Three steps to get your calm back during this stress-inducing, albeit joyful, season


This is a re-do of a blog I wrote a few years back, and thought it was worth sending out again.  This time of year is the hardest on many of us – we over-commit, over-indulge, and generally over-stretch ourselves, ending up stressed and not the greatest company to ourselves or anyone else.

So first, I want to wish you all a wonderful end of 2017, and beginning of 2018 – that you find some peace in the coming days, with much laughter and joy.

I also want to remind you of an old Cherokee story – if you’re finding yourself feeling the stress of the season.

It’s the story about 2 wolves. A grandfather was speaking with his grandson about the violence and cruelty in the world.  He likened it to two wolves fighting in our heart – one was angry and vengeful, the other was understanding and kind. The grandson asked which would win, and the grandfather replied – the one you feed.

I naturally overdo things, and I don’t need the excuse of the holiday season to do it.  In fact, I’ve been overdoing things for so long that my body finally gave out.  That was about 2 years ago. Over these past 2 years, I’ve had to learn to live differently – most of all, I’ve had to learn to listen to the signals of my body and to respect them.  In other words, I’ve stopped feeding one wolf and started feeding the other.

In Taking the Leap , Pema Chödrön writes about how people need more spiritual practice these days than ever before, because we really do live in a stressed-out world.  In fact, she goes on to suggest we extend our spiritual practice to include our communities in three ways. I’ve combined what she suggests we do for our communities with what I suggest we do for ourselves – because whatever we do for ourselves to strengthen our own spirits will eventually enrich and empower our communities. These all involve cultivating our own naturalness as human beings.

  • Natural Intelligence – when we know instinctively what to do, when we’re not caught up in hope and fear. When you catch yourself caught up, take a time-out: deep breaths in – down to your belly, completely filling your lungs; longer breaths out – letting the air out slowly, emptying your lungs completely. Do that 3 to 5 times.  Breathing out for longer then breathing in activates your calming system, and helps to bring you back into balance, and reconnected to your natural intelligence.
  • Natural Warmth – our ability to love, have empathy, a sense of humor, and to feel grateful – it has the power to heal relationships. Open your heart, once you’re back in balance, and make yourself available to everyone and everything around you. If you’re alone, get out. If you simply can’t get out, then find a way to connect – by phone, by internet – whatever way is available to you.
  • Natural Openness – mental spaciousness, giving our intelligence a chance to be able to tell us what it really knows. Pause. Do nothing for a few seconds or minutes, letting your mind take in your surroundings. Becoming truly sensitive to what there is to take in, right now.

Balance, openness, inner space.  All natural. All human.

If you’re interested in knowing more about natural human traits, you might be interested in Discover Your Natural Character, a workshop facilitated by myself and Jane Mactinger this coming February.

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist and Life Coach.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at .


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