If you are anything like me, you are looking at the calendar and wondering how and when it became the middle of December!
I still enjoy using wall calendars that hang in my office and home. I love having that monthly overview and that sense of turning the pages as the months go by. But often, December catches me by surprise.
I love this time of year. Though the days are short and it gets dark early, there is a sense of anticipation as we get close to the solstice and the holidays. There seems to be a collective feeling, whatever holiday we are celebrating this time of year, that we are chasing away the darkness, with lights, music, decorations, cheerful gatherings and celebrations.
There can also be a lot of stress at this time of year. After years of struggling and surviving the pandemic, coping with isolation, financial drawbacks, and not feeling safe to celebrate with extended family and friends, this year feels like a collective Exhale.
Every year in December I start to think about my yearly blog focused on Surviving Holiday Stress (if you look at previous December blogs, you will find some good holiday survival tips!) I wrote previously that,
As I then started creating my own family holiday traditions, with the growing lists of guests, presents, meals and foods to prepare, with the sweet myths, memories, and shared experiences, also came the un-invited guest… S T R E S S!!!
For many of us, holidays are a time of painful memories; Our first holiday with out mom, our first Christmas tree decorated alone, our first holiday with only one parent. At times we can be lonely even when we are not alone, feeling that those all around us are cheerful and content while internally wondering, “Why can’t I feel joy?”
Families can be a source of strength, connection, love, and caring. But they can also be a reminder of violence, neglect, abuse, and disconnection. Around the holidays, many people experience a form of P.T.S.D (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome), with reminders and flash backs of times in their past where the holidays were a time of dread, addictions, and dysfunctions.
In these last few weeks, I have sat with many of the couples I work with in my therapy practice, and talked about the coming holiday stress, how to manage, cope, survive, and thrive in the holiday season.
Sean Knurek writes in his November, 2018 Michigan State University Newsletter titled Understanding cortisol, the stress hormone, that,
Daily stress can, and does, affect our general health and well-being. We are all hard-wired at birth to react to stress in ways that protect ourselves from things that are perceived as harmful… [which releases] hormones including adrenaline and cortisol… [And] as important as cortisol is in assisting our body when we are threatened, it is just as important that we learn ways to lower cortisol when we are stressed by everyday problems and concerns.
One way that Sean goes on to suggest lowering cortisol is through mindful deep breathing. In Three Breaths for Lowering your Cortisol Level, an email column for 6seconds.org, Maria Jackson teaches us three types of breath that are statistically proven to soften the effects of stress on your body. Try one of these the next time you are feeling particularly stressed.
Mark Matousek, in his article Is the Way You Breathe Bad for Your Health? on Oprah’s Inspiration blog, writes,
It turns out that getting more oxygen—by simply changing the way we breathe—can facilitate healing from a startling number of serious conditions, including chronic pain, atrial fibrillation, asthma, digestive issues, depression, and a wide range of stress-related illnesses.
Mark also quotes Dr. Andrew Weil, a well-known pioneer in the field of integrative medicine,
If I had to limit my advice on healthier living to just one tip, it would be to learn to breathe correctly.
So as I move into the holidays this year, my strategy is to stay mindful of my breath and to pause often to take a moment and breathe.
Hold Me Tight® Couples Workshop
Thanks to all of you who have promoted our Hold Me Tight® Couples Workshops, over all of the years. We couldn’t do this work without you. You are the ambassadors of the work I do, and I am filled with gratitude to you and to the work of Sue Johnson who has helped us to understand the code of love.
Dr. Sue Johnson developed the Hold Me Tight® program based on Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) encoding it in her bestselling book, Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love.
Our next workshop:
Nevada City, CA
Date: April 15-16th, 2023
Price: $1095 per couple ($995 early bird pricing through 3/15/23)
Here are some testimonials from our recent Hold Me Tight® Couples Workshops:
“What a wonderful weekend to connect with my partner. Dalia and Owen blend together knowledge, skills, and empathy, and model and share their own vulnerability, with grace, humor, and sensitivity, while being professional, attuned and attentive to each couple in the room.”
“We Highly recommend this workshop, without hesitation, it was comfortable and private even though it was a group format”
“I do not know how they did it, but this weekend workshop transformed our relationship in ways that no therapy has been successful to do”
“Fantastic workshop. Great blend of genuine facilitation and 1:1 time. Deep knowledge and guidance conveyed simply and accessibly. Loved the depth of content, the clips, the binder, the small group, the balance between facilitation and couple work, also very thoughtful to have time with the facilitators.”
“Thank you Dalia and Owen, you pushed us to go deep, we trusted, and we gained so much understanding of one another that will greatly benefit and enhance the growth of our relationship and love.”
“Dalia and Owen are an amazing team. Their insights, care and experience carry the group on an adventure of the heart that surprises, opens, deepens, and enriches.”
” I think this workshop should be mandatory!!I am going to give it as a wedding present to all my relations. It was way above and beyond what we expected will happen during one weekend. We heard about the Hold Me Tight, but signed up blindly. We got more in one weekend then in two years of our marriage therapy.”
“It provided a safe place to open up and discuss radioactive topics that we could not hope to do on our own. Also loved the progression and visual clips to illustrate various points. Also the walk around support during work time.”
“The workshop is worth every dollar and minute of investment. It is an investment and not an easy one to make but the return is absolutely life changing. Do it!”
“Loved that the therapists were leaders and participants. That is, they allowed themselves to be vulnerable.”
“Dalia and Owen together create the perfect support system, safe space, and mirror to see your relationship as it is. And the offer some new tools to change the music, and create a better, richer dance!!”
Few months present the multicultural celebrations that December does! Whether you celebrate Christmas, St Nicholas Day, Kwanzaa, Yule, Hanukkah, Solstice, Diwali, St. Lucia, Eid al-Fitr, Boxing Day, Saturnalia, Three Kings Day… or any other holiday this month, chances are that it is celebrated with LIGHTS, music, food and family.
Traditions of sitting around the fire, with lights, decorations, music, special foods and feasts, abound. Here in the US, our celebrations include giving gifts, parties, and family get-togethers, which can be wonderful and/or stressful.
Whatever you are celebrating this time of year,
Wishing you a happy, warm, beautiful, safe, and connected Holiday Season.
I am in gratitude to all of you.