Take Control of the Holidays season
The holiday season can be a stressful time. It is easy to get overwhelmed with all the preparations we feel we need to do for the perfect holiday. And this quest for perfection can rob us of the joy of the holidays. Adding extensive preparations such as shopping, baking and entertaining to your usual daily demands can be overwhelming. Instead, consider scaling back. Focus on the holiday traditions you enjoy the most and skip or cut down on the rest. Accept imperfections in yourself and in others.
Family tensions often run high during the holiday season. Consider this as the time to set differences aside. Try to accept family members as they are, even if they don’t live up to your expectations. And be patient and understanding if others get upset or distressed when something seems to be wrong. Chances are they are feeling the effects of holiday stress as well.
Choose your commitments wisely and learn to say no. Family members, friends, and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in all activities. And most importantly, take some time to re-group, breath and relax. With a little planning and a lot of positive thinking, you can find peace and joy and take control of the holidays.
What is Stress All About?
We all experience stress. It is a normal psychological and physical reaction to the demands of life. A small amount of stress is good, motivating us to perform well and do our best. However, multiple challenges daily, over and above the usual daily challenges, can push us beyond our ability to cope.
The brain has a sort of alarm system for our protection. When this alarm system perceives some kind of a threat, it sends signals to the body to release a burst of hormones that increase our heart rate and blood pressure. You may have heard about this normal response as the “fight or flight” response; in other words, we get ready to either fight against this threat or run away.
Once the threat is gone, the body is meant to return to a normal, more relaxed state. However, during the holiday season, with the additional demands, we place on ourselves, in terms of added deadlines, social events to prepare or added financial commitments, the brain’s alarm system rarely shuts off. So heart rate and blood pressure remain elevated, stress levels rise, sleep and relaxation are negatively affected and fatigue sets in that can lead to serious health problems.
Beat the Holiday season Budget Blues
One of the biggest stressors for many people during the holiday season is financial. The price-tag of gifts increases as your list of family and friends to buy gifts grows. Here are some tips to help you lessen your anxiety over finances for the holidays and stick to your budget.
- Do your homework. Make a list of who you need to buy for and come up with an approximate cost for each and an overall budget. Take advantage of sales or bulk purchases and look for free shipping if you are buying online. And most importantly don’t deviate too much from your budget.
- Avoid buy now and pay later. Often such promotions have hidden clauses and could end up costing you more. If you go this route, make sure you know all the conditions of the promotion.
- Start your shopping early. Avoid leaving your shopping to the last minute. Last-minute shopping not only increases your sense of urgency and stress but also can lead to emotional and impulsive purchases, a sure way to overspend.
- Avoid purchases on credit. Try to avoid gift buying with credit cards. Using cash makes you more conscious of every purchase and how much you are spending. It is also easier to stick to your budget.
- Do an evaluation after the holidays. How far did you deviate from your budget? What would you do differently next year? Make a note of your thoughts and revisit your notes well in advance of the next holiday season.
Ways to Increase your Happiness in the holiday season
We pursue happiness in everything we do in life, in our relationships, families, careers, and jobs. Happiness is a fundamental aspect of life, yet it is difficult to define. We know happiness when we feel it, and we define it in different ways and circumstances in our lives. Happiness encompasses such positive feelings as joy, gratitude, contentment, peace and well- being. But negative feelings such as stress, anxiety, loneliness, and fatigue can often be more prevalent, during the holiday season. Below are some actions to bring more joy and happiness in all we do in life.
- Gratitude is an important path to happiness. It turns a negative event into a positive one, it turns denial into acceptance, hate into forgiveness and is the fundamental attribute to a positive mindset. Success can bring happiness, but not always. That is because success relates to achieving a long-term goal, where happiness is an everyday feeling that depends on how we experience the present moment. So actively practice gratitude, write a daily gratitude journal, and focus on what you are grateful for in your life. Gratitude goes hand in hand with kindness and patience, good traits to practice during any stressful time.
- Be kind in all your interactions. Focus on the good and try to find something positive to say to someone, even if it is a simple good wish. Kindness leads to acceptance. Accepting people for what they are in a non-judgmental way. Try to find the good in people and do not try to improve or correct them. If others feel judged by you, they will associate you with feeling bad about themselves which will lead to stressed and poor relationships. Kindness nurtures kindness, appreciation, goodwill and acceptance, all positive traits to the path of joy and happiness.
- Practice mindfulness and meditation. Mindfulness means maintaining moment-to-moment awareness of where you are and what you are doing at a point in time. Meditation also aims to increase your awareness of the present moment and helps you accept and be happy with yourself and stay more positive and focused. Researchers have found that people tend to think about something other than what they are actually doing a lot of the time, in fact, the wandering and easily distracted mind, is actually the default mode of the brain. Learning to become more mindful and focus our attention helps to lower stress and foster calm and happiness.
- Become more physically active. We all know that regular physical activity contributes to good overall health. It helps to decrease the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers, lose weight and lower blood pressure. But exercise also helps release the “feel-good hormones” called endorphins. These are natural chemicals released by the brain after vigorous exercise that improve your mood, lower stress and produce an overall feeling of well-being. Even a moderate amount of exercise can ease tension, relieve fatigue and improve mental and physical health. Researchers have reported that older individuals who started an exercise program or when inactive people increased their physical activity, they reported feeling significantly happier, even after only 8 weeks of moderate exercise.