Beat the Holiday Stress
The radio starts playing “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” just in time for the car in front of you to slam on his breaks, causing a chain reaction to prevent a rear-end crash. Your coffee spills all over the front seat. Does this sound like the ‘most wonderful time of the year’?
Often, we find ourselves stressed, frustrated, overwhelmed, and possibly even depressed during the holiday season. We have places to go, people to see and people we miss. This time of year brings both laughter and heartache.
According to one study by James Hale, 64% of people say their mental health stress level increases during this time of year. This could be due to a number of factors including financial issues, overworked, too many places to be, feelings of not measuring up to other families, and especially, missing a loved one who no longer sits at the table.
The good news is YOU can enjoy this time of year again.
Are you ready to make this the BEST Christmas season yet? Let’s do it!
Remember to Laugh
“Laughter doeth good like a medicine”. When is the last time you had a good belly laugh? Laughter releases the feel-good hormones in the brain. Laughter also protects your heart. Research has shown that laughter has an anti-inflammatory effect that protects the blood vessels and heart muscles from the disease. Watch a funny movie, draw a funny picture, play a prank on someone (and maybe win $10,000 on America’s Funniest Videos). Keep it light.
Identify your triggers
Not the trigger on your Smith & Wesson. Your emotional triggers. We all have them so, no need to feel ashamed. The holidays are an excellent time to journal. Frustrated? Write it down. Happy? Write about it. Don’t let someone else’s bad day rub off on you. Think about who will be at the dinner table. Is someone who just grates against your very last nerve going to be there? Just being prepared and knowing how to respond will ease the tension inside. Welcome this person with a smile and warm hug. Remember the movie The Santa Clause 3, where Lucy hugs Mr. Frost? Let’s spread love and warmth this year.
When I feel stressed or anxious, a solid workout at the gym is an instant way to release the emotions inside. Simply going out into the yard barefoot, connecting with nature, is an instant de-stressor. You do not have to complete a P90X workout. Simply take a walk, a stroll, visit a Yoga class or better yet, DANCE! Allow the stress to release from your mind and body so you can be PRESENT with your family.
Breath is critical to our survival. Try to hold your breath and see how long you last before passing out. Breath is also taken for granted. Our body automatically breathes in and out without us having to consciously remember to do so. In stressful situations, however, we tend to hold our breath and our breathing becomes shallow. Think of your breath as a superpower. Breathing allows us to pause, breathe in, exhale, and THEN respond to whatever is happening around us. All too often, we respond without breathing. Have you ever spoken before thinking? When our breathing is shallow, good blood flow doesn't get to the brain before we speak.
Try it. Take a slow breath in through your nose (count to 4), hold your breath (count to 4), exhale out through your mouth (count to 5). Practice this breathing technique 3 or 4 times. Notice how your nervous system begins to slow down. Your mind stops racing. You can think straight. Remember to add breadth to your tool kit for your holiday enjoyment.
Plan a day for YOU! I saw the eye roll. You’re thinking, “Yeah, right. She doesn’t know how many parties, church events, present exchanges I have already scheduled. Not to mention all the FOOD I have to cook.” I get it. Just stay with me.
I do not mean you have to take the entire day and escape, leaving your family to call 9-1-1 because they haven’t heard from you in 10 minutes. Sit down at the table and look at your calendar of events for the next 4 weeks. Is there one day you can focus on relaxing? Maybe a half-day. Time is that short? Ok, let’s compromise. One hour, once per week. Write down “ME” on the schedule for one hour per week. Use this time to take a hot bath, read a book, journal about 2019 or set up goals for 2020. Whatever brings you peace and relaxation—schedule it! YOU are important. We cannot pour from an empty cup. Make sure to fill yourself back up with activities that you enjoy.
Now the hard part. How do you get through the holidays when someone is missing? Ouch, my heart hurts just thinking about it. Loss comes in many forms: a broken relationship, divorce or even death. Grief is different for each person. I will NOT tell anyone how to grieve. There is only One who has the power to help with grief. The wounds stay fresh, even decades after the loss. I have personally been through all 3 mentioned above. This is what I did to get through. Maybe something said here today will help you. Know that you are LOVED beyond measure!
It’s Okay to cry and miss them.
Love is a powerful force. When life takes a turn, we do not stop loving them. We do not stop missing them. There is not a day that goes by I do not think about my Mamaw Mae. She LOVED this time of year. Even though she isn’t with us physically, she is with us emotionally. She is with us in memories. Always remember the good times. Reflect on their smile when you feel down.
Talk about your loved one
Oftentimes, after death, people are afraid to speak of them again. Keep their memory alive. Do something to honor their memory. Take the lessons they taught you and carry them on to the next generation. Keep the traditions alive and expand on them. Be thankful for the time we had with them.
The end of the year is a time of reflection, a time of gratitude, the realization of how truly blessed we are. Let the holiday gatherings be the icing on the cake. Family, friends, food—what more could we ask for?