"Coping with the Holidays" Survival Guide

For many of us, “Merry Christmas! Joy to the World! It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” brings excitement but for others, these words can trigger stress and anxiety. They can be a reminder of all the “to-do” list items that have yet to be crossed off, a reminder missing a loved one, even a reminder of bitterness between families. We are all finding balance between our work or studies, hanging out with friends, scheduling time with family, and maybe even attending a party or two. The Christmas tree stands are up and offering the usual perfect, green triangular symbols of the season. This season is filled with a whirlwind of emotions. 

Here are 8 tips for Coping with the Holidays: 

  1. Get out of the danger zone of comparison. Who is to say what the “ideal” Christmas truly is? Too many people have an idealized version of what the holidays should be like, instead of what they really are. Nobody, and I mean nobody, has an ideal, picture-perfect holiday. By setting expectations up-front — and keeping them realistic, there is less room for disappointment. By the way, who is the one disappointed? What works best for you and your family, might not work best for your neighbor, cousin, or friend. It’s okay to have the matching sweater Christmas card sent to everyone you know, but it is also okay to have forgotten to snap a quick iPhone picture before heading out the door. Your realistic is different than my realistic. Truthfully, it’s not just OK, it’s beautiful.
  2. It’s not about the stuff, it’s about the memories being made. Take a time-out from materialism and do something spiritual, family-oriented, or non-materialistic this season. All too often we get caught up in the shopping, the endless sales, the “need” to make sure we buy something for everyone, that we lose sight of things that really matter — our friendships, our family, our spirituality, our fellow person who may be less fortunate than us. Even in tough economic times, others need our help even when we feel we have little to offer. Volunteer at a food bank, do something additional for your church, adopt a family in need this season. If you cut just 10% of your spending on gifts and donated that money to charity, you’d be surprised at how much a difference such giving would help. Think back to all Christmases in the past and try to remember the most memorable part. Was it a memory, or was it an object?
  3. Always have a plan of action. Schedule sooner and often. Feeling overwhelmed by too much to do and too little time to get it all done? Schedule it right now on your favorite calendar or planner and stick to it. Too many people get into trouble accepting last-minute invitations, or by trying to accommodate a last-minute visit with someone they hadn’t planned on seeing. If your schedule allows for it, fine, but if not, you’ll know in an instant. Time management is key to keeping your mind healthy. The next three steps can help you with planning ahead.
  4. It’s okay to say NO. Here it is! The two-lettered, short word in which most people cringe like the Grinch when we reply with a simple “no.” We’re all human, and we humans get ourselves into more trouble than you know because we simply don’t know when to say, “Thank you, but no.” The sooner we learn that it’s okay to say no, the sooner we’ll feel less stress and anxiety to get it all done. You can’t do everything, every year. Choose carefully, schedule well, and then say no to everything else and you’ll rest better at night. At the end of the day, we are all in the driver’s seat of our lives. Sometimes, we are simply the only ones that know what’s best for us.
  5. Help – it’s not a scary word. It’s okay to ask for help, often and directly. Part of the reason we sometimes get overwhelmed around the holidays is that we simply attempt to do too much on our own. Ask for help from your significant other, children, friends or family when you need it, and be direct and honest with your requests. Don’t expect others to read your mind. If you need help with a task, project, errand, etc. - ask for help. It’s okay to be vulnerable and honest with yourself and simply ask the simple question, “May I have help with ____?”
  6. Stay healthy and feed your body and soul. Staying healthy around the holidays can be challenging in every aspect. I am sure telling you that your body, mind, and spirit are all intertwined together. If one element is unhealthy, there is a great possibility that others are lagging as well. Coping with the holidays might mean to carving out time for a walk, only having one or two cookies, and/or feeding your soul with your core values and purpose. Each morning, wake up drink a big glass or water, spend 3 minutes in a prayer or meditation, and then tell the people in your house you love them.
  7. Gratitude equals Joy.  grat·i·tude /??rad??t(y)o?od/ Noun - "the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness." In order to have joy, we must practice gratitude. Write a Joy list of 10 things you are grateful for and hang them where you can see them every single day. In moments of a busy season, think back on the things you are truly grateful for - not what you need to do next - but what truly makes your heart smile. Breathe in gratitude, exhale joy.
  8. Grace – we are different. Wow, humans are amazing! We come in many different personality types. Some can categorize 1-9, or maybe you are a “campaigner” or “individualist." You know what is truly amazing? Each one of our DNA makeups are different, even if we are both a “3." This means that what I can handle is different for my friend, co-worker, aunt, or even immediate family member. Not everyone thrives on social interaction, some have major anxiety leaving there home, or some might not have the finances to buy the $50 White Elephant gift. Turn to Grace. Show grace to someone who “can’t make it” to the dinner, or “forgot to grab a bag of ice." We truly don’t know what each others year, day, or hour before has held. Give grace to others and give grace to yourself. Know your boundaries and awareness of what all you can do.

The holiday season may be busy, but it doesn’t have to drive us towards anxiety. We do have the ability to bring down the stress and bring up the joy. After all, the best gift we can give ourselves and those around us is our own peace of mind. Do it again with me - breathe in gratitude, exhale joy. 


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