It's ironic that the season professed to be one of love, peace and harmony is filled with financial hardship, sadness, depression, frustrations, resentment, hostility and endless family conflicts. For many, it seems that the season of "Peace on Earth" is anything but.
The problem, however, is not the season – it is our approach. We can find thousands of ways to get stressed and frustrated. Or we can dive in and enjoy it fully: to promote, share and experience love and peace.
Here are seven tips to beat stress during the holiday season:
1. The holiday season can be frustrating. Everyone seems to be in a hurry, yet everything slows down because of the crowds. When you go shopping, expect delays, long line-ups, and to circle the parking lot for twenty minutes to find a parking spot. Make it enjoyable. Play a new CD, roll down the window and wave to all the people, flirt, smile, help someone out, compliment, be gracious. There are no tragedies here – relax and enjoy the slower speed.
2. Do not try to replicate what you see on TV. It is tinsel with no substance. Thinking that the season "should be" a certain way is a recipe for great disappointment and frustration.
You never see Pat Boone pass gas at the dinner table, or an uncle get a little too tipsy, or a hyperactive child run all over the place, or last minute rushing to get the meal together on time, or the hostess' favourite piece of china smashing on the kitchen floor during clean up. TV specials promote an ideal and not a reality. And, that ideal is not for everyone. So, create your own.
3. Many get bent out of shape trying to make sure everything is perfect. Is the house tidy enough? Did you buy the right gift? Will it be of equal or greater value than the gift you receive? What if dinner doesn't turn out just right? We are overly concerned with what others will think of us, our house, our children, our spouse, our presents, our cleanliness, that we forget to enjoy time spent with others.
4. Are you financially strapped? If you ask anyone whether they would want you to go into debt so they can receive a holiday gift, undoubtedly he or she would say "No." Do what you want to do. Do what is good for you to do. Do what makes sense for you to do. Do NOT make your life worse with the unnecessary purchase of gifts that you can't afford.
Page 1 of 2 – Find out how being kind can make your holiday more enjoyable on page 2.
5. Be jolly. This is the time of year to be kinder and more forgiving and caring. An extra few moments to help a stranger or smile at a tired bank clerk can help ease the tensions in his or her world. If you know someone who is alone, visit them for a few hours. Be a ray of sunshine for another person's gloomy day.
6. If you are alone this season, do your best to make it as wonderful as possible. Try not to sink into self-pity, feeling sorry for yourself. Be dedicated to making this season the best ever. Do it for you. If you don't, why should anyone else? This is your life, your experience. Make it wonderful. You deserve nothing less.
7. Be childlike and playful. Enjoy each moment. When you are 90 years old and taking your last breath, as you look over your life, you will not say, "You know, way back during that holiday season, I wish I would have rushed a little more." It won't happen. Remember what is important – to experience life.
Psychotherapist Daniel Rutley, author of Escaping Emotional Entrapment (Pax Publishing, 2001), offers a direct and simple approach to feeling happy and confident by gaining emotional control. Daniel's motto for living a fulfilled life is "Emotions rule . . . so rule your emotions." Visit his website at www.danielrutley.com.
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