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How to Combat the Stress and Challenges of the Holidays

Health & Wellness

Most of us have a love-hate relationship with the holidays. It’s a great season, but it can be stressful. Here are six tips to take the stress out of the holidays and help make the season a magical one:

  1. Your focus will determine your future. Have you ever noticed that if something bad happens and you focus on it, then more bad things happen? If you think that a certain holiday function is going to be bad, then most likely it will be just that. I’m not saying that if you think happy thoughts, then you’re guaranteed happy times. That’s absurd. I am simply saying that if you focus on the positive, not only will your experiences feel more positive, but the negatives won’t feel so overwhelming. If you tell yourself that the holidays are going to be enjoyable and then you encounter a rude relative, you are more likely to take their rude behavior in stride and not allow it to ruin your holiday spirit. This in turn will affect others in a favorable way. If you don’t get rattled, others are less likely to get rattled. Remember to watch your self-talk and make sure you are not saying to yourself, “I know it is just a matter of time before something bad happens and my time is ruined.” Focus on the positive and see what happens.
  2. Handle emotions with finesse. There are many reasons people find the holidays to be stressful. Loneliness, financial pressure, and unfulfilled goals and desires are just a few. Expressing emotions is a great way for people to begin to free themselves from their built-up feelings of stress, worry, fear, and anxiety. Unfortunately, many people encourage others not to express their emotions by saying things like, “I don’t want to hear it,” or, “Get over it.” This is like putting a lid on a pot of boiling water. Eventually it will boil over, and when it does, it will be a mess. When someone is upset, the best thing to do is simply acknowledge that the person has the right to that emotion. It’s not necessary to agree with the reason they’re upset. Just say something like, “I understand you are upset” (or stressed or annoyed). This sounds simple, but unfortunately we often do the opposite and invalidate others’ emotions by saying things like, “I understand you are upset, BUT…” or, “Don’t get upset,” “Calm down,” “Don’t worry.” When we tell someone not to feel a certain way, it can actually have the opposite effect and make that person even more emotional, prolonging or even escalating the emotion. Ironically, the more we acknowledge another person’s emotions, the more likely that their emotions will be diffused, allowing us to change the subject and discuss other things.
  3. Use the Law of Reflection to your advantage. The Law of Reflection says that whatever we give out in life we tend to get back. Unfortunately, this law can work against us if we allow it to. Think about it. If someone is down, we are down. If someone is negative, we start to allow ourselves to be negative. If someone complains about someone else, we allow ourselves to get caught up in their drama. But there is no reason to allow others to set the tone for our holidays – we should set the tone ourselves. We cannot control what happens but we can control how we respond, which may in turn inspire others to respond more positively. In other words, no matter what others do, choose to have a good time and do what it takes to enjoy the holidays. This will help send the message that unlike previous holidays when we allowed others to push our buttons, times have changed. Once they get the message that there is a new sheriff in town, their bad behavior is more likely to stop and you’ll be able to have the holidays you truly desire.
  4. Don’t be stingy with your compliments. We often hold back our expressions of appreciation for one another. In fact, sometimes we reserve our compliments because we believe the person doesn’t deserve the appreciation due to something else they’ve done or because we think they’ll take advantage of it. But if the only things that come out of our mouths are negative, then others will get tired of listening to us and disconnect — even if what we have to say is “true.” Instead, keep the Law of Reflection in mind. The more we compliment, the better the holiday spirit will be. The holidays can be a great time to express how much we care for and appreciate others. After all, we don’t know what tomorrow will bring and whether each of us will be around to celebrate the next holiday together. Don’t withhold your compliments. Cherish the time and each other.
  5. Go beyond your feelings and remember why. When you can’t seem to love the holiday event or gathering, remember to love why you are there. Be the model, set the tone, and do what it takes to avoid getting caught up in other people’s drama. Choose to enjoy the holidays for the sake of your children, your spouse, your parents, and others. Give your friends and loved ones that gift. Isn’t that what the holidays are all about?
  6. Reach out and touch someone. There are a lot of lonely people out there preparing to spend the holidays alone — perhaps as a result of divorce, the loss of a spouse, a break-up, or a move. Reach out and invite them to be a part of your holiday festivities. When you do so, keep in mind that just because a person doesn’t return phone calls or e-mails, it doesn’t mean they really want to be alone. Sometimes people reject our invitations because they feel like they are not genuinely wanted or they’re afraid of being reminded of past holidays. Sometimes “No” means “Ask again and tell me you really want me to come.” Be persistent and reach out to family, friends, and neighbors. Don’t let others be alone. Maybe you can use some of these strategies to show them that the holiday season can be a great time of year. Just think how good you will feel when you reconnect with a long lost relative, or when you show a hurting friend or neighbor some true kindness and the real joy the holidays can bring.

We all say that the holidays should be a joyful time of year, but sometimes we forget that we’re responsible for making them that way. Choosing to focus on the positive and finding enjoyment in all the activities and festivities is not a selfish thing. When we choose joy, we help others do the same. By reaching out to help our friends and loved ones connect with their emotions and enjoy the holidays, we spread the holiday cheer that is the true meaning behind all the season’s celebrations. Happy holidays!

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