It never fails that when the holiday season rolls around, stress and anxiety rear their ugly head. Apply these 9 strategies and keep your sanity:
1. Let go of guilt and… Don’t "Should” On Yourself
Guilt, guilt, guilt is…the most devious of fears because underneath it all, we are afraid that we are not enough, don’t give enough, don’t do enough. We aren’t perfect!
Reconcile yourself right now that the holidays won’t meet your view of the Norman Rockwell painting and that your picture of the holiday will NEVER meet your unrealistic expectations.
It’s only your attachment to how things “should be” that causes the majority of your holiday stress and letdowns. If you let go of your unrealistic expectations of perfection, you can enjoy things just as they are.
2. Have the courage to…change your perspective
Navigate the gap between “Hallmark and Hollywood” and the true meaning of the holidays. Bottom line is that materialism is NOT an expression of what the holidays actually represent, that happiness and joy is NOT all about perfection, extravagance and expensive gifts. Happiness is a state of mind and a true choice.
3. Be Creative in your gift giving
If you are feeling stressed about money and pressured about finding gifts that you believe as appropriate or worthy, consider ramping up your creativity and taking a different approach.
For example, years ago our grandsons gave us a little homemade booklet with crafted coupons for such things as “one day of computer hard drive cleaning,” “Shoveling snow off our walks whenever we needed it, “an hour head rub” and more. And, all valid through 2087! How great is that?
In other words, if you’re feeling stressed about your budget, or about finding the perfect gift, take a breath, step back and ignite your creativity. Cook a meal, clean a house, mow a lawn or baby sit. The gift you give is only limited by your imagination.
4. Acknowledge those who are no longer with us.
According to the Mayo Clinic, it's important not to force yourself to be happy just because it's the holiday season.
This is a huge issue for many people who have lost loved ones. Instead of avoiding socializing or anticipating sadness, take charge, find courage, and remember fondly those who are no longer with us. Acknowledge them and express your love for the ones who are gone.
5. Stop it! Zip It! Let it go!
As the old saying goes, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything. Let old conflicts, grudges and the current political climate stay buried and don’t create new ones by criticizing relatives and complaining about little things.
Ask yourself: Do you want to be right? Or do you want to be happy? You don’t have to control everything. Go with the flow.
6. Know your coping strategies to deal with anger and frustration.
You can excuse yourself, leave at a set time, take a few deep breaths, go for a walk, say positive mantras, stretch, call a friend, take a walk, do deep breathing, etc. If all else fails, repeat, “This too shall pass.”
7. Don’t try and do everything. Ask for help.
Perhaps it is time to start taking care of yourself. If you have been totally responsible for shopping, cooking, cleaning, serving and - basically, hosting the Christmas Day activities - perhaps it is time to ask for help. Ask other family members and friends to bring different parts of the meal, such as appetizers, salads or desserts. You will be surprised how much people love to participate. It creates a sense of community, of ownership in the celebration.
The past does not have to determine your future. People change. People get older. People have less energy.
Make sure you have some time for YOU, even if it’s just allowing yourself to watch one special TV show that you really want to see.
8. Get in those 8 hours of Zzzzzzz’s
Researchers have discovered that getting a solid 8 hours of sleep per night improves memory, increases people's ability to concentrate, strengthens the immune system and decreases your risk of being killed in accidents.
During the holidays and in life, it is vitally important to take of yourself. Sleep, exercise, and healthy eating are all staples of successful stress management. According to the Division of Sleep Research at Harvard Medical School, not getting enough—or the right kind—of sleep can cause an increase in both irritability and stress: “Healthy sleep can enhance well-being.”
9. Be thankful
Instead of working on your Santa list, consider making a “gratitude list” instead. Gratitude changes your brain for the better!
Research published in the Journal of Research in Personality found that “Studies supported a direct model whereby gratitude led to higher levels of perceived social support, and lower levels of stress and depression.” In other words, subjects who expressed thankfulness for multiple aspects of their lives were less stressed than those who did not.
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