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Anxiety and Stress

5 Tips to Less Stress More Joy During the Holidays

Posted on: November 22nd, 2011 by Dr. Angela Bisignano

I love this time of year: Celebrating Christmas and getting ready for the New Year. What a wonderful time of year. Although the holidays can bring great joy, a lot of stressors exist that can put a damper on the season if we let them. Spending a little extra time now thinking about what you want out of this holiday season can make all the difference for you and your family. I encourage you to plan now for having a joyous and blessed holiday season.

Here are 5 tips to help you have a wonderful and joyous holiday season:

1. Be Aware of Your Values: Before the holiday season begins think about what is really important to you during the holiday season. Staying focused on what matters most will help you to schedule your time in accordance with your values and help reduce stress. Here are some ideas to get you going:

  • Keep in mind the purpose of the holiday: Start early in December and begin each day focusing on Christmas and celebrating the birth of Christ. You might want to start your day with a devotional reading, a Bible study, or prayer in order to help align your day and keep your eyes fixed on “Jesus.”
  • Finances and staying within a budget: Decide early on, before you start shopping, what your budget is and then stick to it. This will help you not to spend extra money on unnecessary items. There are many creative ways “to give” during the holiday season and not spend a lot of money.
  • Holiday traditions: Instead of getting overwhelmed this year by all the possibilities, pick a couple family traditions to focus on. For example, if you decorate your house during the holidays. Maybe decorating every room of your home is too much for you this year. Instead, pick one or two rooms to invest your time on. Invite extended family and neighbors and make it a fun activity.
  • Keeping memories alive: Finding a way to honor your loved ones in a special way can be very meaningful. For example, putting together a photo collage is a great way to commemorate your loved one. Writing a letter to that person is another.

2. Be Aware of Family Dynamics: Holidays are a wonderful time to get together with family members. These occasions can be a great time for catching up, enjoying one another, and just being together. For many, however, family dynamics are a mixed blessing. Sometimes family members can push buttons, eliciting negative emotions and in some instances, be hurtful or mean spirited. If just reading this you are experiencing some tension or stress, then you will probably want to pay attention to what you can do to help counter these stressful feelings. Here are some suggestions:

  • Make a decision to exercise healthy boundaries. Be aware of how a family member may intentionally or unintentionally cause you stress. Be aware of the buttons they may push and don’t engage in conversations that may negatively heighten emotions or increase stress levels.
  • Realize you are not responsible for what people say or do. You may not be able to control the action of others, however, you can control how you respond.
  • In the event that someone does do something that is offensive, realize you don’t have to respond in the moment. Take a few minutes away and compose your thoughts and feelings before responding. You may even want to leave the room for a few minutes to help reduce your stress. Prayer is often very helpful when emotions are heightened.
  • Realize, if someone offends you or does something hurtful, you don’t need to respond at the family gathering. You may want to choose another time and place to address the offense.
  • Make a conscientious decision not to let these dynamics stop you from experiencing joy this holiday season.

3. Be Aware of Potential Obstacles: Think about past holidays and ask yourself, “What was stressful about that holiday for me?” Was it a person, a particular gathering, an activity, or an event that caused you stress?  Once you become aware of what caused you stress, you can plan how you will handle those instances and make healthy choices. Here are some things that can be stressful:

  • Over scheduling: Perhaps you have a tendency to pack too much into the holiday season. Try managing your time better and saying “no” to those things that aren’t so important.
  • Last minute shopping: Perhaps you wait to do your shopping until the last week before Christmas. Start planning earlier, perhaps right after Thanksgiving and do a little each week.
  • Not planning well: If planning is challenging to you, this may be a good time to get out your calendar. Write down the things that are important and get them on your schedule.

4. Be Aware of Healthy Habits:  The holiday season can be full of activity and festivities: parties, school events, shopping, and family gatherings. Healthy habits are often challenging to maintain. The holidays, for many, can be a time of splurging, lack of sleep, too little exercise, too much eating, and not enough time reading our Bible. All of these things can make you feel out of balance; subsequently, adding to your stress levels. Keep in mind your priorities for a healthy lifestyle.

  • Get enough rest.
  • Eat well. It’s okay to enjoy the wonderful food during this holiday. Give yourself permission. Just don’t go back for seconds and thirds.
  • Keep up your exercise regime. Make sure to schedule in some exercise, whether it’s a walk around the block, a trip to the gym, or something else.
  • Maintain your daily Bible reading and prayer devotions.

5. Be Aware You Can Choose Joy: Spending a little extra time planning for a joyful holiday season can make all the difference. It is possible to have a wonderful, healthy, and enjoyable holiday season, despite all of the stressors. You can make the choice to be joyful. Put on some holiday music, a smile on your face and remember the “reason for the season.” I am wishing you a wonderful holiday season.

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