03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Tips To Prevent Holiday Stress And Avoid Faking The Holiday Spirit

The holidays are here and, for many of us, so is holiday stress. Reduced budgets can mean stressing more this year over how much to spend on gifts and what to get. Planning parties or family gatherings can feel overwhelming. It can be hard to find the holiday spirit. Here are some tips to prevent stress through the holiday season.

1. The holidays are a good time to renew your heart connection with people. Make that your focus and priority. Spend more time enjoying people and their holiday spirit and that can help rekindle your holiday spirit.

2. If you already have a lot of stress in your life, be careful not to get caught in over-extending yourself. Adding too much to your plate can turn what should be a good time enjoying the holidays into an extra backpack of stress. Then you have to take the first week of the year just to recoup from it all. You can avoid this by slowing down in the midst of all the activities and checking in with yourself about where you're really at. Observe your energies and feelings and learn to find more ease through it all. Here's a simple tool proven to help you find more ease and dissipate stress as you go.

Tool: Notice and Ease

Use Notice and Ease as soon as you start to feel anxious, tense, worried, or sad. It's important to notice - become emotionally aware and acknowledge what you're feeling, and to ease and "befriend" the reaction by holding it in your heart, then letting the feeling ease out of your system. If you try and fight what you're feeling or push it away, it just gains energy. Keep using this tool for one minute or longer until you feel something lighten up, even if you don't get to a complete release yet. Even a little ease can bring some relief and a more balanced perspective.

Step 1: Notice and admit what you're feeling.
Step 2: Try and name the feeling.
Step 3: Tell yourself to e-a-s-e- as you gently focus your attention in the area of the heart, relax as you breathe, and e-a-s-e- the stress out.

By admitting a feeling, whatever it is--worry, anxiety, frustration, anger, tension, resistance, numbness, or even a vague disturbance you can't put your finger on--you slow down the emotional energy running through your system. With Step 3, you can redirect your emotional energy to work for you and stop stress accumulation.

Here's a picture of what often happens when we don't use a tool to help ease and reduce our stress.

John calls his wife from work and has an anxious reaction to something she said. He goes to a meeting with his project team, but the disturbed feeling lingers. He can't focus and hardly hears what's being said. Inside, his thoughts keep surging back over the things that bothered him about the call. He tries to fight the thoughts and quell the disturbance so he can be present for the meeting but the anxious feeling keeps churning in his internal world. Soon he feels dull and drained. That one conversation created an emotional churning that John drags around the rest of the day. When he gets home that night, his wife seems happy to see him, as if nothing had happened. Not wanting to cause an argument, John plops down in front of the TV to try to forget the whole thing. He goes to bed exhausted, still bothered inside.

John's day could have gone completely differently if he had taken a moment to stop and admit what he was feeling. As soon as you use Notice and Ease to honestly acknowledge to yourself that you're feeling anxious, you start to diminish that emotion's power over you. But then you don't stop there. As you use Step 3 to ease out the disturbing feeling or attitude, you often release the emotional charge so you can have an effective conversation or gain new insights on how to handle the situation. Even a little ease can stop stress accumulation and energy drain.

Consciously using this tool can help you negotiate each situation with more ease, and doing this also helps create more ease in your environment. As you practice "Ease", it helps you access more intuitive discernment in decision-making. Even if the people around you don't change, you will still have more balance and less stress through it all.

Practicing Ease also brings deeper hearing in communications, so you can understand what someone is trying to say without stress filters coloring your perception. Here's an example of how Ease can turn things around and prevent a lot of stress.

Monica was already on work overload due to company cut-backs when her boss gave her a large project to do. Her predictable reaction of, "Oh no," along with anxiety projections of more overload, feelings of unfair and resentment started up then she decided to use the "Notice and Ease" tool. After she admitted her feelings to herself and did Step 3: Tell yourself to e-a-s-e- as you gently focus your attention in the area of the heart, relax as you breathe, and e-a-s-e- the stress out, she actually felt okay. She understood that her boss really had no one else to turn to and she took the drama out of her thoughts (which immediately reduces much stress). Then she realized, "I actually can do this. I'll just ease through this, one segment at a time, and it will eventually all get done, especially if I let go of the drama."

3. Learning to slow down not just your movements but also your internal speed can make this tool more effective. Once you get on a stress roll, it can be more difficult to turn things around. The trick is to monitor and slow down your inner body language. Have honest self-talks about whether you're going too fast, or about your attitude, or about what you really need to stay more balanced and find peace in the process. With more balance and ease, you can make this holiday period a time of genuine fun, rather than faking your fun while you're really feeling stressed and overwhelmed.

4. A great way you can enjoy more of the holiday spirit is by keeping your focus on genuinely appreciating and caring for others. Ask yourself each morning, "Who can I show a little more appreciation to, or who can I express more genuine care for today? It can be as simple as opening the door for someone or telling someone that you appreciate them. Genuine gestures of care and appreciation are often remembered long after the holiday glitter is gone. You'll find this is a fun gift for the other person and a big gift to yourself.

We welcome your insights and comments. Leave a comment below or email us at

*Learn more about the Notice and Ease tool in Doc Childre's and Deborah Rozman's book Transforming Anxiety. You can also prevent stress and learn how to reset your system more quickly with the emWave Personal Stress Reliever which has earned the seal of approval from the American Institute of Stress. The emWave helps you build the resilience you need to take control of your stress response. (Look for HeartMath's special holiday discount during December.)

Doc Childre is an internationally renowned stress expert, creator of the HeartMath System, considered by many hospitals, organizations and health care professionals to be a best practice in stress management, and Chairman and co-CEO of Quantum Intech, Inc the parent company of HeartMath LLC. He is also founder of the non-profit research and education organization, the Institute of HeartMath and author of a dozen books on stress, wellness and heart-based living including The HeartMath Solution, From Chaos to Coherence, The HeartMath Approach to Reducing Hypertension, and the Transforming Series of books with co-author Dr. Deborah Rozman. Doc is the creator of the emWave Personal Stress Reliever technology, which won the Last Gadget Standing People's Choice Award at the 2009 International Consumer Electronics Show.

Deborah Rozman Ph.D., is a psychologist, business executive and co-author with Doc Childre of Transforming Stress, Transforming Anger, Transforming Anxiety, Transforming Depression and Stopping Emotional Eating: The emWave Stress and Weight Management Program. She is President and co-CEO of Quantum Intech, Inc. and serves on the scientific advisory board of the Institute of HeartMath. She is a key spokesperson for HeartMath on stress management and the role of heart intelligence and heart-based living.