If anyone else’s lifetime score against the holiday season looks anything like mine (Holiday season=25, Me=0), then this blog is 100% for you. I have remotely heard of these mystical and magical people whom have all of their presents wrapped, holiday decorations hung, and sitting merrily by the fireplace drinking hot cocoa by December 1st, but this is simply not me. Although, I would love to be sitting comfortably watching other people’s mad dash to the stores to pick up their first, last-minute gifts, I unfortunately am not one of the chosen one’s. So if the holiday season stresses you out, even in the slightest (don’t feel guilty for saying so), we can help make you mentally stronger moving forward and not be the Scrooge everyone despises.
Organize a Schedule…..We set goals all the time for many high priorities in our life whether it is a career, our sport or hobby, or even our life plans. However, we can also set goals for this holiday season and schedule them into a plan. Dust off that planner or calendar and let’s get started. This can be done very effectively and efficiently. First, make a list of everything you need to get done this holiday season that you have not yet accomplished. I mean everything. Next, put labels next to each item on the list as something of high importance (HI) or low importance (LI). After this, put a C next to all of the items you have complete control over (Sowa, 1992). Tackle the items of high importance that are controllable first, then low importance controllable, then finally high importance and low importance uncontrollable.
An example of this methodology is the following: a high importance controllable would be going to buy a gift for your significant other that they have been asking for since last December, low importance controllable would be buying catnip because you are a cat-mom (some may disagree on this level of importance), high importance uncontrollable would be consoling the younger family members who will inevitably find out there is no Santa Clause by a mean kid at school, and low importance uncontrollable would be continually putting back on the holiday outfit you meticulously picked out for your cat and dog when they wiggle out of it.
This to-do list works because it automatically sets out a plan for you to tackle the long list of things that need to get done. Put the high importance and controllable items on your calendar first and feel good about yourself when you meticulously check them off. Go throughout your list and pencil in on your calendar what you can realistically accomplish given your schedule of time commitments. Before you know it, your list will be disappearing and getting to January won’t seem like such a chore.
Deep Breathing…...When you are stuck in mall rush hour (yes this is a thing), when you are waiting in line at Macy’s for the third time this week, or when that extended family member that you only have to bear once or twice a year comes up to you, remember to breathe. Take a minute, in whatever frustrating endeavor you currently find yourself, and just breathe. Taking a few moments to deliberately focus on your breathing can cause you to stay calm and relaxed, help you stay composed, improve your ability to concentrate, as well as prime yourself for the next task. Just consciously take five to ten very deep breaths, counting in for five seconds and exhaling out for five seconds with each breath, can do wonders. Focus on breathing from your stomach for long slow breaths instead of your chest for the best results. Something as simple as breathing can be the difference between giving a polite nod and saying something you can’t take back.
Secret Weapon Gratitude…. Take a moment to be thankful for what is around you this holiday season. Perhaps you did not get the bonus you were looking for in your end of the year paycheck or that favorite cousin could not make it home this year, but be thankful for what is around you and what you have in your life. Expressing gratitude will not only make the holiday season more tolerable, but also more enjoyable. You can even take a moment to do a gratitude exercise with those around you. Take turns talking about the strengths you see in them as a person or why you are grateful for them in your life. Talk about two amazing things that happened this year that involved you and that family member or friend. Also, talk about what people in your family do or say that inspires you. Passing on encouragement and positive acknowledgements is a great way to express gratitude this holiday season.
Sowa, C. J. (1992), Understanding Clients' Perceptions of Stress. Journal of Counseling & Development, 71: 179–183.