The winter holiday season is known to be a stressful time for many in the U.S. Some who look forward to the holidays find themselves overwhelmed despite their excitement, and some dread the holidays because of trauma, loneliness and financial strain. In 2020 we can expect the holiday season to carry significant additional stresses related to the pandemic, the economic crisis, and high social and political tensions. Even the traditions and celebrations that we find comfort in are fraught with risk this year, specifically the risk of spreading the coronavirus that is ravaging the country. We need ways to cope. The good news is that there are several very effective, proactive ways of managing stress and making this time more enjoyable.
Stress Busting Tip #1: Be Aware
Be aware of what causes you stress. Is it planning the menu, gathering safely and sanely with family, traveling, affording gifts? Is it enduring the loss of a loved one? Whatever it is, make note of it. A few years ago a friend of mine found themselves getting unexpectedly moody around the holidays. After reflection they realized that they were actually nervous about seeing their family. They thought that they couldn’t wait to see them, but subconsciously they were worried about old tensions and patterns. Once they identified the root of their feelings, they were able to deal with those worries specifically and reset expectations. Now when that tension creeps in, they can identify it and address it more easily.
Stress Busting Tip #2: Get Moving
Get moving. We’re fortunate in the Carolinas to have warmish weather during the holidays. Make the most of it and get outside while the sun is shining. The exercise and the sunshine are good for your mental health as well as your physical health. Go for a walk, do some qigong or sun salutations, or stand in Universal Post for a few minutes. Continue coming to tai chi, meditation and yoga classes too. You’ll get a break from the bustle and will be doing something good for yourself.
Stress Busting Tip #3: Meditate
Meditate. According to the Mayo Clinic, meditation is considered a type of mind-body complementary medicine that can produce a deep state of relaxation and a tranquil mind. Sitting quietly and letting go of the urge to stay busy, to make decisions, or to dwell on sadness is good practice for managing stress. Even closing your eyes and breathing deeply for a few minutes can regulate your heartbeat and your mood. During the day, you can recall the feeling of letting go that you experience during meditation and you can choose how to respond when you feel yourself getting anxious.
Stress Busting Tip #4: Focus on Meaning
Remember that the holiday season is temporary and that your participation in it is optional. How you celebrate the holidays is up to you, whether you go all in the whole season, make an appearance the day or week of, or sit it out completely. 2020 has changed our routines and challenged norms, giving us the opportunity to re-imagine the way we celebrate the holidays. Take advantage of this chance to focus on what the holidays mean to you.
Some stressors remain year-round, but holiday stress does come to an end. The lights get put away, the commercials stop, and life goes on. In the meantime, be patient with yourself and use these techniques to stay calm and maintain a healthy attitude.