In a normal year, the holiday season can be full of stressors. In a year of a global pandemic, most all of us are experiencing record-high levels of stress. One way to help manage stress is to remember the acronym B.R.E.A.T.H.E.
A boundary is something that indicates bounds or limits. One first step to relieving holiday stress is to first set some boundaries. You will need to assess what limits you are placing on the holidays (travel, budgets, or traditions) and what limits you are placing on yourself and your people (visits, gift-giving, or pressure-filled in-person political discussions). Set the appropriate boundaries, inform the people who need to be in the know, and maybe just maybe—you’ll have headed off at the pass some frustrations.
Having boundaries is healthy and important. But what can you do if others (even well-meaning family and friends) don’t abide by or adhere to your pre-planned boundaries? You’ve heard the saying that you can’t control how other people think or speak or relate, but you CAN control how you choose to respond or react. When, if not during the holidays, is there a better time to practice taking the high road. Be willing to ignore, redirect, and choose kindness in your reactions and you’ve instantly increased the chances of being less stressed.
Another way to manage stress is to also manage expectations. Manage your own expectations for what you want the holidays to look and feel like. This year, more than others, is there something you can add or take away that might make your celebrations a little more memorable or pleasant? Talk about these changes with your immediate family members and make sure everyone is in agreement with implementing them.
We have all heard it before and know it to be true, but attitude is everything. Often stress reduction begins in the mind. Attitude determines our emotions and reactions. By taking the time to get your mindset and attitude adjusted in a somewhat pleasant and agreeable manner, you are setting yourself up to not only enjoy the holiday season but also create a fun and loving environment for those you’re celebrating with.
Once you have made necessary attitude adjustments, it is much easier to relax and let your mind focus on all that you have to be grateful for during the holiday season. Growing a gratitude and contentment practice takes work and may not be instantaneous. Start by making either a mental or written list of things that you are thankful for. Instead of allowing your focus to rest on the frustration of not being able to travel this year, turn that circumstance into something for which to be grateful like less time driving on the road and more time watching all of your family’s favorite Christmas movies from the comfort of your couch.
The long list of holiday to-dos can get long and stressful. One way to combat this is to delegate or look for ways to invite others into the process. Recovering perfectionists may have difficulty relinquishing their high level of doing and expectations. However, by allowing other family members the chance to help with holiday baking, gift wrapping, or decorating you are not only taking some of the pressure off of yourself, but you are also creating more opportunities for family fun and memory-making.
Finally and maybe most basically, if these other tactics and tips haven’t helped, then maybe it’s because you just need to move your body to release some excess, pent-up stress and emotion. Despite the fact that there are reduced daylight hours and the temperatures in most places are cooler, get outside and take a walk, do an extra indoor bike or treadmill workout to get your blood pumping or take a YouTube yoga or meditation class to calm your nerves and re-center your mind and body.
The holidays can be stressful but they don’t have to be. By remembering to B.R.E.A.T.H.E., you are setting yourself up for less stress and more success.