The holiday season frequently brings additional stress and overwhelm into our lives. There are often increased demands, pressure from family, expectations from guests, and an increase in cooking, cleaning, and entertaining. With COVID-19 in many communities, our lives can be even more stressful this season. The good news is there are ways to cope with the added strain of the holidays, so you can hopefully enjoy this time of year.
1. Be Present
Start by meeting yourself where you’re at. Let this be authentic. If this year has been challenging, acknowledge those feelings and don’t try to push them away. You will not get in the holiday spirit by forcing yourself. Taking the time to identify, feel and express your emotions will make it easier to let go of them. To find more presence in your life, it can be helpful to journal about your feelings, talk to someone you trust, or do other activities you find supportive.
2. Spread cheer
Many people are looking for support and companionship, especially during the holidays. Research tells us that giving our time and energy to others and benefiting good causes increases our happiness and sense of meaning. Volunteering and finding ways to connect to our community are ways we can lift both our spirits and others. Spreading cheer can be relatively simple and selfless. Start by making a call to a friend or family member you haven’t checked in with in a while, drop off a meal or cookies to a loved one, or offer a smile to a stranger you cross paths with.
3. Set Realistic Intentions
We are saddled with unrealistic expectations during the holidays. Unlike the stories portrayed in the media, no one is perfect, and no family is perfect. If we become attached to the idea of perfection or recreating a picture-perfect holiday from our childhood, we will probably set ourselves up for disappointment. Set manageable expectations that you can meet without bending over backward. Individuals, families, and traditions grow and evolve. Be open to growth, create new stories, and holiday traditions, and set realistic goals that leave you feeling fulfilled and accomplished instead of being burnt out and flawed.
4. Embrace Boundaries
Between meeting demands at home and at work, embracing healthy boundary setting can be the most valuable gift you give yourself this season. When you feel overwhelmed, take stock of all the things on your plate. What can be removed, delayed, or delegated to someone else? Take care of the most pressing tasks and ask for support and help to deal with the rest. When it’s possible, say no to requests. It is entirely feasible to say no to something in a firm but pleasant way. When we learn to set healthy boundaries and say no when appropriate, we invest in our future selves’ happiness.
Making time for ourselves will make a positive ripple in our lives and beyond.
5. Practice Responding vs. Reacting
Practice observing the difference between responding and reacting. Whether it’s family, work, or society at large, the holidays can test our patience and deplete our energy.
When our reserves are running low, we can be quick to jump to react, especially if someone strikes a nerve in us. When we react, we leave no time for reflection.
However, when we respond, we reflect on the situation and act to serve us best in the long run. When we practice responding instead of reacting, we show up more positively and authentically for ourselves and others in our life.
By Dennis Morris, CEO
INSTITUTE OF RESPECT. COM