took me to the Star Trek convention!" He got his sense of belonging from his parents' sense of belonging, and even if we don't get that from Mom and Dad, we have to create it for ourselves as adults—or we will always feel as if we're standing outside of the big human party.

The truth is: Belonging starts with self-acceptance. Your level of belonging, in fact, can never be greater than your level of self-acceptance, because believing that you're enough is what gives you the courage to be authentic, vulnerable and imperfect. When we don't have that, we shape-shift and turn into chameleons; we hustle for the worthiness we already possess.

Read more: Life Lessons we all need to learn Brene Bown

Money - how's your relationship to it?

Money can be one area that really poses problems for people and for their relationships. Have you noticed that money has been an issue for you? If you are in a partnership - are you one of those rare couples who have been able to work out their money together? Work together to plan and save or spend on an equal footing?

Who earns the most money can be one issue, sometimes in relationship one of the partners may like to spend, spend, spend, while the other is left to juggle payments and try to keep the finances afloat. It takes two in relationship to consider what money means, to work towards common goals. We can easily fall into parent/child dynamics easily around money.

You see if money were just money we wouldn't really have the problems we do with it. Money is also a symbol - and it can stand for love, joy, power and control. If it were only 'money' our problems would be easily solved. To understand issues that we experience as adults, it can be very helpful to revisit our family of origin. The attitudes that our parents had about money shaped our beliefs and attitudes.

Thinking back to your family...

  • Was money used to show love?
  • Was money used to control another person's behaviour?
  • Was money saved?
  • Was money spent freely?
  • Did money cause great concern?
  • Was it a topic that you heard talked about regularly?
  • Was money used to change emotions? Retail therapy?
  • Thinking of your present day life...

  • Do you use money to change your emotions?
  • Do you earn 'enough'?
  • What would be 'enough'?
  • Do you have a spending plan?
  • Do you give money to charity?
  • If you find that money issues are a regular 'problem' it could be that money is tied up with issues around power, love and control. Looking at the issues around money and facing them, you start to get insights around what is driving your spending or saving. You can take control once you can sort out the difference between feelings and facts around money. It can be helpful to have a counselor work with you to start to learn how to identify the issues around money so that you can move into a successful way of handling your money life.

    © Kareen Fellows

    Reacting in Anger

    How often do you get angry? Do you know what sets you off? Do you remember what you were taught about anger when you were growing up? Were you taught that it was unacceptable to feel angry? Did you learn to suppress angry feelings and stuff them down inside? Or were you taught, perhaps by example, that it was OK to explode with anger and attack others, verbally or physically? Or were you fortunate enough to learn that while it's OK to feel angry, it's not OK to hurt others, and it's not OK to blame them for how you feel? If you were taught to take responsibility for your emotions, to communicate feelings calmly and clearly, and to value both your own and other people's rights, you probably don't have much trouble with anger. Now the reason we just asked you what you were taught, while you were growing up, is that anger very seldom has anything to do with what is happening right now, because there are so many other ways to respond. People with high self-esteem aren't interested in blaming others for things that go wrong. Instead, they accept accountability for their lives and know that if things outside them are to change, they must first change internally. For people with high self-esteem, change in themselves or in others isn't threatening to them. They embrace change because they believe they can handle it. So if you find yourself feeling a lot of anger, perhaps some work on your self-esteem is in order. The Pacific Institute

    Embracing Ageing

    I've put this image of the front yard of an old house we once rented in a sea side town in NSW, as I'm particularly fond of old beac...