Friday, December 23, 2016

Coping with Holiday Stress: I'm Beginning to Stress About Christmas

I’m beginning to stress about Christmas
Ev'rywhere I go;
Take a look in the grocery isles, merchandising in piles
With shoppers frustrated and about to blow.

I’m beginning to stress about Christmas
Shopping lists galore
But the sorriest sight to see is the ungrateful guess that will be
Coming through my own front door.

A Furby Connect and a phone with text
Is the wish of Barney and Ben;
Games with story and electronic glory
Is the hope of Janice and Jen;
And Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again.

I’m beginning to stress about Christmas
Ev'rywhere I go;
There's a tree to be trimmed, gifts to bring in
And a house to be cleaned oh no.

I’m beginning to stress about Christmas
 Soon the bells will start,
And the thing that will make them ring is the caroler that can’t sing
Who will pass me by if the house is dark.

If “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” is your favorite Christmas song, I apologize. This holiday season seems to be particularly stressful. While there is the usual hubbub, there is the added stress of a presidential election that makes many very unsure of what the New Year will bring. The election was so devise that some families and friends have decided that the strong differences make it too difficult to share a holiday dinner or get together.

Not sure about stress levels, your body will let you know when you are on overload. If you answer yes to any of the following symptoms you need to bring your stress level under control: Inability to concentrate or complete tasks; getting more colds than usual; body aches; chronic condition flares; headaches; irritability; trouble sleeping (too much or too little); or being more angry or anxious than usual.

While the simplest solution is to identify stressors and avoid them, which some people seem to be doing by avoiding one another this holiday, that’s not always possible nor is it healthy.  Instead, consider the following:

• Spread it out. Be realistic about what you can do and when. “No” is a very acceptable response. Everything doesn’t need to happen on one day or at one event.

• If you have recently suffered a loss, regardless of what it is, take time to cry or express feelings. You don’t have to “happy up.” Consider doing the holidays differently, including volunteering or creating a totally different holiday. After a nasty breakup and fearing a holiday alone, I hosted a “Christmas for the unloved ” party for all my gal pals who were single. It was so much fun, we continued doing it for quite a few years.

• There is no one way holidays need to be celebrated in spite of relatives and friends that say, “but we’ve always done it like this.” Traditions are great, but being bound to something you don’t enjoy isn’t helpful. A few years ago I decided it was less stressful if I celebrated Winter Solstice as the day I take small items to friends in my community. It freed up Christmas Eve considerably and it was a way for me to include friends that don’t celebrate Christmas.

• Set aside differences. Stories and reminiscences are the glue that connects us. Now more than ever this is important to remember that. No matter who one voted for, it doesn’t make us enemies. This is not the time to try and solve the world’s or anyone else’s problems. It’s the time to tell the funny stories about the craziest present you ever received or that awful fruitcake you received for several years from a secret Santa. Find the things that bind you not divide you.

• Having a “safe space” where you can retreat can be very helpful. It maybe physical, such as a room in your house. However, since we aren’t always in our home, developing a safe space within ourselves is important.

• Separate thoughts and fears of the future, or regrets about the past, with the reality of the present. If you have trouble focusing on the “now” try one of these ideas:
-         Look out the window and count birds, trees, flowers, bushes, cars or whatever else strikes your fancy.
-       Wiggle your fingers, tap you feet and pay attention to the movement.

• Engage in what makes you feel calmer or more centered such as taking the dog for a walk, petting the cat, having a favorite meal, meditating, reading a book, taking a hot shower or bath, sitting in a hot tub, some form of physical exercise. One of my favorite websites to look at is the Instagram “Drawings for My Grandchildren.” They are incredibly comforting. 

• Unplug from your phone, computer, news feed etc. so that you don’t stress about things you can’t control

• When you feel very anxious Breath in for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds, exhale breath for 8 seconds, repeat once or twice more

• Smile, laugh and enjoy the little things

• It almost goes without saying but take medications as prescribed. Eat healthy foods, get sufficient sleep and make time for yourself.

Most importantly, do only what you can realistically do and remember Your Best is More than Good Enough. 

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