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7 Tips for Coping with Holiday Stress

Coral Gables Counseling Center - Wednesday, December 12, 2018
By Todd D. Giardina, Ph. D

The Holiday Season doesn’t have to end with you pulling your hair out. Try these seven skills to create a more peaceful, joyful and mindful end to the year. 

1. Anticipate and prepare. Be proactive not reactive. What I mean here is walk in with a plan. Whether staying with family in another city or hosting friends at your home, go in with some conscious intentions. What do you need? What stresses or triggers you? How can you make this a positive overall experience? It sounds pessimistic but it’s better to be prepared rather than startled. 



2. Attitude is everything. Go in expecting negative and you’ll probably find it. Try to reset and remember this is a new year. It (probably) won’t be an exact replay of last year. So, despite what Tip #1 said, let’s practice being present in this moment, and not reacting to memories and projections of past years. I encourage a cautiously optimistic approach to most things in life - have a plan (Tip #1) and hope you don’t need it (Tip #2). 
 
3. Allow yourself to not have it all. To not be it all. Skip the holiday cards. Give smaller gifts. Don’t buy a new sweater or dress. It’s ok! This time of year is not dictated by your performance. And, let’s be honest, there won’t be Yelp reviews of your Holiday spread or TMZ articles about your outfit. Stay humble, keep it simple, maintain a focus on your happiness over others’ opinions. 
 
4. Slow down and be WITH people. Have meaningful encounters instead of trying to squeeze it all in. Make mindful moments. Embrace quality over quantity. This time of year seems to be about dashing in cars from one party to the next. But you’ll feel better if you actually connect with people one to one - as opposed to spreading yourself too thin. Focus less on being seen and more on being heard (and really hearing others). 
 
5. Make your own traditions. Pick and choose. It doesn’t have to be all about what Aunt Kathy or your friend Sara wants. What do you value? Prioritize with your needs in mind. Ask yourself: is this a have to, a want to, or a should do? Again, less is more here (unless you love more and then go for it!) 



6. Music and movement. Music and movement. Ain’t nobody stressed with the right song and some hip twisting. Dance. Sing. Run. Crank the tunes. Music and movement are the best way to change your mood. It’s a tough task to talk your way out of stress or sadness. But exercise, dance and song are all proven mood changers (and they largely leave your thinking brain out of the equation). 
 
7. And to that I’ll add routine. If you have a daily yoga habit, or you read before bed every night, don’t stop just because family is visiting. Stick to routine. (And then be flexible.) So maybe yoga gets moved to later Christmas night because you open presents with the kids that morning. Or maybe reading before bed gets skipped this one busier Hanukkah night. But overall stick to the routine.  Then the Holidays won’t feel as much like a shock to the system. And your New Year’s resolutions will already be off to a smooth start!
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