Beliefnet
Perhaps our greatest challenge today is finding a way to feel peaceful in this hectic uncertain world. Most of us live overly busy lives that have us rushing to stay one step ahead of constant demands and pressures. Sometimes the demands and pressures win, but it doesn't have to be that way.

As this holiday season approaches, we must each ask ourselves how we can create peace and calmness within regardless of what's going on around us? It's easy to feel calm when everything's going well, but to feel calm and grounded when life throws its challenges at us -- now, that's the charm.

The 7 Steps to Calming you are about to read are applicable to your life during this busy holiday season, and every day throughout the year. They also apply to your children. It's so essential that we help our kids learn to be peaceful people from the time they're young. Only then can they grow up to be peaceful adults. What better time to start than now!

7 Steps to CALMING:

C: CUT BACK ON SUGAR, CARBS, CAFFEINE. Sugar, carbs, and caffeine lead to rapid fluctuations in blood sugar levels. These fluctuations significantly affect mood and energy level. One major preventative measure is to start each day with a high-protein, low-carb breakfast that does not contain sugar. Doing this for your kids is essential. If you need an energy-boost in the afternoon, nibble on a high-protein snack like nuts, pumpkin seeds, or sunflower seeds. Coffee and sugar will lift you up fast, but will let you down hard. Protein will keep you steady.

A: AT LEAST 15 MINUTES OF EXERCISE. DO IT EACH DAY. Exercise raises the level of endorphins. Endorphins help you feel calm and happy, clear and simple. Exercise also brings oxygen to the blood, aiding our circulation and brain function. Exercise helps us feel better on so many levels that it's just plain silly to skip it. No time to join a gym, go for a ten-minute walk at lunch time or at the end of the day. Take five minutes in the morning or at night and do sit-ups, push-ups, jumping jacks or yoga stretches. Keep it simple if you need to, but get it in any way you can.

L: LET PEOPLE KNOW WHAT YOUR BOUNDARIES ARE. Learning how to say no will significantly decrease the amount of stress you experience. Practice saying no in a kind way. Example: "I would love to serve on your committee, and I'm so honored that you asked, but now is a very busy time for me, so I'm going to have to decline."

Saying no to kids can also be done in a compassionate way: "I wish there was a way we could go to the mall now. I see how much you'd like to do that. Let's see when a better time might be." Getting others to honor your boundaries starts with you honoring them first.

M: MAKE TIME FOR STILLNESS. Stillness and silence are as important to our mental health as air and water are to our physical bodies. Without some waking moments of stillness and silence each day we feel tense and agitated. Find a way to take 5 minutes whenever you can to be in a quiet place where you can decompress. Say a silent prayer or focus on a peaceful image. Breathe in the stillness and let it nourish your spirit throughout the day. Teach your kids to do this too.

I: INTEGRATE FUN INTO EACH DAY. What makes you laugh? What gives you pleasure? Make a list and do something on it every day, even if it's just eating a piece of chocolate (the one exception to the low-sugar rule). Keep a book of humor on your desk and read a page when things get crazy. Rent funny movies whenever you can. Have your family do a joke of the day routine. Be creative, and remember, fun and laughter take the edge off life.

N: NEVER LET SOMEONE ELSE'S BAD MOOD HIJACK YOUR DAY. If you're with a grouchy person, don't take their behavior personally. If you weren't there, they would have barked at someone else. Listen to the words of Dr. Wayne Dyer: "Wisdom is avoiding all thought that weaken you." Dwelling on the words of an ill-tempered person saps our energy. Choose to focus on something that strengthens you instead. While you're at it, send a silent prayer to to the grouchy person that whatever is causing him or her to be that way will be soothed and healed.

G: GET ENOUGH SLEEP. Why does this seem so impossible these days? America has become a sleep-deprived nation. Changing this starts with each of us. It's next to impossible to feel happy, healthy, and patient without enough sleep. What can you do to enable yourself to get 8 hours a night? Are your kids getting enough sleep? If not, change their schedule. Proper sleep is as essential to their (and our) physical, mental and emotional well-being as air and water.

STRESS-BUSTING CHALLENGE:

Ask yourself the following three questions, then put your answers into action right away:

1. What is something healthy I can add to my life to reduce stress?

2. What is something unhealthy or stressful I can eliminate?

3. What is one small change I can make that will help me feel happier and more at peace?

Use these tools to make this holiday season one of harmony, joy, gratitude, and connection. May the peace you create in yourself ripple out to everyone around you, especially the people closest to you. In the words of Mother Teresa, "What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family."

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