In this busy season of extra activities, long to-do lists, added pressure and stress, an extra helping of TLC – Tender Loving Care – can help you maneuver through it with greater ease and flow. When you find yourself slipping into stress-mode or any feelings of upset, using these three strategies can guide you back to feeling calm, centered, and ready to take on the day.

Take a HALT

In this season, with so much focus on doing-for-others, it’s easy to forget about taking care of yourself. So now, more than ever, it’s essential that you “put your own oxygen mask on first” as they say in the airline industry.

A good way to do this is to take a HALT! Before you make a decision or take action, make it a habit to check in with yourself and see how you’re feeling. Are you Hungry? Angry? Lonely? Tired?

These four mind-sets put you in a disadvantaged frame of mind, giving you limited or no access to your logical mind, and little if any energy to do your best.

It’s important to give yourself what you need to be at your best, because you are the only one who knows what that is. So take care of your physical, mental, and emotional needs first. Then you’ll be much better equipped to take care of others. It’s not selfish. It’s smart self-care. And who knows, when you’re not running on empty, you may find it easier to delegate some of those mounting to-do’s to someone else.

Look at the Meaning

Life is a series of events. They have no inherent meaning in and of themselves. We give them their meaning. And we do this through our own unique filter system. Everything we see, hear, taste, touch, feel, and sense is translated through our filters, which are created from our life experiences, values, beliefs, education, etc. They are unique to us. And every person has their own specialized set. This is why four people can witness an accident and give four different interpretations of what happened.

Many times, though, these filters contain mis-information or misperceptions we formed early in childhood when we didn’t know better. And now as adults, we’re still using those filters to maneuver through life. This rarely brings happy results.

When something causes an upset, answer the questions below to uncover and change those old, outdated filters. Using this strategy will help create a happier, more empowering meaning for that event.

  1. Notice the emotion you are feeling. What is the “meaning” you’ve given to the event?
  2. Looking at just the facts, what really happened?
  3. Observe your “meaning” and the actual “facts” as two separate things. Focus on the distinction between them.
  4. As you focus on the differences, does your meaning go away?
  5. If it goes away, great! Check in with how you are feeling now. Most often there will be a sense of neutrality.
  6. If your meaning is still there, review the facts again. Come up with two or three alternative interpretations that could “logically” explain the event.

Often, putting the facts of what happened alongside the original meaning and viewing them as two separate entities, can be enlightening. It can open the door to new perspectives, enabling us to realize what we thought was The Truth was only A Truth. It was just one interpretation – not necessarily THE one and only explanation.

This new awareness can help dissolve the original upset because it’s the meaning that creates our emotional response. Things happen. It’s human nature to assign meaning. Might as well give it one that feels good!

Check Your Expectations

Expectations and assumptions can frequently lead to erroneous conclusions, which can result in us inadvertently setting ourselves up for disappointment. Life is full of surprises and possibilities. Very often a surprise turn or unexpected “something” will happen. If we have our heart set on things being or working out a certain way, it can easily throw us off center and land us in the middle of a big upset.

Best to go in with an open mind and heart. The perfect experience may come in a blue box, and if you’re expecting a yellow ribbon, you’ll be disappointed. Or, even worse, you could completely miss the opportunity altogether.

So, if you’ve already taken a HALT, dissolved any emotional meanings, and you’re still feeling disappointed or upset in any way, check in to see if there are any pre-conceived notions, expectations, or assumptions roaming around.

When you find yourself in the middle of a stressful situation, these strategies are a way to nurture yourself from the inside out. By paying attention to the messages your body and emotions are sending, you can uncover the real upset. With this extra dose of TLC, you’ll be empowered to get back to calm, centered, and fully functioning as your Best Self.

Here are those strategies again:

TTake a Halt:  Develop the HALT habit so you can put your best self forward, with all your mental and emotional faculties available.

L Look at the Meaning:  Remember, you are the one who assigns meaning to the events you experience. Choose one that feels good.

C – Check Your Expectations:  Stay open to life’s surprises and possibilities. Treasures are often found in the least-expected places.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your comments. What strategies have worked for you?

Article first published in Natural Awakenings Magazine, December 20, 2016
Picture © / AlexMaster