It all starts Thursday. The holiday season officially begins again.
Although retailers have been inundating us with commercials since before Halloween. (Do they start earlier and earlier every year, or is it just me?!)
Then there’s the real issue many of you face: spending time with family. For many of you, this can bring such joy and happiness, but for others, it can create overwhelming stress. Since you are the architect of all of your life experiences, decide how you want to feel this holiday. Once you’ve made the decision of how you’re going to handle the holidays, with either all the delight or burden it can bring, go about systematically making decisions that are in line with that result. There are big and small changes you can make this year to relieve stress and actually have Happy Holidays!
Six Simple Action Items to Try:
1. Preparation Time
Create a gift list and budget and stick to it. Decide beforehand what gatherings you will attend and what you will bring (a dish for a potluck, a Secret Santa gift, a nice host/hostess gift). If you’re heading to a potluck, choose easy, uncomplicated dishes that store well. As you’re out and about running errands, keep your eyes open for items like candles, picture frames, bottles of wine to use as gifts. Keep in mind that pre-party planning will reduce your stress, leaving you time to put on your best party dress, get a blow out, and arrive relaxed, in style, and ready to have a good time. No Christmas Eve shopping—EVER!
2. Adjust Your Attitude
Go into the season with the mindset of gratitude. Decide that no one has the power to take away your joy and mean it. Go with the flow and really try to be present to all of your blessings. See if you can meditate ten minutes a day: it’s as easy as finding a quiet place to sit still, closing your eyes, and focusing on taking some deep breaths. Stuck in traffic or can’t find a parking spot at the mall? Master the on-the-spot breathing technique by simply inhaling to the count of four and exhaling more slowly to the count of eight, visualizing all tension leaving your body with your breath. Carry a small bottle of Lavender essential oil or my new favorite Stress Fix by Aveda to whiff and rub on your temples for instant de-stressing.
3. Keep Your Side of the Street Clean
You are only responsible for how you behave and react in any situation. If every year your mother-in-law criticizes your culinary skills, expect her to be different, but if she’s not, smile and do not respond. Don’t waste precious energy on any stressful situation or person. See yourself as Un-Offend-Able. Someone being rude or provocative is about them. You can either choose to respond from an ego place of offense, or you can be generous and have empathy for them. Don’t micromanage anything or anyone. Find family members whose company you enjoy and focus your time with them. Continue affirming how calm, peaceful, and grateful you feel. Of course, the key here is to FEEL and hold those good feelings in your chest.
4. “NO” Is Not a 4-Letter Word
You have the right to say no to anything that will take the joy out of the season for you or your family. If certain family gatherings create debilitating stress, then give yourself permission to respectfully decline and create new traditions that bring you joy. If a situation is too toxic, it is your job to protect yourself from it. If you have children, let each one chose an event or party to attend that really matters to them, politely declining the rest. If exchanging gifts with grown siblings is too costly, then speak your truth, and perhaps pull names out of a hat so you are only buying for one person. If hosting is too much work and money, transition to a potluck meal with everyone contributing their own special flavor. Being overburdened financially or emotionally is not fun and definitely sucks the life out of the party. Saying no and drawing healthy boundaries will increase your enjoyment of the season.
5. Know When to Say When
Drunks are stressful and boring. This time of year produces many opportunities to overindulge in alcohol. The reasons not to drink excessively are obvious. Limit your consumption so you will be able to enjoy and remember the party, get home safely, and wake up feeling refreshed the next morning.
6. Pay It Forward
Remember what the holidays are really about and donate your time to help others who are less fortunate. Hurricane Sandy has left many in the New York Tri State area in dire need of helping hands. Volunteering is a wonderful way to teach children the importance of service to others and to keep your head at the heart of what really matters. Also, consider forgiving a grudge you have been holding, helping an elderly neighbor, or going out of your way to communicate your gratitude to the important people in your life. No material gift is as satisfying as truly making a difference.
I hope that some of these ideas help you create the holiday experience you seek, filled with love, light, joy, and laughter.
What are your winning tips on de-stressing this season? Do you need advice about how to handle a particularly challenging holiday scenario? Remember, others are probably experiencing something similar, so be generous and share your wisdom or your struggle right here.
Love Love Love
Terri Cole, founder and CEO of Live Fearless and Free, is a licensed psychotherapist, transformation coach, and an expert at turning fear into freedom. A cornerstone of Terri’s practice, meditation, was the impetus for her recently released guided mediation CD Meditation Transformation. Terri can be found on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.
*Photo by Martin Cathrae.