Friday, December 4, 2009

How to De-Stress over the Holidays

by Julie Rahm
It is the holiday season again, that happy celebratory time. Or is it? Unfortunately for some people, the meaning of the holidays becomes lost in its demands. Shopping for gifts, spending money, visiting family,
decorating the house, writing letters, sending cards, baking cookies, going to parties can all add up to stress in our already overbooked lives. If your stress comes from striving for perfection, dreading family drama, worrying about spending money, or feeling lonely here are some tips to help you feel better.

Lighten up.
Does everything have to be perfect from your home and its decorations to your party outfits, gifts, and holiday meals? Is perfection really attainable? Is it worth the cost to yourself and those around you? People strive for perfection because they worry about being judged and the holidays have become a measure of their performance as a person. If it is not a matter of life or death, allow me to suggest this. Do not take yourself so seriously. It is okay to lighten up. Remember your true value as a person comes not from how you put on the holidays, but from who you are. Your friends and family do not come to your home because everything is perfect there. They come to enjoy your company. And, despite your preparations and best efforts, something often goes wrong. When it does, remember that it is not what happens to you, but how you handle it that matters most.

Make memories, not debt.
Maybe you're worried about spending too much money this year. If you have kids, this can be tough. Kids want the latest things and it can be hard to say no. In this case it is important to maintain a long-term perspective rather than a short-term one. Keep this in mind - holidays are for making memories not debt. Great memories don't ever get replaced by the latest X-Box game. Great memories stay with you for your entire life. And, great memories can be made without spending a dime. Play Monopoly with the family. Throw the football with your son or daughter. Even if you are 50 years old and your son or daughter is 25 years old it will still be fun. If the meal is less bountiful than usual, make up for it by making the dinner together. It is all about your mindset, not your assets. You can feel better by not playing out a negative outcome in advance. Remember, 95-percent of what we worry about never happens.

Be the thermostat, not the thermometer.
Family visits can bring a lot of joy or a feeling of dread. If you are not looking forward to being with your family members, perhaps this paragraph will keep things in perspective for you. A very wise man once
told me that you cannot teach a pig to sing. It is a waste of time and it annoys the pig. You are not going to change your family members or their beliefs in this visit. The one thing you can control is your response to your family. Is what your mother, mother-in-law, or other family member thinks about you really that important? Can you go on living without their acceptance? Yes! Can you live with the fact that their politics are messed up? Yes! Do not relinquish your power to your family members by letting them affect your mood. Rather than trying to fix their political or religion views, accept your family for who they are and change the subject when it is appropriate. Your efforts will be better spent choosing to be happy rather than proving yourself right.

Our lives are not about us.
Alone and lonely is no way to spend the holidays. If you are alone and do not want to be, organize a potluck dinner for others you know who will not be with their families. Strike up conversations by asking your friends and neighbors what they are doing for the holidays. It is likely that those people will ask the same question in return. It may be a great opportunity for an invitation when your friends or neighbors find out you do not have plans. You can also do something to help those less fortunate, like work at a shelter. Our lives are not about us. Helping others is a great way to feel better and gain perspective on your own life.

Whatever the reason you have for feeling stressed, journaling can be a great way to get all of your feelings outside yourself and feel relief. Then, journaling can be a great way to create the holiday feelings you really want. Vent first, then create the vision for the holiday season you want. Focus on that vision. What you focus on grows. Grow a stress-free fabulous holiday season!

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