Advertisements are filling the mail, decorations are mounting in the stores and the time for planning the events of the season is here. But thoughts of all these activities can bring more stress than pleasure if we lose perspective and allow anxiety to take over.
If the holidays are becoming more stressful than joyful, you may want to re-evaluate how you approach the season. Planning ahead will increase your sense of control if you’re feeling out of control. Keeping your expectations manageable will allow you the time to slow down and enjoy the moments. This article will encourage you to put the “happy” back in your holidays by asking yourself four fundamental questions.
Decide the meaning behind the moments of this holiday season. What is the overall purpose and reason to acknowledge this time of year? Perhaps it is about family togetherness, or your faith, or freedom, or all of the above. Refocusing your attitude and outlook is the first step in minimizing the stress of the season. The media can make this time of year seem filled with glee and bliss and not acknowledge the realities of the required organization and planning to make it a time of joy, not jitters. Take the time and effort to reaffirm what this season really means to you. Remembering your values can help redesign the meaning of the season for you and your family.
Think about the things that have brought true enjoyment to your holiday season throughout the years. What traditions do you want to continue or incorporate into your holiday? Recall memories of the people, the projects, or the plans that helped enhance your celebration. Some traditions still bring great gladness for your family and can be looked forward to again this year. Unfortunately, we cannot always recapture the happiness we reminiscence about, due to death or divorce, or other major life changes. But we can be intentional in planning what we most look forward to.
What has brought you the most stress while preparing for the holiday season in years past? What are the things that interfere with your joy? Eliminate these activities that increase your stress. Maybe the task of writing out Christmas cards to everyone you know is no longer something you look forward to. That’s okay. Don’t do it! The homes and the happiness of others will not be shattered if you discontinue sending cards. If you are tired of always going to Aunt Betty’s for Thanksgiving, suggest an alternative plan.
So often we spend the holiday season going to gatherings we simply don’t want to attend but can’t find a way to get out of. Practice and prepare to say “No” to the many requests and invitations that you will not be able to accept. Be realistic about what you can and cannot do. By simplifying your schedule, the stress and anxiety will lessen.
Perhaps overspending or overeating is how you have previously indulged, only to be overwhelmed with regrets by early January. Prepare a budget for spending on gifts and remember the financial cost does not equal the level of care in giving.
Have a family meeting to brainstorm ideas and options for new traditions you can begin this year! Come up with new or different ideas for activities to include in your celebrations that would bring authentic joy to yourself or others. Consider how you can have more of what you value, need, and desire this year, and be sure to schedule needed downtime for yourself in the middle of the hustle and bustle. Host a day of simple enjoyment and relaxation with friends or family–no major planning or purchasing required.
What is a cause you believe in, or a charity you respect, that you could honor in a new way? Give in a way that comes naturally for you, instead of doing what you “should” do. Volunteering our time, our strengths, and our gifts are always uplifting not only for others but also for us.
The holidays can be the best of times and the worst of times. But remember you are in control of your time, your money, and the moments you choose to make as memories can increase your confidence and improve your outlook–to approach it with enthusiasm, not angst. And while your ideal holiday may only be an illusion or fantasy, you can still make choices that reduce your stress and increase your happiness. When you eliminate the things that drag you down, you then have more time and energy to create new meaning, for this time of year or anytime!
If the new year has you experiencing increased mental health challenges, Centerstone is here to help. You can call us at 1-877-HOPE123 (877-467-3123) to get connected with care.
If you are in crisis, please call our crisis line, call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room.
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