Dr. Phil Shares: How to Reduce Holiday Stress!

How to Reduce Holiday Stress

The topic I’m going to address today is how to handle holiday stress with greater ease.

If you think about it, we could make “holiday stress” a great opportunity to teach us how to manage “any time” stress. A great place to start is having our priorities straight so you’re clear on what matters and what doesn’t.

5 Tips for Holiday Stress Relief:

1. Write in your journal

Now is a good time to sit down, take a deep breath, and write in your journal to help you get organized and remember what the holidays are really about.

First, write down everything that needs to be handled. Then identify things that you can let go of or delegate to someone else. Even if you need to handle everything, taking the time to write it all down will help you feel less overwhelmed.

Now that you have written down and organized your to-do list, think to yourself, “What will be my state of ‘being’ while I’m doing all of these things? Will I be joyful or stressed, grateful or overwhelmed?” And, write a paragraph on this topic. Asking these questions is really important if you want the holidays to be something you actually enjoy. The busyness of the holidays doesn’t have to cause stress if you choose a calm and joyful way of being as you check off tasks from your to-do list.

Next, let’s get more specific. Write down how you would like certain aspects of the holidays to go. How would you like to experience cooking the holiday meal or having people over? While cooking, will you feel angry that you have to cook such a big meal, or curious and excited about making a new dish for your family? Or, while shopping, will you feel obligated or resentful that you have to buy for so many people, or grateful that you have the means to buy presents to begin with?

Now, make two columns in your journal. In one column, write the names of the people you are buying gifts for. In the second column, write what you are grateful for about this person. Leave out all the things they have or haven’t done, or what they’ve said or didn’t say – all of that ultimately doesn’t mean anything. Instead, write how they contribute positively to your life. Then take this list with you shopping so that the present you purchase is an expression of your appreciation for them. This can help you remember what the holidays are really about: celebration and gratitude for our friends and family.

2. Keep things in perspective

Rather than truly celebrating family and friends, we often get caught up in how things “look.” We worry about the holiday cards, or whether our hair and outfits look alright, or if we ordered enough pies for everyone. When you start to spiral into worry, go back to your shopping list of names and why you’re grateful for these people – does it really matter if your hair looks perfect that day?

I’m not saying to show up to your holiday events in your pajamas, but by choosing what you focus on, you can allow whether a certain situation will create stress or joy within you. Are you going to focus on whether your outfit looks perfect or focus on the joy you experience with your cousin who you haven’t seen in a while? You have a choice. Consciously choosing gratitude and joy will create positive situations and bring you closer to those you love.

And, if you’ve mastered this level of focused decision-making during the holidays, you can easily apply it throughout the year when there are less distractions.

3. Consider the past

Here is another topic to write about in your journal: What are the memories that get stirred up during the holidays? Which memories create a clenching in the pit of your stomach, or a fear-based emotion, or that feeling of “here we go again.” What creates that in you? Write them all down, be very real about it. Don’t let your mind take hold of the negative emotion and spiral you down into the same old pattern – nothing will change that way.

So write these memories down in your journal and what they stir up in you, then write whether they really matter in the grand scheme of things – get some perspective. And then consider whether you should communicate with someone so that this pattern doesn’t happen again, or just let it go. In either case, make that change internally to change that pattern. Do it now before it’s too late and suddenly it’s Christmas Eve and the same situation occurs. Also, write down enjoyable holiday memories and prioritize doing those activities again this year.

4. Learn to say “no”

If you have always lived the holidays with great stress, but have not done anything about it (as if the outside world will suddenly shift for you and make it all good), then nothing will change because at the end of the day nothing and nobody makes you feel in any way other than how you choose to feel, what you choose to allow in your field. That is very important to remember.

Because there are so many challenges, the holidays present so many amazing opportunities to take control of your life and to empower yourself. Let’s say you’ve cooked the turkey for your family for 30 years but never enjoyed the task, this is your opportunity to finally say “no.” You’re not a victim, you don’t owe anything, so don’t disempower yourself. If you don’t like having 50 people over every Hanukkah, but you allow it to happen because you’re not willing to experience the consequences of saying “no,” then you are allowing resentment to exist in you, once again. Am I saying that changing a pattern is easy? Of course not, but you must always remember that your life is under your control.

If spending quality time with your husband and children during the holidays is important to you, then make the time. Be more organized about the shopping, start way ahead as opposed to waiting to the last minute. Choose the events that you want to attend, and say “no” to the rest. Be empowered in what you are deciding to celebrate this year.

5. Make it a holiday for YOU

It is crucial for your well-being to learn what is important to you, and to prioritizing these things during the chaotic holiday season. It’s important to be very real and honest about the things that you never enjoy doing and yet, you still do them over and over again. You allow these situations to destroy your peace every single year. What is up with that? What would happen if you spoke up and said, “stop”? Make the holidays something different this year; make it a holiday for you, for how you feel.

Every day of this celebration, actually celebrate by having the courage to eliminate that which is not important to you. This allows a clearing for what does bring you joy. For example, if you’re not spending days in the kitchen preparing a meal for 50 people, you’ll have more time to play games with your children.

Try it and do your best not to feel obligated. If you feel guilty, engage with that experience with compassion and kindness for yourself. Remember, everybody is caught in the whirlwind of the holidays and the guilt of it all. We are all doing the best we can, so it’s nobody’s fault. But, you are in charge of what this holiday season could be for you and your family.

So, I invite you to be in a state of celebration for yourself this holiday season. In your journal, write: “What if this holiday was exactly what I wanted it to be. What would that look like? What if I had the courage to sit down with my family and discuss what we wanted to do and what we did not want to do this year?” Wouldn’t that be nice?

With these intentional actions – which are ultimately actions of love for yourself and the people who are important to you – you can make this year a true celebration, a true holiday, a true honoring of each other, peace, joy, and well-being. I hope this was helpful, thank you.

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health Guelph