Holiday Stress Relief Tips

Motivation: Three Keys to Turn Your Plan into a Reality

“Create a definite plan for carrying out your desire and begin at once, whether you ready or not, to put this plan into action.” Napoleon Hill

Motivation is the force that drives you into action. It is the fuel that allows us to spring out of bed and feel passionate about the day. Many people, however, find that energy to move forward is missing. You have taken time to develop a plan by getting the tools and support in place to succeed at your goal.  The first couple of weeks start off with a bang and you are charged up about kicking a problem once and for all. Something happens and your motivation motor stalls.

Motivation was always a popular topic when I held groups as an occupational therapist. We talked about the two types of motivation, the kind that came from the inside and the other from outside themselves. Extrinsic motivations are outside forces that drive you to get something done. Outside motivation is fueled by dodging a consequence for not doing a task.  Intrinsic motivation however is fed by the fire that lives in your heart. Motivation within is what truly drives us across the finish line when finishing a plan.

Let’s talk about the keys to getting a project or plan finished:

1. Get clear about why you want it. Writing goals are very important. Goals are the stepping stones to getting where you are going. However, writing goals are not enough to keep your plan in motion. Maybe you have recently written a goal about weight loss. Write as many reasons as you can come up with for why you want to lose weight. Carry those reasons with you no matter where you go. Pull them out when you want to give up. See the moment that you made the goal in your mind. Feel the excitement all over again as you remember why you wrote the goal to begin with. And keep going.

2. Stop trying and start doing. Did you realize that the definition of try is to make an attempt or effort to do something? You find out pretty quickly that try is not a word I use if you are with me for any period of time. Try lacks commitment in getting something done. Get clear about your desire to achieve your plan and do it.

3. Get off the couch and do it. There is no better way to get something done than to move. Our minds can come up with dozens of excuses or reasons think about moving forward with a plan. Remember a plan is never set in stone. You can course correct at any time during your action plan. Just avoid procrastination and its sister perfection.

Keep these three keys with you when working your plan. Then watch your dream turn into reality.

How to Make the Best New Year’s Resolution Ever

We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched.  Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives… not looking for flaws, but for potential.  ~ Ellen Goodman

New Years Day falls on a Sunday in 2012. Does that make it a perfect day to start your resolutions? Not necessarily. You might have been ready to hit the gym and eat better yesterday, not necessarily January first.  What is so magical about making resolutions at New Years?

I was curious about the actual definition of resolution. I saw words like “determination,” “deciding on a course of action,” “being resolute” or “firm on a purpose.” Other words like resolution include perseverance, tenacity, strength, and fortitude. These are valuable assets to make effective change in your life and much needed throughout your resolve.

Let’s talk about some practical tools for lifestyle changes. Assuming you have made a firm decision about your goal, it’s time to make a plan. And notice I referred to one goal. Changing many habits at once is like a ticking time bomb – just when will it (or you) explode?

Abrupt resolutions without a plan in place can be a surefire way to not achieve your goal. For example, you might have thought about quitting smoking for the longest time. Deciding to quit without support systems and plans in place can be disastrous.

For your highest success rate, plan to consciously replace the thing you are removing you’re your life. A successful plan can include having your patches, lozenges, or medication in place. Finding an online or in-person support group can be the saving grace when you have a nicotine craving. An exercise plan can be helpful to decrease anxiety during those first few weeks. Talking to other people who have been successful in what you are planning to change.

Having a plan can help you stay on track. When you become discouraged your plan has a built-in support system; a safety net in case you choose to fall back into old habits. You see, there is a point just about when you’re ready to achieve your goal that you may be tempted to quit. Push past that barrier with all of your might. See yourself being free of the bondage of your old habit. Reach for a supportive friend’s hand. Just hang on.

If you slip, love yourself even more. Give yourself compassion as if you were helping your best friend. And by the way, you are helping your best friend: you.

Know that I believe with all my heart that you can be successful in what you want to achieve. Set your goal and get your plan in place. Don’t be concerned about meeting that January 1 deadline. Get a firm plan in place first.

How to Have Last-Minute Holly Jolly Shopping

jolly_edited-2Holiday shopping is in full swing and so are all of the aggravations like traffic, grumpy shoppers and lists of social obligations. Last Friday, I set out to finish my holiday shopping with one attitude in mind, and that was to have fun.  Having fun meant seeing people smile, laugh and truly feel the holiday spirit in amongst feeling stressed out.

