By: Alli Griffiths, MHC Intern
Does this time of year stress you out? If so, you are not alone.
Pause. Take a moment. Close your eyes. Breathe. Now, fix your posture. Drop your shoulders. Unclench your jaw. Feel any different?
The holidays are undeniably stressful. Sometimes our stressors are tucked away in our subconscious mind. When we bring these to consciousness, we can deal with them. Take a moment to reflect, and ask yourself:
- Is this your first holiday season without a loved one?
- Is this your first holiday season with your family separated due to divorce, work, or distance?
- Is there something you’re going through that your family does not yet know about?
- Would you feel better if you told them?
You might be thinking, “ok, well now I am keenly aware of my stressors, and I feel even more stressed! What am I supposed to do about it?”
Gratitude is proven to reduce anxiety. I used to dislike gratitude. I thought that by practicing gratitude, people were subscribing to ‘toxic positivity’ and invalidating their struggles. However, I have since learned that this is not the case. Gratitude is holding both as true. For example, yes, you can be struggling, and at the same time, you can be grateful for all you have.
Thus, to combat holiday stress, I recommend beginning or ending each day with gratitude. For example, you can write down 5 things that you are grateful for. Here are mine:
- a roof over my head
- my health
- my family
- my education, and
- my clients and colleagues at the Coral Gables Counseling Center.
Mindfulness reduces stress by encouraging people to focus on the present moment. For example, I once went to a hot yoga class, and the instructor, Kate, said: This is your life. Right now. Stop waiting for a partner or a promotion or anything else to start being happy. You are living this life right now, and it will not last forever. So make the best of it! Thus, when you are running your holiday errands, stop for a moment and practice mindfulness. If you find yourself growing impatient while waiting in line at Target or the post office, focus on your breath. Close your eyes. Push your feet into the floor. Physically and mentally ground yourself. Think of yogi Kate and remind yourself that this is your life – waiting in line and all! Savor it. We only get one.
Mindfulness can also be practiced by appreciating the world around you. When is the last time you watched the sunrise or sunset? Enjoyed a day at the beach? Touched grass?
Work smarter, not harder
Struggling to find a gift for your third cousin twice removed? Have you considered… a gift card? There is stigma surrounding monetary gifts such as cash or gift cards, but why? If you’ve ever received a gift and immediately knew that you would never use it, then you know that sometimes cash is preferred.
Next, when holiday responsibilities are piling up, ask yourself, is this necessary? For example, sometimes we get so caught up in hosting that we forget to enjoy ourselves. What can you do to make hosting easier for yourself? What if you bought a pie instead of making it from scratch? I promise you that no one will mind. And if they do? Who cares!
Don’t want to partake in the office Secret Santa? That’s fine. Don’t want to put up lights or buy a tree? No problem. Don’t want to have Christmas dinner with your Aunt Karen? Don’t.
Life is ridiculously short, and you don’t have to spend time with people who do not bring you joy. Lastly, remember the reason for the season. For many people, this is the only time off they have all year. Do you really want to spend it frantically buying gifts and feeling stressed out? I sure don’t! Instead, give yourself permission to relax. You’ve had a busy year! Practice self-care and enjoy quality time with your loved ones.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“All I know is that I know nothing.” – Socrates