Stress-Free Holidays

December 11, 2012

What is the secret to stress-free holidays? My formula is three-fold: ritual, rest, and routine.

Stress-Free Triad

There are many things and circumstances that can cause stress during the holidays. Some of these cannot be avoided but you still have a fair amount of control over your situation and how you will react and respond to triggers during times of stress.

RITUALS are vital to our lives. They have been practiced since the dawn of civilization. Rituals, by nature, are meant to bring a sense of belonging which is an innate need that we all have. By satisfying this need for ritual we also achieve a sense of peace. Some important rituals include:

church attendance
celebrating special events such as weddings, baptisms, birthdays, etc.
other activities that bring enrichment or a sense of community to our lives

A common form of stress during the holidays is when these rituals are disrupted as with the death of a close family member or friend. The anniversary of this loss, when it occurs around the time of the holidays, becomes a looming stressor. One way to turn this stress into a positive is to create a new ritual around this loss. Perhaps celebrating the person by sharing fond memories in a setting with others that can benefit from this new ritual. This can bring peace and closure to the sense of loss.

REST is always needed for balance and good health. Sleeping seven to eight hours per night is needed. This must be quality sleep. Some ways to do this include:

Avoid things that can interrupt sleep such as caffeine, alcohol, and heavy or spicy meals in the evening hours.
Avoid medicines that can interrupt sleep such as diuretics and decongestants.
Limit fluid intake in the evening to avoid having to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and be sure to empty your bladder before going to bed.
Avoid stimulating activity such as watching TV or using the computer. The bright light emitted from these can disrupt your sleep.
Drinking a glass of warm milk or camomile tea can promote sleep.
If you have sleep apnea be sure to use your CPAP or BiPAP machine.

Good nutrition and exercise also promote healthy sleep patterns. Make sure that you also practice good hand-washing to avoid getting ill. Get your flu shot and make sure that you take your medicines and stick to your diet!

ROUTINE increases productivity and brings a sense of calm to our lives. When you can stick to a schedule, you get more accomplished and can actually free up time to get other things done. Make sure that you schedule breaks into your day. These breaks are vital! Having a To Do list is also helpful. You also might want to consider getting help during the holidays with the To Do list. There is no reason why you can’t enlist family or friends to help with household chores, decorating, shopping, and other activities that need to be completed. You can also hire outside help or enlist a neighbor or college student who is looking to make some extra cash during the holidays. Anything that you can do to keep to your routine will be helpful.

I’m sure you can come up with other suggestions and tips for stress-free holidays. Feel free to post your tips in the comment section below!

May your holidays be merry and bright!

Merry Christmas and Peace on Earth!

Restoring Balance

April 2, 2012

Restoring Balance

How does one restore balance? There are many approaches to this problem. Identifying what needs to be restored is a good starting point. Recall the four Rs of balance mentioned last month. See the  diagram below and refer to the March blog post for more information on the four Rs.

Let’s use rest as an example. Are you sleeping less than seven hours or more than eight hours per day? If you are there is probably an imbalance in yourself that needs to be adjusted. Recall that poor sleep quality or inadequate amounts of sleep can affect all areas of your health so it is vital to have this parameter of rest in balance.

How do you get the proper rest? What is causing an improper amount of time spent in sleep or poor quality of sleep? Simply lying in bed for seven hours will not restore balance. The amount of time in sleep as well as the quality of sleep are the parameters for rest balance.

Once factors that are impeding good sleep are uncovered, the work of restoring sound sleep begins because without this vital apart of the balance triangle, the remainder of the self cannot come into balance.

One method of discerning the factors that are interfering with appropriate rest are to categorize them as intrinsic or extrinsic factors.

Intrinsic factors are those from within such as health problems (sleep apnea, for example) that are interfering with quality sleep.

Extrinsic factors (such as medication side effects) are factors outside of the body that are contributing to the problem. Usually extrinsic factors are easier to resolve but not always.

When sorting through all the potential causes of poor sleep you may need assistance from others. For example, do you sleep poorly due to restless leg syndrome? A partner can help identify this potential problem and you can then address it with your healthcare provider. Additionally, speaking to your healthcare provider about health, medications, and possible other factors is also a good idea. You might need to speak to your employer about your work schedule if this is a factor. Shift work is known to be a contributor to poor sleep quality. A good reference on this can be found at

Sometimes it helps to have an impartial person such as a coach to assist with getting back on the road to balance. That is where I can help. As a family physician, I have invaluable insights into many factors that can present as problems and I can also provide resources such as medical articles for your information. Being impartial, I can make assessments that might not otherwise be obvious. As a coach, I am there to assist and empower you to take control of your life balance.

Feel free to contact me for more information about this blog post or any other questions that you might have.

The blog topic for May will be about STRESS – Senseless Thoughts Repeated Endlessly Surrounding Self.

The Four Rs of Balance

March 22, 2012

March 1, 2012

The Four Rs for Balance

Balance in life can be measured or segmented in many ways. My formula for balance involves the  four Rs. These are relationship, rest, recreation, and refreshment. See the diagram below for how these lend to balance. These are areas of the self that need our utmost attention. As these areas start to come into balance, other areas such as work, finances, etc. can be addressed, although commonly they are addressed simultaneously. This blog only addresses the self and balance.

I place relationship in the center of the triangle and make it the largest parameter because I think it is the most important. By relationship, I mean the primary relationship in our life which is God. We are all hard-wired for God and when that relationship is not on solid ground, all other relationships and areas of our life are out of balance. Everything we are and do flows from our relationship with God. Relationship with God is necessary for:
  • the fruits and gifts of the Holy Spirit which are vital to our character and development of virtue (I will not delve into this further because it would take a whole blog topic to cover how our relationship with God is vital to our survival.)

The next most important area for balance which is at the top of the triangle is rest. Without rest, things quickly fall apart. Recreation and refreshment have about equal weight in terms of balance. By recreation, I mean time spent recharging our batteries as well as time spent on exercise, so really two areas for the price of one R. With refreshment, I mean the food that sustains us, our nourishment. So these are the four Rs. Now I’ll delve into three Rs that make up the points of the triangle.

Rest is vital for many reasons. Rest of at least 7 hours per day of quality sleep is necessary for:

  • clarity of thought and mood stabilization
  • adequate energy levels
  • proper metabolism (Lack of quality sleep increases the risk of obesity and many other health problems.)

Recreation in the form of relaxation:

  • recharges our batteries
  • adds to the quality of life
  • reduces stress
  • increases satisfaction in other areas of our life

Recreation in the form of exercise improves many areas of our health:

  • improves brain function – alertness, concentration, and cognition
  • improves quality of sleep
  • stabilizes mood, reducing anxiety and depression
  • improves energy, stamina, flexibility, balance, strength, and coordination
  • improves circulation and heart health
  • strengthens lungs
  • improves digestion and bowel function
  • improves glucose metabolism
  • helps maintain a healthy weight
  • improves longevity

Refreshment in the form of nutrition is vital to health. Good nutrition:

  • maintain healthy weight
  • supplies energy
  • supports immune system
  • aids digestion and bowel function

Information on dietary guidelines can be found at

For a BMI calculator to determine your ideal body weight, please go to

Lack of balance with the four Rs can lead to problems with health, relationships, employment, etc. I will discuss how to regain balance in these four areas in my blog next month.

Please feel free to post your questions and comments below.


I will be writing a short blog post monthly beginning on March 1st. Please leave your suggestions below on topics that you would like to see covered on this blog.

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Please note: Information provided on this site is for educational purposes only and is not meant to treat any health conditions or to be a substitute for seeking care from your personal healthcare provider.

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