My first stop was a pharmacy to buy wrapping paper. I picked this place to shop because it was not in the thick of traffic and people. There I met a worker who seemed to just love his job. He had this knack of just putting a smile on your face no matter how miserable you felt. Digging a little deeper, this man used to be a motivational speaker. I talked with him for at least 20 minutes sharing ideas about stress relief and how to get through the holiday season without pulling out your hair. He then kept spreading joy with each and every person he came in contact with. You couldn’t help wanting to hang out in the store and feel the happiness.

Next stop was to send out my wrapped packages to my family. I went to a store that mails packages where stress was thick in the air. I walked up to the counter and filled out the slip to send my package. The clerk asked me if I needed to have the package signed for or could the driver drop it off at the door. I responded, “Well, this is a pretty safe 55 plus community.” She burst into laughter and said, “I started to think about what an unsafe 55 plus community would be… Grandma bikers, Harleys and grandpas with tattoos.” The store workers were all laughing by the end of preparing my package for shipment. The best part was that I was about to travel to by a present at a motorcycle shop. It couldn’t have been more perfect.

I avoided high traffic areas for the rest of the day and shopped at local small businesses. My last stop was at a local gourmet grocery store.  The store always has the best coffee samples and I stopped to grab a little cup of Pumpkin Spice. I grabbed my cart and tried to decide what I was going to take for a holiday party the next day. All of the sudden, I noticed there was something in the cart. I didn’t put anything in the cart yet. It was someone’s purse. I went back to the coffee sample area to ask if anyone had reported a purse missing. There stood the purse owner. She let out a sigh of relief and said”I knew if I didn’t get stressed out, I would find it.” I apologized and we began to talk more about getting ready for Christmas.  We laughed about the purse problem and went on our merry way.

So, as you travel out today for your last-minute shopping, keep the true meaning behind the season, set your intent for happiness and be jolly!

Have any fun stories this holiday season? Please share below! over 25 years in the health care profession, Lisa Birnesser has studied stress relief techniques and have helped hundreds of people reduce stress in their lives.Lisa specializes stress management coaching by helping people do what matters most every day.

grinch and stress

What I Learned About Stress Relief from the Grinch

How the Grinch Stole Christmas is one of my all-time favorite holiday cartoons. I remember watching the Grinch at a very young age and remembered how much I looked forward to seeing it again every year. I have watched this beloved holiday cartoon every year since I can remember. This year, however, the Grinch took on a different meaning for me. I began to wonder what holiday stress relief was like Grinch-style.

Grumpiness is futile.

 You most likely have come across all kinds of shoppers, especially waiting in lines to enter the stores.  It’s important to show gentleness, manners and respect that is the spirit of humankind now that the volume of holiday tension is cranked. The Grinch, no matter how hard he tried, couldn’t resist the contagious love and kindness in the air from Whoville. Open your heart and feel the positive vibes of the season. Carry them with you to share year round.

Christmas is coming no matter what.

Regardless of how stressed you get with decorations or finding the most perfect gift, the holiday season will come and go. The Grinch finally realized that Christmas didn’t come from a store. He realized that there was so much more to the season. Details may be very important to you. But is that very special bow or paper the thing your loved one will remember after the holidays? So, when you feel holiday stress take a deep breath and believe that the love in your heart is more than enough for everyone.

You can find something positive in anything.

The Grinch absolutely hated Christmas morning. He truly thought the holiday was about all the noise, toys and roast beast for their holiday feast. And, of course, he hated the Who’s singing most of all. Bring awareness to see beyond the stress and aggravation around you. Pick a random act of kindness and give to someone you don’t know. And, don’t forget your gratitude list to shift you out of a negative experience or mood.

The Spirit of the season lives in us always.

The Grinch’s plan was to remove everything that would cause the Who’s to have a happy holiday. What he didn’t count on was that the Whos didn’t need anything to celebrate the spirit of Christmas. They had everything they wanted by connecting with each other. That’s something beautiful that the Grinch learned that day.  We also have everything we need right now to celebrate happiness, whether in the middle of the holiday season or all year.

My question is what if we lived with the spirit of the holidays year round? What if we put such love and caring in everything we did 365 days of the year? What if those acts of kindness weren’t connected with the latest gadget or bauble? 

I’d love to hear what you think. Leave a comment below to tell me about stress relief and the meaning of the season for you.




