Saturday, April 20, 2024

Sunday, April 7, 2024

How to Transform Pre Pesach Stress into Eustress

Pesach is a special time. We are surrounded by family members, and bask in the warm glow of the Yontif. We commemorate how Hashem lifted us up out of Egypt and into His embrace. The love Hashem has for us and that we have for Him permeates the Yontif.

Getting ready for Pesach though, can be very challenging and at times stressful. It doesn’t have to be this way. We can turn our stress into eustress. Eustress is beneficial stress that occurs when we go out of our comfort zone and take on a challenge. Try these strategies drawn from my life coaching practice to get ready for Pesach.

1. Stay focused. Make a list of what needs to get done and schedule it into specific time slots on your calendar. By spreading out the tasks, you make it more manageable. Avoid frequently checking the news which will stress you and deplete your energies. Instead, once or twice a day, for 5-10 minutes you can check the news to stay up to date, or tell a friend or family member to update you if they hear anything. 

2. Take breaks. Preparing for Pesach is a marathon and not a sprint, so schedule periodic breaks of a set duration. This way, you won’t get burned out but you also won’t get sidetracked during a break. Take a daily brisk walk (preferably in nature and/or with a friend), eat a healthy diet with adequate protein, and if needed, call family or friends for encouragement or advice.

3. Delegate. Yes, you will likely do a better job if you do it yourself, but your time and energy are limited and you want to use them wisely. If there are tasks that can be delegated to others, do that. Make sure to explain clearly what needs to get done and by when. When possible, give them some leeway in how to do it. Be hearty in your praise and sparing in your criticism (if they can’t correct a mistake, instead of dwelling on it, make a note of what to tell them to do differently next year).

4. Ask your Rov. Sometimes, people confuse getting ready for Pesach with spring cleaning which makes getting ready for the Yontif unduly stressful. When in doubt, speak to your Rov about what are the requirements, what are chumras and what is just spring cleaning that can be done after the Yontif.

5. Make it fun. Yes, getting ready for Pesach is serious business. But when possible, try to inject some fun and excitement, especially for the children. You want to instill happy memories of the Yontif, and not memories of yelling and tension. Think of ways of turning preparing for Pesach into an exciting challenge with goals to achieve. You can pick a small reward if a goal is met and celebrate your achievements. You can turn on some upbeat music when cleaning the house to help you and your family get into the right frame of mind. Visualize yourself successfully getting ready for Pesach and use positive self-talk to encourage yourself (and family members). Turning an activity that initially feels overwhelming into a manageable, exciting challenge to overcome, is a key way of turning negative stress into positive eustress.

6. Take a time-out. If you feel your stress levels rising and you’re about to say something you may regret, stop for a moment and go outside for a breather (or at least into another room). Words said in anger are often regretted. Once hurtful words leave your mouth, it is very hard to undo the damage. When stressed or irritable, try the physiologic sigh. This breathing technique involves two inhales followed by an extended exhale. Take in a regular inhale through the nose and then inhale again to get in even more air. Then slowly exhale through the mouth with a sigh as the air effortlessly leaves your lungs. As you exhale and sigh, allow your body to let go of tension. Try 1-3 rounds of this breathing technique.

7. Get adequate sleep. When we are sleep deprived, our energy and mood plummets and our stress levels increase. Yes, it’s normal to have some late nights getting ready for Pesach, but try to keep your sleep schedule as consistent as possible. Set an alarm for 1 hour before bed and when you hear the alarm, put away your phone and computer and get ready for bed. Have a winddown routine to help you ease into sleep, such as a relaxing tea, a warm shower, journaling (writing down your challenges and things you’re grateful for), or reading a light book.

8. Think about others.
Remember those who are less fortunate and do what you can to relieve their burden. Give generously to Pesach campaigns to help the needy buy food for Pesach. If there’s someone you know in your community who may be having difficulty getting ready for Pesach, someone ill, a single parent, or someone who lives alone, give them a call to see how they’re doing. Maybe there is some way you can be of assistance that’s very doable or perhaps you can invite them for a meal. At the very least, your call will let them know that you care.

9. Expect (and ask for) Siyata Dishmaya. You probably remember getting ready for Pesach one year and thinking, “I don’t know how we’re going to do it this year” but in the end it worked out. Looking back, you may not even be able to explain how it all came together; that’s called Siyata Dishmaya. Hashem gave you the extra boost you needed to get over the finish line. Do your part and daven to Hashem to help you again this year.

10. Be mindful. While rushing around, getting ready for the Yontif, take a moment to be mindful of the purifying and elevating effects of getting ready for Pesach. With the right mindset, it truly is a ruchniusdic experience. Remind yourself that you are putting in all this effort because that’s what Hashem asked you to do. Through your actions you show your love for Hashem and your devotion to Him.

In addition to preparing physically for Pesach, also prepare ruchnius wise, by learning the halachos and thoughts to share at the seder and during the Yontif meals. If possible, pick up a new sefer about the Yontif to share with the family.
Rav Shimshon Pincus tz’l said that it was the extra effort he put one year into getting ready for Pesach that triggered within him an extra feeling of closeness to Hashem. This became the catalyst for a life of continuous growth in ruchnius. May the extra effort you put this year into preparing for Pesach be your catalyst for a life of continuous growth in ruchnius.

To contact Yaakov for life coaching, see here