Why do we experience so much stress during the holidays? Let me count the ways. There is the shopping, spending money, family drama, unrealistic expectations, and past memories, just to name a few. We are all guilty of putting more pressure on ourselves to create the “perfect holiday” experience. Not only do we have added stress this time of year, but we also tend to neglect our health. Our exercise falls off, we sleep less, and our alcohol and food intake increases. The season often becomes the “perfect storm” of stress when we lose sight of what is truly important.
Our increased stress can negatively impact our relationships. In fact, stress intensifies aspects of our personality which we pass along to our loved ones. For example, if we tend to be critical or impatient, during stressful times those traits are magnified. We may alienate others at a time when we need their help and support more than ever. Recognizing our stress and acknowledging its impact can be the start of change. Shifting our focus can make a huge difference.
Work on sticking to a routine with exercise, sleep, and healthy eating habits. The word for the month is “moderation” whether it is food or alcohol. Schedule downtime to rejuvenate and regroup after a stressful day. Watch a sunset, read a book, get a massage, or walk on the beach. Practice being still for a time. Modify your expectations and accept imperfection in yourself and others. Choose to forgive and let go of the painful memories of the past. We all have trauma or loss from our past, but we don’t have to live with it forever. Make a choice to let go of emotional pain that you can’t change perhaps through writing about it and releasing the negative feelings.
Lastly, focus on the most important aspects of the holiday and our relationships. People matter more than things; joy comes from relationships. Our relationship with God and the birth of his Son matters most to me. He gives me hope and peace that I only receive from having a relationship with Him. Faith and healthy family relationships provide comfort, joy, fulfillment, and security that we all need. Make this season different by changing your attitude, actions, and approach. Let your joy be magnified.