Avoid Holiday Stress

Everyone loves the holidays, but let’s admit it… the holidays are stressful!  Guests coming and going, dozens and dozens of cookies, cakes and pies to be made, shopping, wrapping, cleaning, shopping and more wrapping…  It’s not exactly the most relaxing time of year, right?

The fact is, humans naturally experience a peculiar emotion when there is a discrepancy between what they want and what they feel able to achieve. It’s called stress and the holidays are a particularly stressful time.

This stress is obviously brought on by our own history and culture – it gives us a certain set of expectations for the way a holiday is supposed to be. The holidays are supposed to be fun, busy, meaningful, and relaxing all at the same time.  How is that even possible? The idea that there is a right way to do a holiday and  seeing that ideal as difficult or impossible to pull off leads to stress.

So what can we do? We cannot carefully pluck these expectations out of our hope-addled heads and magically stop expecting things to fall somewhere in the wonderful to perfect range of experience. What we can do though is notice when we are stressed, actually feel the stress and not fight it (fighting stress is actually quite stressful), call to mind what our perhaps unrealistic expectations are, and then gently turn our minds to our highest priorities. If the turkey burns, the mashed potatoes are dry and tasteless, and none of the presents fit/work/lead to joyous squeals of delight what else is important that you might do?

This is when we can do something really radical with our own experience. Instead of getting caught up in our hopes, dreams, frustrations, and/or disappointments we can reflect on what is most important to us. We can take the holiday as an opportunity to say the words of love that we sometimes forget to say at other times of the year. We can take a deep breath and remind ourselves of what is actually most important to us in life. We can notice our hopes and dreams and then gently encourage ourselves to refocus on doing what is most important to us.  I’m not sure about you, but what is important to me is the feeling that surrounds the holidays – the joy, the love, the smiling and, of course, my ability to give in whatever capacity I can and to be surrounded by the ones that I love.

Stress is normal. Holidays are normally stressful. But when you start feeling stressed you can take it as a cue to step back and detach a little from your fantasies about the perfect celebration and turn your attention toward the present moment. Letting go our hopes for a wonderful holiday and being fully present to those around us may make for the best holiday celebration of all.

Happy Holidays!