Home for the Holidays: 5 tips to fight stress


Which movie genre do your family gatherings most resemble? A drama? A dark comedy? Or how about a psychological horror film? I think it’s fair to say that we all know what to anticipate when the holidays roll around. So set your expectations accordingly and try to go with the flow.

Tip #1: BE FLEXIBLE. Flexibility is important because we can only control so much. Let’s face it... It’s difficult to overcome our own bad habits, whether it’s a tendency to show up late, to speak too loudly at the dinner table, or to spend more time scrolling through Facebook than conversing with Aunt Edna. Although it’s easy to criticize other people for these kinds of flaws, just remember that no one is perfect. Expect that your meal is going to run an hour behind schedule. Expect that not everyone is going to be in a lovely and spirited mood. And expect that the younger generation will be glued to their cell phones all day. These are simply the types of things that you can’t control, so don’t expend your energy on them.

Tip #2: IDENTIFY THE PERSON WHO MAKES YOU FEEL GOOD. There is usually a certain person who makes you feel warm and fuzzy. Just being around him or her is enough to chip away at your bad mood. So make sure to spend time with this person and pause to consider the reasons why (s)he makes you feel this way. Does this person seem to take a genuine interest in your life? If so, how does (s)he demonstrate this? By making extended eye contact? Touching your shoulder? Asking about your significant other? If you can’t readily identify the reasons, make it a point to study this person’s way of interacting with people. Let this person model these positive and engaging qualities for you. It’s kind of like that book, How to Win Friends and Influence People… I’ll admit that I haven’t read it. However, I’d imagine that it outlines these types of characteristics so that you can practice them in your own life.

Tip #3: IDENTIFY THE BLACK SHEEP. C’mon, you all know exactly who I’m talking about. Everyone has at least one of these people in their family. After identifying the heartwarming person described in Tip #2, seek out Creepy Uncle Joe with the wonky eye and practice your new skills. I guarantee that you’ll make his holiday that much better and, in turn, you’ll feel better as well. Is Creepy Uncle Joe just TOO creepy? Fair enough. Then identify the people who could use a helping hand. Whether it be your 90-year-old grandmother, your 4-year-old nephew, or the overstressed mother of your 4-year-old nephew… Make them a plate, sit on the porch with them for a breath of fresh air, or otherwise try to make their life just a tiny bit easier, if only for a few minutes.

Tip #4: RESPECT YOUR FINANCIAL SITUATION. I don’t know about you, but I always want to buy that perfect gift for my Secret Santa or purchase that expensive bottle of wine to bring as a token of gratitude for the dinner host. However, if you’re low on funds this year, there’s really no need to over-extend yourself in this manner. While nice gestures are usually appreciated in the moment, the gifts themselves typically aren’t even remembered. If anything, the other person feels pressured about reciprocating the next time around. Allow yourself to go with something smaller and less expensive. It’s truly the thought that counts and the quality of time spent with one another.

Tip #5: BE KIND TO YOURSELF. Whether you’re struggling to meet a deadline at work or worrying about the year to come, please treat yourself to some moments of rest and relaxation. Chronic stress weakens your immune system and diminishes your ability to remain productive. Just think; how can you meet that deadline or be of service to anyone else if you yourself fall to pieces? I know that it’s tough sometimes, but make a concerted effort to be present. For example, I am an extremely punctual person and I have a tendency to walk faster and tense up when I think that I’m falling behind schedule. I notice that I even hold my breath at times. At some point, however, I realize that it might take me just 5 minutes longer to complete a task if I were to slow down, breathe, and unclench my jaw. Is anyone else going to notice those 5 minutes? It’s unlikely. So whatever it is, know that it’s not worth jeopardizing your health. Don’t forget to be your own best friend.

#stressreduction #positivepsychology

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