Tips for Dealing with Holiday Stress…
Most of us look forward to this time of year- it’s a chance to catch up with friends and family and make new memories. This special season can spark memories of all the warm connected moments of the past. It’s what motivates us to brave the malls, prepare special meals, or plan for parties.
At the same time, it’s not unusual to feel some apprehension. Will everyone get along? Will I let anyone down? Expectations can be high. We can get caught up in worrying or find ourselves be reactive. We can run the risk of missing the moment.
What Can We Do?
Accept reality. Even the best relationships are not perfectly perfect! It’s unlikely that you and your friends and family are suddenly going to transform into characters from a movie, full of good will and free of problems. Nor is it likely that all your holiday plans will come off without a hitch. The reality is sometimes things don’t work out, and all of us are less than one hundred percent perfect. Acceptance doesn’t mean being fatalistic and passively suffering; a realistic appraisal of the way things are. And if we get stuck in thinking about how events and people, including ourselves, “should” be, we’re going to miss out on the time we have together. We can’t control what will happen, but we can control how we react to it. The more we can accept reality as it is, the more we can focus on what is important. Which brings us to Step Two.
Have a plan. Once we’ve decided not to focus on things outside of our control, and to accept reality, we can turn our attention to making a plan for going into the holidays without the interference of emotional judgment.
What is our intention as we connect with others over the holidays? Are we there to enjoy each other’s company and let them know we care? Or is our intention to settle old scores, tell them how they/things should be? What are the likely outcomes of these different intentions? And which one will create peace for you?
The reality is, others are not looking to get together with us for a learning experience. What will likely be most effective is for us to set an intention accepting reality as it is, and of connecting without judgment. It’s important to note, accepting reality doesn’t mean endorsing it, or putting yourself in harm’s way. It’s just making a clear appraisal. If after such an appraisal you decide there are situations or people it would better for you to avoid, honour that.
Once we’ve set our intention and we’re out celebrating the holidays we need to pay attention, really pay attention, to what’s happening, moment to moment, and to what’s important to us. Are we carrying through on our intention? What’s helping us to do that? What might get us off track? Is alcohol making it easier for us to get distracted from our plan? In particular, pay attention to your attitude. How are we paying attention? Are we sticking with accepting reality without judging it? Are we showing that we care? If after paying attention we see our intention has slipped, we just need to recommit without beating ourselves up, and continue paying attention to what helps us to stray from it.
Don’t forget yourself. It’s a stressful time. In all the hustle and bustle and focus on making others happy, we can lose touch with ourselves. Don’t forget to take some time to focus on yourself, and recharge your own batteries. After all, it’s your holiday too. Set this as your intention, pay attention to whether you’re following through, and treat yourself with the same nonjudgmental compassion as you do others. You’re doing the best you can!
Shapiro, Carlson, Astin, & Freedman, (2006).