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How To Keep Your Stress In Check This Holiday Season

12/10/2015 06:08 EST | Updated 12/10/2016 05:12 EST
Manuel Faba Ortega via Getty Images
Stressed woman shopping for gifts of christmas with red santa hat looking angry and distressed

This time of year can create a mixed bag of emotions for many of us as we look to celebrate the holiday season. We stress over finding the perfect gifts, decorating our homes and finding a moment in our hectic busy lives to embrace the spirit behind the season or the spirit of giving.

Our pockets may feel heavy with lumps of coal weighing us down. We may feel "Bah, humbug" when we think about our obligations to attend upcoming family dinners or co-worker luncheons with friends, family and strangers. For some of us we would rather come down with a temporary case of stomach flu and avoid all social interactions. Ouch!

Part of the challenge is that the holiday season is jam-packed with expectations. And many of us will struggle with the high expectations we set for ourselves for a perfect holiday season. We don't want to disappoint anyone.

Moms in particular feel the stress this time of year. Some of us may be struggling financially or working through a major life event that is making it difficult to find joy during the holiday season instead of embracing our inner Scrooge. And the increasingly commercial nature of the season doesn't help, either. We are bombarded with one sale after the other as retailers seek to get us to part with our hard earned money.

For many, the holiday season takes us back to times in our lives we wish to forget. The glimpse backward may remind us of unhappy times, family strife, or difficult and challenging events. Yet for some of us, the glimpse backwards reminds us of happier times when our lives were simpler and less complicated. We may have fond memories of our childhood because we lived a fairly care-free existence. Some of us may just float through the season with realistic expectations, an open heart and genuine feelings of joy.

Yet as we seek to celebrate the holidays, our enthusiasm and desire to be merry is tempered with real global challenges such as climate change, poverty, displacement and terrorism. We try to make sense of what is going on around us. It makes us feel uncertain, confused and worried. At a time of year where we should be feeling lighthearted, jovial and happy, we are feeling guilty, unhappy and stressed.

Keeping our cool this holiday season will require many of us to reflect upon the giving season in a way we have never done before. Whatever your situation is this holiday season, in the spirit of giving here are five simple tips to help you find more joy and happiness this time of year:

1. Look for the good in others.

We are so quick to judge other people's behaviour, spending patterns, etc. But if we would just take the time to look for the good, because it is there and probably just hiding, we would be less judgmental, more forgiving and understanding of differences.

2. Be kind.

Think and speak kind words. It's easy to think and say unkind things, particularly to people we are not fond of. Shower the unkind with kindness and watch them melt. And, remember the old adage: "If you have nothing good to say... well..."

3. Reframe what's around you.

It's easy to embrace a negative mindset and get caught up in negative rhetoric. Perhaps your bonus is only half of what you expected, or you dread a family get-together at your in-laws. Remember many people don't even receive bonuses, and some have no family at all. Besides are things really that bad? I bet not.

4. Manage your expectations.

The simplest way to increase your joy this time of year is to manage your own expectations and of those around you. The holiday season is a time for giving thanks to what really matters in our lives, and realizing that stuff can be so unimportant, though it gets so much attention.

5. Mind your "Ps" and "Qs."

Most of us don't spend enough time really looking at ourselves objectively. We are quick to react to things we don't like. We must pause and self-reflect. Try not to worry about what other people think. You can't control how people think or what they say but you can control your own thoughts, feelings and corresponding actions. When you see bad behaviour in others (and you will this holiday season), acknowledge it and take heart that it's probably not about you.

As impossible as it may sound, we can stroll through this holiday season with ease and start the new year a better person. Learn to embrace the season of giving with merriment and lightheartedness. Against the backdrop of some really important things that are happening around us, let's look for the good in people, be kind and reframe how we see things.

From my family to you, happy holidays, merry Christmas and happy New Year!

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