How do WE Deal With Holiday Stress?

In Members, Stress by MaryBeth Smith

Pictured Right to Left: Tim Wilson, Darcia Dexter, Mary Susan Chen, Macauley Culkin,
Chrish Kresge, Seth Dellinger

The holidays are stressful for many of our clients. They take time to attend our classes despite over-packed schedules, overspent budgets; the demands of travel, decorating, and house guests; awkward conversations around the dinner table, and SO. MUCH. FESTIVITY. Sometimes we might imagine a subtle expectation to show that we “have it all together,” since we tout the benefits of the Feldenkrais Method® of somatic education for ease, grace, and intelligent action. Many of us also teach stress management workshops – probably because WE need them, too. Do our students actually think WE don’t experience holiday stress like them?

We asked some of our colleagues: what stresses YOU out during the holidays? And, how does the Feldenkrais Method help you to survive and thrive? 

Darcia Dexter: “Move quickly without hurrying” we say . . . oh, good luck to that during the holidays!  We have the same amount of time to do our habitual doings and add on extras like decorating, cooking, and of course thinking, procuring, wrapping and delivering just the perfect present while trying to remain present.

It seems that everyone has the same idea of procuring at same time,  leading to long lines everywhere which can be extremely stressful — unless I remember that I have Super Stealthy Feldy Mode. My experience with the Feldenkrais Method over the years has already created the efficiency of solid decision-making; knowing when I see a potential gift and I feel every cell saying, “YES! THAT’S IT!” I go for it, unwavering.

With said gift(s) in hand, I approach a line to checkout and “OH $#!&” where did all the people come from in the last 10 minutes?! I pause… I check my watch…I take a breath and feel it… I use our ultimate tool of a body scan to “check myself before I wreck myself” — making sure my shoulders haven’t instantaneously achieved earring status, or I’m doing my best flamingo impression favoring my favorite standing leg, willing things to be all right…And then, magically, the line moves and so do I…

Seth Dellinger: It’s pretty simple. Something interrupts my flow and the present moment starts to feel like a place I don’t want to be. I get sidetracked and head into a downward spiral – until I realize what’s happening and remind myself: 

“Hey, I decided I was going to have a good day today.”

It doesn’t make sense at first, but then I remember what this phrase is really for. It’s my cue to tune in and self-regulate: 

  • It might mean becoming more aware of my connection to the ground and making sure my breath is free.
  • Or softening my eyes and taking in more of the sounds around me.
  • Quite often it means catching myself making mountains out of molehills in my thinking and bringing in some much needed perspective.

Because I can’t change things like the parking tickets I got two days in a row this week.

But I can continuously improve my capacity to listen to my body for the earliest possible warning signs that I’ve begun to shrink into some old story that doesn’t serve me.

Chrish Kresge: Arghhh…this time of the year stresses me! I am beyond overwhelmed by the sheer number of messages in my inbox, for example.

  • People feeling stressed and wanting lessons NOW.
  • Too many holiday parties and too much unhealthy food.
  • Finding and mailing Christmas presents!
  • Traffic jams!

Here are my “go-to” Feldy stress busters that never fail: Bell Hand, finding my skeletal support in every moment and noticing when I don’t have it, global breathing, Seesaw breathing, Walking backwards, Mouth teeth palate.

When I am fully present, the right resources do show up, again and again.

Mary Susan Chen: I’m thankful for the Feldenkrais Method in big and little stressors! The usual holiday season is filled with hustle & bustle, when I try to do more during the shortest days of the year. This is when I use the Feldenkrais Method to help me focus my mind to the task at hand and feel my feet on the ground. Then I can feel the Joy of the holiday season – allowing comfortable to grow towards pleasurable, and then, elegant.  

And when bigger stresses come my way and my body sends new, more serious signals – yet again, I feel my feet on the ground, along with my breath in my lower belly. I allow myself to go slower, be more present. These new unexpected sensations can feel scary. That’s when the breathing becomes even more important – softening the response in my chest, so that the tension doesn’t stick around and become a new pattern. That’s when it truly is “the most wonderful time of the year!”

Tim Wilson: This time of year offers two significantly stressful challenges for me: coordinating complicated schedules and managing expectations. The Feldenkrais Method helps me stay active so that I can stay happy… Vigorous activity floods my body with endorphins (happy juice) and encourages me to intake O2, which I sometimes forget to do. There are literally moments when I cannot remember the last breath I took because I’m too focused on other things. The Feldenkrais Method helps me recover. For example, I had a lovely 10-mile run on Sunday which left me with very tired muscles threatening to be sore for days… but after doing what I call the “greatest hits” ATM® lessons where I kind of just roll through the highlights of ATM’s that come to mind, my muscles are soft and relaxed again and Without the soreness the next day I’m ready for another run.

May you celebrate whatever you celebrate with your whole self! See you next year!

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