Five Tips to Avoid Stressful Holiday Travel

According to AAA, more than 42.5 million people were expected to travel at least 50 miles from home over the Thanksgiving holidays this past weekend.  I was able to experience this first hand traveling home to see my family. Many people choose take a vacation over the holidays or have a family get together in a chalet or cabin. With Christmas, Hanukah, and other holidays on the horizon, I thought I’d share some tips that helped me travel safely with the least amount of stress.

Plan Your Travel. I find the more organized I am for a trip the better. I’ve experienced travel the other way and it led to some small disasters. One of the best ways to organize a trip is using a travel app. One of my favorite apps is Travel Tracker Pro. I really use it for bigger trips because I can keep track of flights, hotels and all of my travel plans. It also includes a customizable packing list, too.

Keep all of your important travel documents in the same spot. I end up keeping an extra copy of travel information just in case.

Loading up my Ipod with books is one of my favorite parts of planning a trip. I keep a variety of music, books and podcasts to keep me entertained for hours.

Stay as Relaxed as Possible. Travel glitches are possible with millions of people traveling this holiday season. I found I that I can’t control a lot of things when I travel, such as weather, travel schedules and flights or lost luggage. What I can control is my response to travel issues. Keep calmness in mind, especially when traveling with children. They can sense your agitation and then you may be dealing with additional stress. Keep in mind deep belly breathing to help you get through the travel monkey wrenches.

Pack Snacks and Healthy Drinks. One thing I noticed on my drive is the lack of fancy coffee shops. Of course, I know where the two Starbuck’s Coffee stores are located on my over 400 mile trip just in case. I try to drink water on trips, since caffeine dehydrates your body and ultimately causes you to feel tired. Drinking water helps more to keep you alert in the long run. I like to pack a lunch so it prevents any fast food stop temptations. I also pack finger foods, such as trail mix, carrot and celery sticks, and whole fruits to grab along the way. It really helps my energy level on that extra long trek.

Give Yourself Extra Time. Procrastination care rear its ugly head when getting ready for trips. It’s easy to think I have plenty of time to do this or that. Also give yourself extra time at the airport, even up to 2-3 hours, due to security and long lines. That has definitely reduced my stress in the past.

Keep Your Focus on What Matters Most. Last weekend I was able to reconnect with my family that I hadn’t seen in nearly a year. I kept in mind why I was making this trip. It outweighed a very long drive, annoying traffic and pushy people I encountered along the way. Sharing Thanksgiving with my family was most important and it helped offset any aggravation along the way.

Do the Things That Matter Most Every Day

“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”– Oprah Winfrey

The holiday season is a time when everyone wants to make lasting memories. The house is filled with the aroma of turkey and freshly baked pies. Every decoration is perfectly in place. Children are wide-eyed with wonder and filled with the joy of the season. Families and friends join together to share peace, love and thankfulness.

Every single gesture you do is born from the spirit of giving during the holidays. Time-held traditions and values have meaning, from family recipes to get together time with friends.  So, what happens when you have exhausted all of your energy in getting every little detail just perfect?  Each year might be filled with things that just aren’t important or valued. Guilt or perfectionism drives you to fit everything in regardless of your well-being. This can leave you feeling empty, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

What if you made choices that were guided by what you value most? The holiday season is just an example of how days can be filled with some choices made out of obligation rather than value-driven decisions that matter most. Acts of love and kindness that come deep from your heart can give peace. Calmness and generosity is then a gift passed from person to person.  This is not necessarily something we buy. It can be a deed that only requires a helping hand.

Gratitude.  Gratitude is not only an offering to you but to everyone around you. Thankfulness is truly wealth that does not necessarily come from a bank account or wallet.  A common teaching in gratitude is to step outside you by giving to another person. Giving yourself pity gets you stuck. By helping out the next person, you break the cycle of focusing on only problems. Your perspective changes immediately.

Goals. When stressed, it’s so easy to get lost in the number of things on a list versus what you value most.  Think about adding the following goals to your list. Take time to step away and be with your loved ones. Close your computer up and share time with your partner.  Maybe you value having dinner every night with your family. Review your goals and make sure your list contains more than productivity tasks.

Go Do What Matters Most. You know what your grateful for and you have made goals around the holidays. Now go do the things that matter most. Don’t put off something that means a great deal to you and your loved ones.

The best gift ever given is just being you. Every day can be a holiday. Go celebrate!


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