17 Dec 7 SUREFIRE STRATEGIES TO REDUCE HOLIDAY ANXIETY AND KEEP YOUR SANITY By James Mapes
Let’s strip away the rose-colored glasses, let go of guilt and do a reality check. For many people the holiday season can feel like anything but a celebration. If one isn’t careful, the Christmas season can turn people into frenetic, anxious, and crazy – holiday survivalists.
Below are 7 surefire strategies to keep your sanity and experience the celebration the holiday season is meant to be:
- Plan ahead and prepare your mind for the worst case scenarios.
Using past experience as a guide, make a mental list of three events that are likely to occur (for example, Uncle Bob will drink too much and get loud; Mom will tell me I should lose weight; Cousin Sherri will look disappointed in her gift; your sister will criticize your cooking. etc.)
You take the power away from negativity and reduce anxiety when you “hope for the best and plan for the worst.” Rehearse how you will respond (or not) in a positive, loving way. You DO NOT HAVE TO ENGAGE. Sometimes being strong is refusing to get sucked into negativity.
- Loss: Acknowledge those who are no longer with us.
This is a huge issue for many people who have lost their loved ones. Instead of avoiding socializing or anticipating sadness, take charge, find courage, and remember fondly those who are no longer with us. Acknowledge them and express your love for the ones who are gone.
- Stop it! Zip It.Let it go.
As the old saying goes, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything. Let old conflicts and grudges stay buried and don’t create new ones by criticizing relatives and complaining about little things.
Ask yourself: Do you want to be right? Or do you want to be happy? You don’t have to control everything. Go with the flow.
- Know your coping strategies to deal with anger and frustration.
You can excuse yourself, leave at a set time, take a few deep breaths, go for a walk, say positive mantras, stretch, call a friend, take a walk, do deep breathing, etc.
If all else fails, repeat, “This too shall pass.”
- Don’t try and do everything. Ask for help.
Perhaps it is time to start taking care of yourself. If you have been totally responsible for shopping, cooking, cleaning, serving and – basically, hosting the Christmas Day activities – perhaps it is time to ask for help. Ask other family members and friends to bring different parts of the meal, such as appetizers, salads or desserts. You will be surprised how much people love to participate. It creates a sense of community, of ownership in the celebration.
The past does not have to determine your future. People change. People get older. People have less energy.
Make sure you have some time for YOU, even if it’s just allowing yourself to watch one special TV show that you really want to see.
- Be realistic, try not to expect the “ideal” holiday.
Expectations really are the source of much of our anxiety. As much as you want to believe that you control the world, people are not in this world to meet your expectations – nor you, theirs. Many of us carry a picture, an idealized version of what a holiday ‘should be’ and then are disappointed when these made-up, mental movies don’t live up our expectations.
The most important thing is for you and your family to have fun, which doesn’t mean ramping up your debt for the next year by purchasing expensive gifts. “Stuff” comes and goes – but the time you spend together and the creation of special memories are the best presents of all.
Do your best to be realistic and, keep in mind: Nobody – absolutely nobody – has a perfect holiday or perfect family.
- Don’t take it personally!
It’s not all about you. Stop being narcissistic. Above all, “Don’t take it personally.” By not taking it personally, you put up a bubble of protection around yourself and remain immune. Realize that negative actions from the people around you says much more about them than you.
If someone else acts up, ask how you can be of service or, just listen.
Don Miguel Ruiz says it best in his enlightening book, The Four Agreements:
“Whatever happens around you, don’t take it personally… Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves…What they say, what they do, and the opinions they give are according to the agreements they have in their own minds…Taking things personally makes you easy prey… But if you do not take it personally, you are immune in the middle of hell.”
I can guarantee that if you do your best to put these seven strategies into play, your holiday season will be less stressful, more enjoyable and memorable.