Enjoying the Holiday Season: Managing and Reducing Stress

Tuesday, December 11, 2012 9:16 AM

Holiday-stressThe holiday season is often an exciting and much anticipated time of year. This season—for all its fun and festivities—often comes with long lines, burdensome traffic, inclement weather and various pressures leaving you to feel stressed out and overwhelmed.

For many of us the holidays are nerve-wracking.  Some attribute the stress to having to spend time with family, travel and excessive spending.  But, in reality, the holidays are difficult because our self-talk, that never-ending commentary going on in our heads that manages to rob us of joy and happiness.  Below are three habits you can practice before, during and after family gatherings that will help with the process.  Remember, it's not that people and situations make us feel badly, it's our self-talk about people and situations that cause our negative emotions.

Robert Farra, PhD, Psychologist at NorthShore, provides the following strategies to help make the holidays truly merry:

  1. Practice non-judging.  Evaluation often makes our experiences less than enjoyable. Judging is labeling or evaluating something as good or bad, as valuable or not, as worthwhile or worthless. Judging sees the world as black or white, good or bad.  Harshly judging self and others is for many of us an extremely bad habit. Henry James wrote, “Three things in life are important: The first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and third is to be kind.”  We don’t know the circumstances behind the person or thing we are judging including ourselves. Give your family, your friends and yourself a break.  Practice non-judging.

  2. Practice patience.  Becoming impatient with self and others is a destructive habit.  If you need to learn how to practice patience in preparation for the holidays, I recommend you go to any large grocery store between the hours of 5 to 7 p.m.  Buy a few items and consciously choose to wait in the longest line.  Be present in the moment and notice how your mind starts creating misery for you as you wait.  Practice patience.  I know, you could move much faster than the clerk who, according to you, is moving in slow motion.  But that’s not the point.  Becoming irritated about something over which you have no control is fruitless.  As you reach the conveyer belt, excuse yourself and choose the next longest line.  Repeat until you are able to relax and enjoy the moment.

  3. Practice gratitude. Focus on the wonderful people in your life.  Consciously think about how grateful you are for them.  No they are not perfect!  But, neither are you!   Consider there are people and things for which you can be grateful in adversity as well as those times everything seems to be going smoothly.

Do you get stressed out during the holidays? What do you do to reduce it?

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