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We normally think of red and green as the traditional colors of the Christmas season. In our modern world, we can often add the color blue. Blue as in stressed, depressed, down, or burnt out. Even if Hanukkah is your holiday, you can do without this kind of blue.
Despite its uplifting and inspiring aspects, the holiday season seems to have a way of exasperating normal stress levels in our lives. The season pushes normally even-keeled people to the brink and chronic stress sufferers to the breaking point. I could probably write a week’s worth of posts on the things that create that situation, but today’s post focuses on ways to reduce your stress this holiday season.
Here are a few ideas for making this holiday season less stressful and more meaningful for you. Believe me, I am working right along with all of you on many of these.
- Be aware of your schedule – one way to reduce stress during the holidays is simply to know your schedule. Most of the year events are few and far enough between that we can handle them without a calendar. During the holidays, things can sneak up on you. Last minute events can create stress because they often involve finding a gift, cooking a dish, or both. This is avoided by simply knowing when and where you commitments are and planning for them ahead of time.
- Stay within your budget – giving is integral to the meaning of the holiday season. With all the marketing and the genuine impulse to give, spending beyond our means to get that perfect gift or enough gifts for loved ones can seem virtuous. There is nothing virtuous about setting yourself up for the January credit card crunch or December blues knowing that January is coming. Stay within your means and be honest with yourself and others. If you can’t afford to buy things, don’t. Consider giving your time to someone else to help them with a project or using your creative talents to make a gift. Most of your family and friends are not really desperate for more things anyway.
- Remember the real meaning of the season – I’m not here to tell you what that meaning ought to be for you. However, most of us agree that this time of the year has a significance that transcends the commercialism that permeates it. Get back in touch with what that meaning is for you and stay focused on it during the holidays. That concept is sure to be more peaceful and less stressful than the go, go, go…shop, shop, shop mentality.
- Prioritize your activities – you may not be able to fit every party or every activity into your holiday schedule. Rather than stressing out by trying to make room for every single event, prioritize and select. Learn to graciously say, “thank you, but no thank you.” You’ll have more time for the most important people and activities.
- Focus on people not things – the holidays are a time to spend with people – family, friends, colleagues. The spiritual teacher Ram Dass used to say, “Be here now.” Work on being fully present with the people and enjoying that experience. When you are spending time with others forget about the “to do” list and all the other commitments. Just enjoy being here now.
- Be with other people – the holidays are particularly hard when you are down on your luck. Nothing is more stressful than being alone for the holidays. If you are in that position, make an extra effort to find ways to be around people and share the season. You may not “feel like it” and may not believe you have anything to offer anyone else. If you can push past these two thoughts, you will experience more holiday happiness than you expect.
- Make time for you – this one is particularly for those of you always place the needs of others ahead of your own, but it applies to everyone. Make time for yourself during the holidays. Take a day and go shopping by yourself or for yourself. Make sure to schedule some time to read, write, scrapbook, work on the car, or whatever gives you personal joy. The feeling that you haven’t had any time to “just be” can be very strong during the holidays. The effect of that is often stress. Remember to be good to others by being good to yourself.
- Stay on track – use affirmations, prayer, meditation, and other practices and tecniques to stay on track with these other goals. Take a moment each day to see make sure you are monitoring your stress and keeping it under control.
A great affirmation for the holiday season is:
“I am committed to reducing my stress this holiday season. I am reducing stress this holiday season by gaining maximum enjoyment from my time with family and friends. I am reducing stress this holiday season by remembering and focusing on why this time of year is important to me. I am reducing stress this holiday season by recognizing and addressing my own needs so that I have the energy to be there for others.”
No offense to Elvis, but you can do without the Blue Christmas this year. Try each of these ideas or just pick one and watch your stress go down and your enjoyment go up.
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