Now that Halloween is over, and it is finally November, the holiday season is upon us. With Thanksgiving only a few short weeks away, followed by the December holidays and New Year’s, we are already seeing stores packed with Christmas décor and commercials about how to host the grandest holiday dinner of them all.
For some of us, the holidays and family gatherings may be a source of stress. Especially in these tense political times, family dinners can turn into heated debates. And even if THAT is not a concern, just the sheer amount of things to do, buy and prepare is stressful in and of itself.
But still, there is no need to dread this time of year. Here are some helpful tips to deal with stress and survive the holiday season (or just daily life).
Remember that whatever situation you’re dealing with is finite.
Absolutely nothing lasts forever, and certainly not that family dinner. By keeping in mind that there is a tomorrow and life will continue after whatever this stressful event is, you are providing yourself with the light at the end of the tunnel. Once you get through it, it is done.
For example, say your great-aunt is talking your head off. It maybe supppppper boring, but remember: The night will end and the talking will have ceased. Better yet, remember that your time in these moments are finite. They do not last forever and you do not get to repeat them. By thinking in that way, you find yourself being able to tolerate things that seemed like a bother and really appreciate (if not fully enjoy) the moment. Cooking that large dinner becomes less of a hassle when you realize it’s only once a year for people who you love and will gather with you just for one holiday meal. Once the dinner is done, it’s done and life goes on to something else with these moments behind you.
Don’t get so absorbed in the details that you miss the big picture (and ruin the experience).
This is something I learned from planning my wedding. At the time I was so stressed about the tiniest things, trying to make sure everything was perfect. By the time it was all over, I had had such a blast that I totally forgot about the tiny things that did not go my way (like my ceremony décor not coming out how I wanted it). Overall, the moment was NOT ruined. I had the best night of my life, and MY GUESTS had a great time. Almost two years later and people are STILL telling us how great it was…not how the lights weren’t dimmed properly and the candles not grouped how I wanted them.
So… when it comes to your holiday events don’t get so upset or stressed by the smaller details, such as your perfectly crafted tablescape missing a votive or a burnt sweet potato pie, that it ruins your entire evening (and that of your guests because you are in a funk). Sure, you may have to run out and grab a box of Entenmann’s cookies from Rite Aid for dessert, but there’s always next year. Plus it makes for a funny story.
Don’t craft a story in your head.
This is probably the vaguest of all my tips. Does it mean you can’t make up stories for the kids after dinner? No. Of course not. It simply means to accept things as they are, and not to create your own version of what’s going on in your head.
One example, that I’m sure we all encounter daily, is someone cutting us off on the road. Personally, I used to get extremely angered by this. But, when you think about it, I was mad because I felt like the person was being a jerk and just zooming around recklessly for no reason. The FACT of the matter is that I had no clue what was going on in the other person’s car. They could be on their way to deal with a crisis situation of some sort. If I knew that that was the case, I wouldn’t be mad, I’d be sympathetic. But we don’t know what’s going on in someone else’s car, in other people’s heads (i.e- if someone appears to be looking at you “the wrong way”). SO, instead of working yourself up, just let it go because you truly don’t know.
Here’s another example, your Aunt Jean is thirty minutes late and is supposed to be bringing the turkey. In your mind, you start going off about how she is always late, this is inconsiderate, etc, etc. OR you either start to worry about if something happened on the road. Is she okay? Etc., etc. In both scenarios you are causing yourself more stress by trying to create a story about why she is late– BOTH of which are causing you negative emotions and stress. Instead of doing that, just acknowledge that she is late and you are not happy about it, but move on. Start a family game while you wait. Take that time to mingle with the other guests and catch up with loved ones that you haven’t seen for a while. Surely, someone has something interesting going on. If people are getting too hungry, give her a call. But the bottom line is not to make up stories about what’s going on.
Don’t underestimate the power of a positive statement.
If all else fails, just search for the silver lining. If you are determined to pick out three positive things about a situation you hate, you will either change your mind about you feel about it, or will amuse yourself trying to figure out the three things. In either case, your mood will lift. For example: the food sucks. Three positives (and now you’ll have to find three more positives if you find yourself in this situation): 1. But the company I am with is fantastic. 2. The tablescape is IG-worthy so I’ll have some great photo-ops. 3. Someone brought a Brown’s Shoprite sweet potato pie (if yall have never had one….go find one now). By making a list of the positive things, you shift your focus from the negatives. You can do this for a situation, a person, pretty much anything. When you force your perspective to good, you change the way you experience the moment.
Well folks…Those are a few tips for dealing with stress from your resident secular Buddhist. lol. I wish all of you a joyful and stress-free holiday season. I hope you can make the most out of every moment. Here are some pictures from my trip to Hong Kong and Singapore last year that really taught me a lot about inner peace and changing your mindset.