“This time of the year is really hard for me.”
I hear this from most of my clients who are in recovery, from friends, and even the barista who hands me my coffee at Starbucks. The chill in the air, light, powdery snowflakes, twinkling lights, and festive decorations at the mall all remind us: the holidays are coming!
So why does this time of merry gatherings and tidings of joy bring so much stress, anxiety, and angst?
And what leads us to be so obsessed with conquering those feelings?
I did a Google Search on the term “managing holiday stress”—650,000,000 results came back. At Barnes and Noble, I nearly picked up a “No Stress Holiday Organizer.” You can get stress tips from Mayo Clinic, the American Psychological Association, and yes, even Martha Stewart.
I’ve decided to add my opinion to the buzz that may already be percolating in the background of your season…
What’s the one way to manage holiday stress?
JUST STOP IT!
STOP TRYING TO MANAGE YOUR HOLIDAY STRESS!
In a survey conducted by Healthline, a consumer health information company, sixty-two percent of respondents described their stress level as “very or somewhat” elevated during the holidays. Respondents listed stressors such as the financial demands of the season, family dynamics, and maintaining personal health habits such as exercise.
In our culture, where we measure our self-worth by how busy we are, we are encouraged to MANAGE our time, MANAGE our finances and our fears, and yes, MANAGE our holiday stress.
But, I have discovered that in my frenzy to manage holiday stress, I feel even more stressed!
So this year, instead of trying to manage holiday stress, I’m just going to ACCEPT it, a process that I view as an active choice.
It’s your chance to observe whatever is happening and recognize that your feelings about it all are 100% okay. If you love what’s happening, then good for you. If you’re angry, disappointed, saddened by what’s happening, that’s fine too.
Here are some of the many parts of me that I remind myself to ACCEPT and love when they show up
I’m excited about all of the upcoming holiday events, yet annoyed because I won’t have much time to myself
I’m embarrassed that my holiday dinner won’t be as grand as the celebrations that I see on TV commercials, and another part of me is thinking about how I can take shortcuts.
I’m eager to find great gifts that will please my friends, but then there’s the part of me that resents meaningless spending when others are in need.
If you have thoughts like these, know that you don’t have to banish them from your mind. You don’t have to give yourself lectures about “holiday spirit.” All you have to do when these parts show up is say “Hello, there you are again. I love you and accept you.”
Now, I know what you’re thinking.
That acceptance is sometimes easier said than done.
In fact, some of my clients say they fail to recognize when they’re in management mode in the first place. You can usually spot it by noticing how your body feels. Your jaw might clench and your shoulders might tense up. Your stomach could flutter while you feel alone and restricted. Mentally, your thoughts might race and replay old stories back to you with harsh or whiny voices.
Step one for stepping out of management mode: JUST STOP IT!
I’m joking. The real trick is to breathe, say “hello” to all these parts and let them know they’re not useful right now. My colleague Christine Horn came up with a great little device for remembering how to do all of this:
When you’re in management mode, remember to “F.I.S.H.:”
Voilà. You’re no longer in management mode!
The best gift you can give yourself this holiday season is to JUST STOP MANAGING yourself and embrace and ACCEPT all of your wonky, conflicting, adorable parts.
Well, that and laughter, which happens to be an excellent way to release holiday stress.
So in honor of my JUST STOP stance, please take a moment to view this hilarious video.