Three Ways to Help Manage Holiday Stress

broken-christmas-ornament-on-the-floorThe holidays can be a time of family togetherness, wholesome bonding with friends and loved ones, as we take time to reconnect with one another. Of course, for many of us it can also seem like a commercially driven exercise aimed at cramming us with family members we can barely stand as well as with expectations and rules that we may not accept if not for the implicit traditions of the holiday season. Stressors can build up like gifts under a tree, stacking on top of one another at irregular angles and slowly compressing until a breaking point is reached and the whole pile tumbles to the ground.

It is with this in mind that I suggest a different way of experiencing the holidays.

Find Ways to Take a Timeout

Like in most sports, a timeout is an incredibly valuable thing. It is a time to rest, reevaluate ongoing events, and reconsider future steps. They are so valuable, in fact, that some sports entities are willing to take penalties to ensure that they maintain timeouts for later on, when they may be more crucial to success. I believe the same is true during the game that is life, in the sport of family togetherness. A critical aspect of high-stress times, or “crunch times,” is often the amount of energy needed to undergo them. Energy is a limited value, and most of us don’t perform well when we are under-energized. When fatigue sets in, we lose our sense of involvement and rely on emotion-driven interactions, usually negatively fueled by the stress that sapped of us of our energy in the first place. So, our best option is to utilize our timeouts to maximize our energy for crunch time.

This can include any revitalizing activity during the holiday season. While managing financial stressors, family arguments, children’s behavior, or marital dissatisfaction, timeouts can bring us to our best state of mind. Go for a walk. Read a book. Set aside time for meditation or yoga. Get some exercise or play a sport; these things can release endorphins, making you happier and more prepared for addressing potential stressors. Lastly and most importantly: sleep! It is the body’s natural way of resetting processes to their original state. View it as a reboot for your body, mind, and spirit.

Remember What It’s All About

Ever pay attention to the words/lyrics/meanings behind most of the media regarding religious holidays? Whether you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim or any other religion celebrating a holiday toward the beginning of wintertime, all major religions have incorporated a strong emphasis on being kind and nice to one another, and the role of family. While this may be overly simplistic, the point is valid—it is during the winter solstice that most episodes of depression emerge and we feel isolated from one another and our community. That’s in part why most cultures have festivals during this time—to bring us together.

If it’s stressful being around people you know, what about having a conversation with someone you don’t typically have a connection with? Holding a door open for a stranger? Even reading an article that has the power to inspire you? I recommend this one for fathers in particular, as a way of embracing virtues inherent in sport and utilizing them in parenting.

Reward Yourself and Others

On Black Friday this year, I saw that someone was stabbed in a department store over an iPad deal. That is not an indictment of the department store or Apple. It is a huge indictment, however, of the individual who thought it was appropriate to bring a weapon to go shopping. It also underscores the fact that some people do unmentionable things in the guise of giving gifts.

Rather than become burdened by the commercialization involved with the holidays, give gifts that matter—including to yourself. Express gratitude whenever possible. Consider all of the things that you’ve done today that benefited yourself as well as others. Think of more things that you can do tomorrow. My bet is that if the world operated on this basis at times other than just late November and December, it would be a better and happier place.

© Copyright 2013 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Jeffrey Kaplan, MA, LMFT, Systems Theory/Therapy Topic Expert Contributor

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • sb

    December 12th, 2013 at 3:37 AM

    As lomg as I get my run in every day then I am good. If I don’t find the time to squeeze that in then you can forget it, I am going to be a ball of stress all day!
    But I am always like that, holidays or not. And I guess this is my way of taking care of my own needs because usually I won’t let anything get in the way of my run for the day.
    For a long time I felt kind of selfish for letting it have this kind of priority in my life until I realized for good just how much better I act and I feel when I get that time to unwind and release a little stress.
    believe me, that time is good for everyone in my house!

  • Georgia

    December 13th, 2013 at 3:42 AM

    Just make sure you don’t reward yourself too much because this is a time of year where it is so easy to go into serious debt buying yourself things to make you feel better. I am all for taking time for you but make sure it isn’t with something like overspending that will cause you a really big headache when the bills come due in January.

  • jasmine

    December 17th, 2013 at 3:49 AM

    A great reminder that we should always try to remember what the season is really all about. I think that there are far too many of us who get caught up in the giving and getting but completely forget that there is something to this very special season that does not need to be forgotten. Unfortunately this is all pushed to the bottom of the list of priorities for a lot of families and I think that this is where so much of the stressful times stem from. If we would juat take more than a second to remember the real reason for why we are celebrating then it might be a little easier to let go of some of the pettiness that plagues us and feel a little more thankful for how truly blessed we are.

  • g.e.

    December 18th, 2013 at 2:47 PM

    These articles about holidays are all sayin the same things. Holidays are stressful. get over it

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