The holidays are just around the corner and, for some (or maybe most) people, that means holiday stress.
But what is that, really?
Well, technically, “the holidays” themselves don’t cause you stress. The stress you experience at this time of year is internal physiological disharmony as a result of your negative emotional response to your perception of the holidays, and all they entail. It is not the holidays causing your stress; your perceptions and emotions are.
Why does this distinction matter?
Because when you assign the cause of your stress to something (or someone) else, in this case “the holidays”, you lose the power to do something about your level of stress, you become the victim of the holidays, you are at its mercy. Then, “the holidays” determine if you are going to have a good holiday or a bad holiday; you forfeit your ability to have influence on your level of stress and your level of happiness. But because your level of stress is from your perceptions and emotions about the holidays, you have the power to influence your stress level and happiness level.
At this time of year, people search for quick tips to ease the holiday stress. While that sounds like a completely logical thing to do, it is actually too little too late. That’s similar to researching the topic “how to loose 20 pounds in a calendar year” in December. Like losing weight, learning to conquer stress is not a “quick fix” and it takes patience, diligence and commitment throughout the year.
That being said, here are a few things to keep in mind during this season that can help you keep the level of stress at a minimum, bearing in mind that these skills usually take time to develop.
1- Avoid overcare. Overcare is just what it sounds like, over caring. I tend to think this "season of giving” could be renamed to the “season of overcaring”. We overcare about a lot of details that don’t really matter: the forth meat option for Christmas dinner, the napkins that have wrinkles, the half strand of lights that went dead before the season is over. This overcaring drains your energy and zaps the enjoyment right out of the season. Balanced care is your goal, where it feels good to care about things going well, but it doesn’t feel bad if they don’t go the way you hoped or expected.
2- Stay mindful of your inner state. Many times throughout the days, check-in and notice what is happening inside you. You can think of it as gathering an internal weather report: Are there storm clouds brewing? Is the sun shining? In a way, it is like turning up your sensitivity to the stress going on inside you so you can ease up and/or calm down before it becomes a full-on active thunderstorm in you that drives your behaviours and conversations.
3- Keep the most important thing the most important. If you were to survey the people laying on their deathbed and ask them, “What’s most important thing at Christmas?”, I’m pretty sure they would not say “the decorations” or “the meal” or even “the gifts”. I’m 99% sure that they would say something like “family” or “relationships”. Wouldn’t you agree?
4- Enjoy yourself. Sure, things may not be perfect; maybe there’s family drama, maybe Aunt Sally won’t let go of the fact that you burned the turkey, maybe the gifts weren’t fair among the kids this year. Big whoop! Let it go. Your happiness is worth much more.
In actuality, you decide the level of stress and the level of happiness you experience during the holidays…and every day of the year.
What level do you chose this holiday?
Here’s to conquering stress.
The Stress Experts
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