Avoiding Holiday Stress

Much of Our Tension is Expectations

For many people, the advent of autumn heralds the start of a stressful holiday season. We feel pressured to be wonderful hosts, entertain scores of loved ones, and remain calm amid chaos from November to January. In my article discussing awareness, we talked about the observer. During the holidays, we need to make daily contact with the observer to check our emotions. Many people will do actual body scans to see if they can feel the stress or anxiety building throughout the day. This is an excellent practice year-round, but even more so during the holiday season.

Focus Awareness on Your Expectations

You will discover that much of the stress we feel during the holidays directly results from our expectations. In our efforts to please others and craft the ultimate celebration, we overextend ourselves and miss out on the spirit of the season. So why do we suffer from higher than usual expectations during the holidays?

I have found that many come from childhood experiences, whether positive or negative. And don’t forget about the social engineering done by the media. One of their purposes is to convey a picture of the perfect holidays. Then, one commercial after another applies the pressure. Their focus is on selling – commercialization. So, yes, they’ve commodified the holidays.

Heal Old Family Wounds

If you have old family wounds still bothering you, now is the time to take care of unfinished business or let go of hurt feelings that aren’t useful carrying around anymore. Write them down in a journal or a piece of paper and burn them during a bit of ritual. The point here is to clear away the past that doesn’t serve you any longer. If the thought of seeing Uncle Bill causes stress in your shoulders, it’s time to address those wounds.

If your childhood holidays bring back negative memories, you will carry them into current holidays. You’ll get depressed just thinking about Thanksgiving. If that word conjures up negative memories, your mind and spirit will be closed to new experiences. If you’ve started a new family, don’t let twenty-year-old thoughts ruin today’s opportunities. Let them go!

Focus on Creating New Experiences

This year, consider transforming your approach to your celebrations. Instead of striving for perfection, endeavor to enjoy the treats that only come once a year, the company of family and friends, and the minor unexpected occurrences that make each holiday unique. Before you begin your whirlwind of seasonal preparations, ask yourself what aspects of each holiday are most important to you and what holiday-related goals you hope to achieve this year.

As the holiday season draws nearer, resolving to give up your dreams of perfection can help you avoid anxiety. If you strive to have a good holiday, you can take charge of arrangements without feeling that your loved ones’ happiness is resting on your shoulders. Return to the basics without trying to outdo the perfect families being shown on TV.

Remember that you are unique, which means that your holiday experience need not conform to that of your parents, neighbors, or simulated families you see in the media. Also, understand that you cannot please everyone. After all, what the people you care about likely want most during the holiday season are your time and attention.

Show Compassion Toward Yourself and Others

Allow yourself to decline invitations without guilt and to serve store-bought foods rather than homemade dishes if it means you get more time to relax in the company of friends and family. You might even want to break from traditional foods and create your cuisine.

If stress strikes, remember that holidays encompass but a few days out of each year. Enjoying those few days is often a matter of identifying your motives and shifting gears if necessary. Ask yourself whether your quest for perfection is a matter of impressing others (ego) or gathering the people you care about around you in celebration.

A year from now, you’ll have only a handful of vivid memories to look back on. But, if you take a realistic and heartfelt view of the holidays, you’ll be sure to remember them fondly.

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Todd Smekens

Journalist, consultant, publisher, and servant-leader with a passion for truth-seeking. Enjoy motorcycling, meditation, and spending quality time with my daughter and rescue hound. Spiritually-centered first and foremost. Lived in multiple states within the USA and frequent traveler to the mountains.
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