The approaching holiday season invariably fills us with feelings of warmth and joyful anticipation. We can spend more time with family and friends, go on a vacation, take time away from work, relax and get refreshed. That said, unless we welcome the holidays with the right mindset, they can turn into sources of stress and anxiety.
The words “holiday stress” have in fact become part of popular jargon these days and for good reasons. We work all year long and when the holidays are approaching, it is only natural that we will try to make the best of them. However, the problem seems to lie in the fact that often in our eagerness to get the most out of the holidays or the festive season, we sometime end up overdoing things a little and this may often lead to stress, frustrations, disappointments, etc.
Don’t run after a “perfect holiday.” Quit trying to make the perfect holiday. This should be your basic guideline for cutting off the stress factor from your holidays. No matter what we are doing during the holiday season, visiting or preparing special dinners with family members and the friends, we always set certain expectations. And that is only natural. However, as it is with everything in life, things often don’t turn out exactly as we had planned. No matter how diligently you’ve planned your activities some slight disasters may still ensue. Kids may break out in tears when you were least expecting it, or you may get into arguments with your spouse. It is all how you look at it. Don’t see these things as spoiling your vacation. Take them in stride and do your best to make light of them and everyone will be happier for that.
Do not pander to other’s expectations. We often put unnecessary stress on ourselves by putting undue emphasis on other’s opinions and expectations. Giving and receiving gifts, for example, often acts as a common source of anxiety and stress during the holiday season. Have we chosen the proper gifts for such and such a person? Will he/she be happy with the gifts? Don’t fret too much over these things. Gifts do not make the holidays. It is the mutual sense of joy and camaraderie that does. As long as you’ve chosen your gifts with care and thought that must suffice since that is the best you can do after all.
Sometimes, even your kids may feel not happy with their gifts and that may feel bad for you. Nevertheless, don’t let that spoil your mood. Instead, try to reason with them. Kids are kids after all, and we cannot expect them to be all rational all the time, right?
How much money do you have to spend? Closely associated with the problem of gifts is the question of money, especially if money is a bit tight during holiday season. It is common to let the lack of money get in your way of enjoying the holidays to the fullest.
However, it needn’t be so. Come up with some creative ideas. For adults, a White Elephant gift exchange is a good idea. You may also consider some non-material gifts such as framed family pictures or notes or drawings from your kids are good options. Work within your means and those who really care for you will appreciate receiving such thoughtful gifts.
The same goes for decorations and other holiday preparations. Again, do not strive for perfection. The Christmas tree does not have to be the most spectacular in your neighborhood. Instead, try as much as possible to engage family and friends in the process. So, for instance, assign certain responsibilities for decorations to the kids alone. And you can be certain that the kids will be happy and proud of their handiwork and so will you and your guests.
Look back on your year and feel grateful. Finally, take some time to reflect on the past year and dwell on the good things that it has brought you. Of course, there will be a few things that didn’t turn out quite according to expectations. That is only natural (and expected, right?). So, don’t dwell on the negative but reflect on the good things and feel sincerely grateful that they have happened to you. We now know that feeling truly grateful gives us a natural high as these feelings release in our brains compounds such as serotonin and dopamine — responsible for immediately lifting our mood and making us feel happy and serene from inside.
On a final note, the most important thing is to be able to relax and feel joyful. If you can achieve that, the holidays will turn out to be a ‘perfect’ one for you.
A Fox News Radio contributor, Richardson has spent her educational and professional career learning human behavior. She holds a Master of Science in Counseling from the University of North Texas and is working to integrate cognitive behavioral therapy into the treatment programs for many clients. In April 2009, Richardson opened The Brain Performance Center.