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Challenge: Reducing Holiday Stress

A Psychologist's Guide to Reducing Holiday Stress

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right? Well, it should be, but unfortunately for so many of us it instead is the busiest time of year, the most stressful time of the year, the most exhausting time of the year, and even the loneliest time of the year. So what can we do to put the “wonderful” back in this holiday month? Please notice that I didn’t say, “What can we do to take out the busyness, or stress, or exhaustion, or even the loneliness out?” but instead, “what can we do to put the wonderful back in?” The word “put” is important here, it is an action word, and bringing the joy back in the season is going to require action on our part.

The first thing we need to do is become realistic with our expectations. For example when we plan in our mind an event, we tend to imagine one that will play our perfectly. Everyone is doing and saying the perfect things and we are looking perfect as we present the perfect food in the perfectly decorated house. Pretty soon what is going on in our imagination becomes what we expect to happen in reality, and we begin expecting the impossible, therefore making it impossible for us to feel pleased with the event. We are left stressed and disappointed and probably the biggest bummer of all, we missed out on what could have been a really enjoyable time. Instead, be realistic in your expectations; practice how you will react when things don’t go as planned, because they won’t. It will also help to focus on what your purpose is, i.e. spending time with loved ones.

Next, if you are feeling overwhelmed this season, cut out what you can. Maybe you don’t hand make all of your neighbor gifts this year. Or attend every single holiday party. Find the things you are OK with cutting out.

On the flip side, make sure you are finding time for yourself and enjoying the things that make this time of year magical for you. If you have a favorite Christmas movie, watch it. A favorite treat, make it. A favorite friend, spend time with them, etc.

And finally, and most importantly, give to others. Pushing our worries and cares to the side and focusing on the needs of others and what we can do to brighten their lives, can do wonderful things for our spirits. It doesn’t need to be anything grandiose, and it doesn’t need to cost any money. Smile at someone, let something that bothers you go, forgive, help someone you see in need, give someone the benefit of a doubt, share, write a thank you note. There are so many ways to serve and not many other better ways to bring “wonderful” back in this time of year.

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