6 Simple Practices to Eliminate Holiday Stress

Ideas for new holiday traditions that include new additions - Crosswinds CounselingWhile the holidays may bring many joys such as family reunions, good food, and thoughtful gifts, they can also lead to an incredible amount of stress.  How can we truly let ourselves feel the holiday spirit?  Research shows that genuine happiness is about how we feel inside. Try these six simple practices that will help you refocus your heart and mind so you can get through the holidays feeling recharged and refreshed.

Set Spiritual Goals

Meet as a family and ask each person for one way to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Then schedule each request on the calendar and make it a family event. For example, one child might want to bake a birthday cake for Jesus, and another might want to act out the Christmas story with the whole family. Also, decide which church events your family will participate in during the season, but be careful not to let these activities overload your schedule. Finally, be sure to pray with your family to remain focused on the gift of God’s Son.

Change your Outlook

You may find family obligations of the holidays overwhelming. Create a list of your holiday traditions. Then, next to each tradition, create two columns to identify the PROS and CONS of each tradition.  In the PRO column, list the reasons why you engage in that tradition.  Then in the CON column, list the reasons why you should do away with that tradition.  For example:  Making your grandmother’s fruitcake.  PRO:  You are carrying on a tradition that has taken place for years; you remember making the fruitcake with your grandmother in years past.  CON:  You don’t like fruitcake and no one in your immediate family will eat fruitcake; the ingredients are expensive.  Why continue to do something that you do not enjoy?  The key is to be conscious of what you’re doing and to challenge some of your assumptions. This holiday season doesn’t keep everything the same way just because that’s how you always do it.  Share with family members about the times when you made the fruitcake with grandma, but do not actually make the fruitcake. If the old holiday traditions are no longer working, and if they’re not making you happy and they’re causing holiday stress, then it’s time to do something different.

Don’t Expect Miracles

If your holiday stress stems from a deeper history of family conflict, then don’t expect that you’ll be able to resolve any big underlying issues now. In the midst of a hectic holiday season, you can’t focus on leading family members to big emotional breakthroughs. You will be better off focusing on your own state of mind and confronting difficult issues during a less stressful time of year.  Also, when we remember what’s most important in life, it can keep us from stressing out. That means that all you think you have to do, and all the money you feel you have to spend, pale in comparison to the people right in front of you. As you prioritize people over productivity, you’ll find it’s easier to let some things go. 

Take a Break, Regain your Focus

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by everything on your “To Do” list, remember to take a few breaths. Take a break and enjoy a cup of tea or a hot bath or try some yoga or exercise. Get out of the “doing” mode for a little while and let yourself just relax. It can be challenging to disengage from all the activity and connect with the moment in a restful way. Remember what it was like when you were a child during the holidays? Let yourself experience that again. If possible, be around children and take delight in their enthusiasm. Singing or dancing are excellent ways to get out of your head and be open to joy.

Practice Gratitude

Each time you find yourself overwhelmed by stress, gently guide your focus back to one (or all) of the things for which you feel grateful. If it helps, write down your thoughts of gratitude on paper and display them prominently as a visual reminder of how you want to feel this holiday season.  Express your appreciation directly to loved ones and friends when you’re with them. You and they will both feel the joy of loving connection. The more you practice this simple habit of gratitude, the more you will start to notice a shift in your thinking from anxiety and stress to the calm of the present moment. 

Practice Generosity

Whenever you feel the impulse to be generous, act on it. As you do, notice the feelings in your body and mind. Without expecting anything in return, notice how good it feels inside when you see someone happy because of your sincere generosity. Giving to others doesn’t have to mean spending money: give someone your time, offer a much-needed smile, or lend a helping hand, a watchful eye, listening ear. Ask God for a way to give to each person who means the world to you and to others who might not mean anything to anyone. Anytime you do something that contributes to the well-being of another, let yourself feel the joy of generosity.

Sources:

www.health.com

www.webmd.com

www.cbn.com

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