Why do the holidays bring such mixed emotions to many of us? I believe it is all about our expectations. We have certain expectations based on our past dating back to childhood and ones that are "forced" on us through mainstream media and retail markets. Our emotions simply follow suit based on these beliefs and expectations. Many people that I come across speak of either happiness and joy and looking forward to spending special times with family and friends; or they feel increasingly anxious, angry or depressed and might even want to retreat and just wait for it all to pass when the new year begins. A great number of us feel heightened emotions on both ends of the spectrum I mentioned. Research studies show that symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome are more likely to present themselves during the holiday season.
So how do we navigate through this smorgasbord of strong, often mixed emotions? It is a rather daunting task during this busy time of year when routines are often disrupted; people everywhere are hustling and bustling trying to get last minute things done at work, not to mention all the additional shopping that must be completed, all before Christmas Day. Many people are worried that they won't have enough money just to make it through to the end of the year, much less come up with more money to buy gifts that they believe are expected of them. Can you spell S-T-R-E-S-S??? Managing stress during this time of year is just as important, if not more, as during the rest of the year. If we can do that successfully, the season will go more smoothly, and our times with friends and family will be more enjoyable as a result. Even if we are spending most of the holiday season alone, we will be able to manage our emotions better if we stop and pay attention to how we deal with stress.
I have an array of client handouts and one of them is 10 Tips for Reducing Stress. I have included it here. I hope it helps in reminding us to remember to take care of ourselves so that we can be the person we want to be during this holiday season. Merry Christmas everyone!!! I will be back with an article in New Year's resolutions next month.
TIPS FOR REDUCING STRESS
Learn to plan. Disorganization can breed stress. Having too many projects going simultaneously often leads to confusion, forgetfulness, and the sense that uncompleted projects are hanging over your head. When possible, take on projects one at a time and work on them until completed.
Recognize and accept limits. Most of us set unreasonable or perfectionist goals for ourselves. We can never be perfect, so we often have a sense of failure or inadequacy no matter how well we perform. Set achievable goals for yourself.
Learn to play. You need occasionally to escape from the pressures of life and have fun. Find pastimes that are absorbing and enjoyable to you no matter what your level of ability is.
Be a positive person. Avoid criticizing others. Learn to praise the things you like in others. Focus upon the good qualities possessed by those around you.
Learn to tolerate and forgive. Intolerance of others leads to frustration and anger. An attempt to really understand the way other people feel can make you more accepting of them.
Avoid unnecessary competition. There are many competitive situations in life that we can’t avoid. Too much concern with winning in too many areas of life can create excessive tension and anxiety, and make us unnecessarily aggressive.
Get regular physical exercise. Check with your physician before beginning any strenuous exercise program. You will be more likely to stay with an exercise program if you choose one that you enjoy rather than one that feels like drudgery.
Learn a systematic, drug-free method of relaxing. Meditation, yoga, or progressive relaxation can be learned from accredited teachers and psychotherapists.
Talk out your troubles. Find a friend, member of the clergy, counselor, or psychotherapist you can be open with. Expressing your “bottled up” tension to a sympathetic ear can be incredibly helpful.
Change your thinking. How we feel emotionally often depends on our outlook or philosophy of life. Changing one’s beliefs is a difficult and painstaking process. There is little practical wisdom in the modern world to guide us through our lives. No one has all the answers, but some answers are available.