The holidays are upon us! The holidays are a beloved time of year for many, but they are also a source of stress. Stress is defined by an individual’s values, beliefs, and perceptions, so it may look different to everyone. Whether you’re preparing for parties or family to come visit, dreading interacting with a certain family member, planning your holiday budget, or struggling with remembering a lost loved one, stress affects many people this time of year. Here are three tips for managing your stress this season.
1. Be Meta
Metacognition is thinking about your own thought processes. If you feel your stress winding up, stop and analyze your thought processes and the environment around you.
Ask yourself a question such as:
“Why I am feeling this way?” or “Why did I have this connecting thought and/or emotional reaction because of this specific event?”
Consciously recognize your signs of stress and do something about it:
“I’m feeling stressed because my muscles are tight and I’m irritable, so what is a healthy coping mechanism I like to use, and when can I take a break to go cope?”
Being more aware of your thoughts, feelings, and environment helps keep you in tune with managing your stress in a healthier way.
2. Take A Moment
Remember that to successfully help others, you first need to take care of yourself. The holidays make that even easier to forget, it seems. Too much psychological stress can lead to physical illness, which takes an even bigger toll on your overall well-being. So take a moment to yourself to refresh or recharge, whether it’s five minutes alone meditating or practicing mindfulness/awareness, going for a short walk, or taking an amazing 20-minute power nap. Reach out to friends and family to help you cover your responsibilities (such as caring for children), if needed, while you take a moment. Right now, I’d like you to take a moment and make a list of 3-5 simple things you can do to help yourself de-stress as the holidays approach, so you are armed with coping power when the stress arrives.
3. Don’t Deny
Denial is a poor stress management too; it’s a defense mechanism, not a healthy coping skill. It can be beneficial in the short-term, depending on the situation, but is largely harmful if used long-term. The refusal to believe there’s a problem only brings more stress. Not only does denial hurt you, but it hurts the people around you as well. Remember to trust those you love if they express concern about you or feel as though you’re denying something that’s negatively affecting you. Try not to defend yourself or attack them. First, take a step back, breathe in, and examine any validity to their claim with a good dose of humility. Chances are, they mean well and want to help, so it’s worth a self-examination. The ultimate goal is for you and your loved ones to be healthy and happy, and coping with stress positively is one great avenue to achieving that goal!
Enjoy yourself this time of year as you serve and spend time with others, but remember also to take care of yourself!
Boss, P. (2002). Family stress management: A contextual approach (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications.