Here we are in December again. Like an annual tradition, I find myself in an overwhelmed and dysregulated state. This year though I have a different perspective through the lens of self-reg.

One of the key components of my study with The Mehrit Centre to become a Shanker Self-Reg Learning Facilitator is about recognizing our stressors. It seems simple enough – too much on my plate at work, hockey tournaments, Christmas shopping and decorating, too many late nights. But it really goes much deeper than that. If it was only on the surface, I think I’d be able to more easily manage it.

The reality is that stress is all about the drain on our energy stores. If we think about stress from that viewpoint, we need to look at the energy drain that comes from all our emotions, not just emotions that arise from too much work or too many activities. We also need to look at the energy drain from those emotions that come from our preferred activities such as meeting new people, going to Christmas parties, and our children’s excitement over the upcoming holidays.

We can look at the stressors as it applies to five domains. It doesn’t really matter what domain you classify a stress under but it does give a bit of guidance to think about all the aspects of your life that might be adding to your dysregulated state. It’s really all about the process of thinking of the bigger picture.

Let’s look through the five domains to see how this might apply to our lives at this time of the year…

Biological Domain

Factors such as noises and crowds fall under this category but by delving deeper we can think about the factors that our conscious has grown accustomed to. Two examples are the hum from the refrigerator when you are sitting in the “quiet” of your house or the buzz from the florescent lights when you are at the mall. We are not typically aware that they are present but our brain must still use energy to deal with them.

Emotion Domain

Emotions come into play when we feel sad or excited about specific incidents but what about the deeper emotions that are evoked at this time of the year, perhaps we are feeling nostalgic or remembering Christmas’ that were not so happy for us. Perhaps we feel happy and excited while also feeling sad and disappointed. Energy is required to manage each and every one of them.

Cognitive Domain

This domain talks about difficulty processing certain information. Typically, we think of our children with a learning disability or similar. But think about those times when we are tired and can’t think straight, or perhaps we are overwhelmed with stressors from another domain. Those intermittent times take our energy too.

Social Domain

This time of the year is full of higher social demands. We add special parties, work parties and extended family gatherings. Some of these we enjoy, some are done out of obligation, some require us to dress outside our comfort zone. No matter how we view these extra social demands, they all take energy.

Prosocial Domain

Finally, consider how other people feel. Our children are going through their own struggles with excitement and hope for presents, their excitement about having time off from school or their dread about not seeing their friends for two weeks. Our spouses and friends have different struggles. How we take on their stress really contributes to our own stress level. Can we support and let it go or do we take their stress on as if it’s our own?

There are so many good things that happen this time of the year – new friends, fun times, presents, time off, seeing family but even when there are many good things, it often translates into too many stressors.

How are you going to balance the stressors so you don’t have too much of a good thing this holiday season?

Penny Mayo, a Parent Solutions Consultant, Helps Families Help Themselves! Struggling with finding support for her challenging kids, Penny changed her career from engineering to working with kids with different needs. Through experience, Penny has honed her ability to see the stressors that kids face and to collaboratively solve the problems that stand in the way of a calm home front. Now, Penny teaches other parents how to do this for their own families. She provides consulting and, workshops and is developing on-line resources for parents.

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