December 3, 2016
Some practical thoughts from Sr. Barbara Kennedy, LPC, therapist and co-founder of NCC:
Last year I was invited to speak on holiday stress at two different gatherings. During both presentations I could almost hear the rolling of eyeballs as I presented practical ways to alleviate stress.
It really is a possibility. But so often we say to ourselves, I’ve never been successful before so why will today be different?” Unfortunately, we are our own worst enemies by sabotaging our thinking and our efforts. We need to think like a Boy Scout or Girl Scout – Be Prepared and then practice and practice again.
The five most irksome situations turning us into scrooges are: crowds and long lines, gaining weight, getting into debt, gift shopping and giving, and seeing certain relatives. Let’s look at each one separately without the eye rolls.
First, a word or two about long lines and crowds. Whenever possible, shop early in the day when the crowds are thin. The same is true with driving. Arrange and organize your trips before or after rush hour. Delegate responsibilities. Ask people what they want instead of searching the earth to find the “perfect gift” that doesn’t really exist. If worse comes to worse and you are trapped in traffic or in front of the coupon queen, try mindfulness. It will keep you centered and manage your blood pressure.
Now for the waistline. Don’t abandon healthy habits such as exercising. That should be at the top of your to-do list. Not only will it help your waistline but will keep your mood steady. I can hear you say, “What planet is she from? I don’t have time to exercise.” Keep it simple. Don’t look for the closest parking spot. Even that short walk will help.
Monitor your alcohol intake especially if you’re trying to manage negative feelings. Alcohol is a depressant. Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don’t go overboard at the buffet table. Fats and sweet drain you of energy and can make you feel more stressed. When possible, take a short walk after a holiday meal.
Stick to a budget. Yes, I know. Easier said than done. Before heading out, create a reasonable budget and stick to it. Gifts can’t buy happiness, love or forgiveness. Think about alternative gift giving. Donate to a charity in someone’s name, give homemade gifts, or start a family gift exchange.
Related to the budget is gift shopping and giving. Consider having a discussion with friends and family and agree to only spend up to a certain amount. You can also get creative and give gifts that don’t involve money. A friend may appreciate the gift of time better than an actual gift.
And finally, those scroogy relatives. Being in close quarters with relatives (who haven’t read and practiced some of the above suggestions) can be stressful. Pick and choose your battles and don’t let the actions or opinions of others steal you of your peace and joy. We all have very “pushable” buttons but reflecting on them ahead of time and planning how to remain calm will enable you to actually be calm. And besides, the elections are over.
If you practice just one or two of these suggestions you won’t scrooge yourself.
May the holidays bring you all the love and joy they can, and may the true meaning of the season touch your heart.