3 Tips to Handle Holiday Stress
Can you believe we’ve already gone through more than half of December!? Whether you’re still wrapping up work with three days to go, or already well on the way to holiday family time, how equipped are you to survive any festive flare-ups?
You know, those moments where:
- You can see (you almost know the script already) a family argument brewing in the hothouse
- All that extra time with people full of emotional baggage – add in a few drinks and ‘dodge the loaded comment’ begins
- A family member or acquaintance announces a visit to your home that in NO WAY fits your busy schedule for festive commitments (and endless chores!)
Handling stress ‘caused’ by other people is all about:
- Managing your own as well as others’ expectations – do they have to be so high?
- Remembering that your values are rarely the same as another’s values which can sometimes save you from an argument!
- Spotting and then stepping back from your known stress triggers (well, yours and theirs!)
- Shifting your mindset to remember that each day will pass and nothing is permanent
- Having your own mini-strategies to combat anxiety – after all, what’s the worst thing that could happen if the family unravels into an argument? Sometimes it can be a necessary clearing of the air!
The trick is to learn to appreciate the difference in others’ way of dealing with things and to know how to calm yourself in order to avoid unnecessary anxiety, stress and arguments. Also, and this can be the hardest bit to get your head around, we DO have a choice in how to react to what others are suggesting… but it can be SO hard to step back (deep breath!) and see that, I know!
If you’re bracing yourself for a stressful holiday, keep these 3 things in mind to help you enjoy your family and friends.
When faced with forced festive fun that wasn’t part of your plan, that naughty Reticular Activating System (RAS) can kick in with full force – it’s the part of our brain that decides what gets filtered in and out. We so often fast-forward in our minds to the argument we’ve already convinced ourselves will cause problems, and we’re like tigers ready to pounce! So there’s as good chance that you’ll find exactly the trouble you’re looking for and you’re never going to win this subconscious game you’re playing with yourself.
So, instead of showing up with your emotional baggage and pre-conceptions weighing you down, try treating your visitors or hosts like you’ve never met them before! We never expect the worst of people we’ve never met (we usually expect the best), so how about trying this new game so you can ward off the highly-charged Christmas sparklers! Laugh off other people’s ‘transgressions’ as much as you can. Just because they’re not doing what you want them to, it doesn’t always mean they’re in the wrong. In fact, why not give the ‘tricky’ people at least three ‘strikes’ so that you don’t pounce on them at the first sign of tension? It makes you the better person, right?!
But perhaps more importantly, before you even get to these scenarios in the first place, don’t be afraid to say no to holiday visit overload! We feel the pressure of entertaining and socialising with friends/family so much more when we don’t have control. But you can say no without actually saying it. You can say you’d LOVE to see them and you’d love to have known earlier of their plans, but this time it just doesn’t work, so you’ll make a point of making it work another day – while still making them feel loved!
As for work pressures during the holiday, DON’T WORK! Just don’t do it. The world won’t stop spinning because you’re not working and this is the one time of the year (unless you’re in the medical or counselling professions) where things really can and do shut down. Seize the moment for yourself, however brief, to recharge, rejuvenate and gather that extra energy for when you return to full-pelt. Don’t do yourself a massive disservice by insisting on working! There will always be work to do, the work will wait.
It’s not just you!
I promise you, I will have to remind myself to do ALL of the above too. Ingrained habits can be hard to break, but if you do manage to treat difficult people and situations a bit differently after reading this, then at least you’ll have a chance of developing a new habit or two for January and beyond as well!
Finally, and this is my top (less scientific than usual!) tip this season, set up your holiday ‘schedule’ so that you meet and greet just about everyone BEFORE they’ve started drinking – can you tell I’m Irish? This is a very real and successful tactic, but hard to execute!
P.S. If you’re fortunate enough to enjoy calm, happy and tension free get-togethers every year and have no idea what I’m talking about, that’s GREAT (and please can I come to yours next year?!)!!
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