Stress and Holiday Hoopla

The holiday season is upon us and can be demanding for many
reasons, for some it can be downright overwhelming. The gifts, the parties, the
baking, the family—or perhaps the absence of these things—can make the season
stressful, chaotic or just plain lonely.

But even in the midst of all this holiday hoopla, you can take
control. With some practical strategies for managing the stress of
this season, you may even end up enjoying this frenetic time of year. Be aware
of some of the common holiday complaints that show up in your life and use the
tips below to find peace and joy in this year’s holiday season:

1.)  I can’t get it all done! The
entertaining, shopping, travel and myriad other tasks that accompany the
holidays can just feel like too much on top of an already full schedule. If you
are feeling pulled in too many different directions, take a few minutes and
slow down. Make time to plan menus and consider gift ideas ahead of time. Make
lists of the items you will need and then give yourself a few days to add
anything you may have forgotten before heading out to brave the crowds. By
organizing, prioritizing and grouping tasks together, you can minimize the
stress of multiple trips to the grocery store or mall and avoid last minute
scrambling.

2.) I hate crowds! This is my least
favorite part of the holiday season. Starting with the traffic, crowds and
interminably long lines are, unfortunately, part of the holiday season, just as
cranberry sauce and candy canes. Instead of the frustration or anger,
try humor, kindness or mindfulness. If you’re stuck in traffic, use the
time to call an old friend and catch up. If you’re waiting in line, strike up a
conversation with someone else waiting. If the crowds are rattling your nerves,
take the opportunity to notice the sights and sounds around you. Take several deep
breaths and try to relax, accept that this is an inevitable part of the season
but it’s only a temporary.

3.) I can’t tolerate my family! This
is the time of year when families feel compelled to come together in peaceful,
loving harmony—whether they like it or not! If your family is truly abusive,
unpleasant or unhealthy for you, know that you have the choice to decline
spending time with them. If like most families, however, they are just mildly
irritating, boastful, opinionated or hypercritical, use this opportunity to
practice your coping and communication skills. Pick your battles—do you really
want to argue about ancient family drama over turkey and stuffing with the
whole family witnessing? Let it go for a day. Walk away and take a break. If
you need to sort through personal differences, find another time when you can
discuss these things privately. Set the tone by doing your best to not
criticize others and to accept your family for who they are-likely imperfect
and often times annoying-but family nonetheless.

4.) I’m lonely! On the flip side,
this season can often be a time when the absence of family or social
connections becomes highlighted. If you are far from family, try to create ways
to connect with them like email, videos or Skype. If you find yourself feeling
alone, look for local holiday concerts or community events to attend. Consider
spending your time giving to someone else in need. Volunteer at a local soup
kitchen or food pantry or distribute gifts to needy children. Helping someone
else makes you feel good and can broaden your social relationships.

5.) This isn’t how I thought it would be! The
holidays come packed with high expectations. The media and others (Norman
Rockwell) have irreversibly colored our visions of what the holiday season
“should” be, making it difficult to not be disappointed by reality.
Lower your expectations. Try for a “good enough” holiday season. By
keeping expectations realistic and focusing on what’s really important to you,
you may just find that your “good enough” holiday turns out to be
“pretty great” after all.

6.) I have too many parties to attend! The
holiday season is packed with social gatherings, work parties and school concerts
and plays. It can be entirely overstimulating. Remember that it’s okay to say
“no” to some things. Choose wisely. Don’t spend your time at a party
with people whose company you don’t really enjoy when you could be home with
your family or making a dent in your holiday shopping. Friends and family will
understand if you can’t attend every social gathering.

7.) I’m exhausted! The late-night
parties, alcohol and over-indulgence in holiday sweets can leave you
feeling tired, sluggish and guilty. Make a pledge to have a fun but
healthy holiday season. Be sure to get plenty of rest during this stressful
time. Be mindful of your alcohol consumption. Watch the carbs-have one piece of
pie instead of two or three (although it IS delicious), don’t go back for a
second helping of that mashed potatoes and gravy. And, as best you can, try to
maintain an exercise schedule during these busy months. Take the time to take
care of yourself and you’ll have more energy to enjoy all that the holidays
have to offer.

8.) I can’t afford this! Beginning
back in September (or maybe even sooner!) we are bombarded with television and
magazine ads depicting holiday tables overflowing with food and gifts
stockpiled under beautifully decorated trees. It is easy to overspend in an attempt
to reach these holiday expectations. Set a budget and avoid the temptation to
stray. When you are making your gift lists, determine how much you can spend on
each person and stick with it! Consider pooling resources to buy group gifts
for friends. Draw names from a hat and buy gifts for one family member rather
than all of them. Think about handmade gifts like baked goods, ornaments or a
recipe book or photo album. Or give the gift of time by babysitting for a
friend or helping grandma clean her attic~it’s free and often the most
thoughtful present you can give.

9.) It’s just too much! If you find
that you just can’t cope with your overwhelming emotions, be sure to get the
help you need. The holidays can be a very difficult and stressful time. If you
are feeling overwhelmed by your feelings, talk to your doctor or find a
therapist. If you don’t have a therapist and need assistance contact me Rinda Smith
email: rinspirelifecoaching or call
(256) 497-4790.  

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