It’s that time of year again. As soon as the lights go out on Halloween, those other end of the year holidays seem to rush in at alarmingly faster rates each year. Although the holidays can be a wonderful time that many look forward to, it can also bring a certain amount of stress and “frenzied madness” into our lives – the daunting Christmas lists, the angry parking space squabbles at an overcrowded mall, or the awkward attempts to make pleasantries with those relatives or acquaintances who make the turkey a bit less tasty. While some holiday stress may be inevitable, here are a few tips to help you get through the season with a bit more finesse:
- Stop, take a few slow breaths, and count your blessings. Slow breathing can do wonders for our body’s natural relaxation response. It is recommended that you inhale through your nose for at least five seconds, hold it, and then exhale through your mouth for another five seconds. And as it only takes a short time to reverse a negative mood, taking that time to be grateful can have an instant positive effect.
- Determine the cause of your stress in order to work towards a solution: What is typically the biggest source of your holiday stress? Is it running around trying to buy presents for everyone at the last minute? If so, purchasing gifts ahead of time may allow you the luxury of putting your feet up and sipping on the beverage of your choice while others are engaging in boxing matches at the local Macy’s. Or maybe it is the financial stress that the commercial aspect of Christmas brings into our lives. Bills, rent and mortgages, property taxes, car payments and the like seem to be particularly unsympathetic towards our hefty Christmas lists. Saving earlier in the year can help alleviate some of the financial burden. However, even if you get a late start, finding small ways to save (such as cutting down on the Starbucks trips or eating out less) can be put towards other purchases. Or perhaps the holidays are difficult because they trigger unpleasant memories, or remind us of relationships that are estranged or lost. Allow yourself to feel whatever emotions may arise, and do not be afraid to talk to someone and seek out support. Taking care of yourself is also vital during this time, which brings me to my final tip.
- Don’t neglect your self-care: Stress can wear down our immune system, create negative mood states, and just plain make things worse. When things start to pile up, make sure not to skip out on that lunch date with a friend, taking a walk and getting into nature, journaling, or that relaxing bubble bath. Our physical and emotional health are interconnected, and we cannot achieve one while neglecting the other. Be gracious with yourself, try not to take on too much, and save the image of that picture-perfect holiday for those sappy Christmas movies.
Finally, remember that creating good holiday memories for your family is not about how much money was spent, but rather the quality of the time spent. Memories are not tied to material objects, but rather our experiences, and the emotions that are connected to them. The most important things in life truly cannot be bought, and the love and kindness that we can give to others does not cost a penny. Here’s to surviving, and maybe even thriving, this holiday season!
Chara Ward is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with a private practice in San Marcos, CA. She offers counseling services to children, adolescents, and adults. For more information on her practice or to schedule an appointment, please call (760) 410-8021 or visit her website: www.charatherapy.com
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