Holiday Bustle: 7 tips for keeping your cool during the holidaze

Ah, the holidays are upon us. Or should I say the holi-daze…

With the often fast paced shopping experience, cooking up a storm in the kitchen, and putting out the Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving is even over, it can be easy to feel the holiday stress…that imperceptible sense of hurriedness that seems to permeate the air. The feeling of working extra hours just to make sure you have extra gifts for the kids under the tree. Studying and trying out that new recipe so you don’t look a fool at your holiday gathering. Or insert whatever other activity is occurring in your life and taking up extra mental and emotional space in your head.

 

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“I need to do this, buy that, cook for 8, and be here by 5…ahhh!”

 

So how does one go about taking a moment and soaking the holiday cheer in, instead of feeling overwhelmed and on edge, desperate to “make this year the best one ever”?! No need to induce all the added pressure on yourself…

The key here is NOT allowing yourself to take that stress on, and instead, be able to take a moment to step back and live in the moment. I have 7 tips for helping you through the holidaze because guess what? You deserve to create your own special memories this season whether in the kitchen with 20 family members or curled up on the couch with your dog. Everyone has the potential to have a happy holiday. So, please read on…

7 tips for helping you through the holidaze:

1.       Stay in the present moment. Maybe you are experiencing the pressure to hang up Christmas lights, transform the inside of your home into a winter wonderland, and embark on the hunt to find that perfect gift for your loved one! Sometimes it can all become a little too much. You may start to feel you’re on autopilot—you go to Target for some early present shopping but next thing you know you’ve migrated to Pier 1 yet you’ve lost sight of why you’re even in that particular store…

If you find yourself starting to experience the stress of shopping, the feeling of being on auto-pilot, trying to “keep up with the Joneses”, it’s time to regroup. Whether you take a quick moment to practice deep breathing (three breaths in through nose, hold in for a moment, then release through mouth), or decide to take a walk around your neighborhood—practice living in the here and now and staying out of the hustle bustle. If you thrive on being amidst the hustle bustle—embrace it! However, if you find yourself feeling emotionally drained and stressed, practice mindfulness and staying in the here and now.

 

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Take a second for you.

 

2.       Realize that there is no right or wrong way to celebrate the holidays. We’ve all seen the movies, the TV programs that come on, the Facebook pictures of the “perfect Christmas”. If you’ve found that you are focusing too much on trying to recreate what you believe society defines as the perfect Christmas, stop! Whether you want to have Christmas brunch instead of Christmas ham, whether you want to go walk out on the beach with your family instead of sitting around a dining room table, make your holidays your own! If you find that you are falling into the comparison trap, it’s time to log out of social media for the day and instead–focus on who is in front of you.

 

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This family chose to take a holiday stroll. What is something that you or your family does to celebrate that is unique to them?

 

3.       Above all, realize that YOU ARE ENOUGH. In our world, people are celebrated on having excess “stuff” instead of developing memories and realizing that objects…things…don’t bring lasting happiness. Plenty of research has shown that experiences bring about a more permanent sense of fulfilment while tangible gadgets and “stuff” bring about fleeting moments of pleasure. Think about the two year old that basically receives all of Toys R Us and only focuses on playing with the boxes that the gifts came in…Just remember this season that YOU bring pleasure and happiness to others just by being you. If you don’t feel like you have the money to buy a gift, then show up with a good attitude and a helping hand.

 

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This kid doesn’t have a care in the world. He knows that he’s enough. 

 

4.       Make lists. So maybe you have a large family to buy gifts for or maybe you’ve been assigned to bake cookies for the holiday meal. Organized mind=organized life! Make a list of what you need to purchase and by what date. If you are overwhelmed by purchasing presents for everyone, set a budget for each person and make a succinct list of what you plan to buy them (keeping in mind your budget)—that way when you do decide to go shopping, you stay on track and feel more in control. Same goes for purchasing your ingredients needed for preparing the holiday meal.

 

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Santa is on to something with making this whole list thing…

 

5.       Embrace who you spend the special day with and where you are in life. This tip is similar to not falling into the comparison trap but I wanted to provide a bit more detail. So maybe you have strained relations with your family and will not be seeing them this year. Maybe you are single…again…and just feel sad that another holiday is passing you by and you don’t have a special someone to give that New Year’s kiss to.

In any case, if you are feeling down on your current life holiday status—it’s time to switch up your mindset. Instead of placing your focus on what you feel you do not have, focus on what you do have. Even if you perceive the only things you currently have to be necessities—housing, sheets on bed, clean water to drink—practice gratitude for having these items because they certainly didn’t just come out of thin air! If you are having to spend the holidays alone, then be thankful for…YOU! Think about past difficulties you have overcome and practice gratitude towards your self—focusing on developing even further inner strength.

6.       Focus on your reasons for celebrating. Whether you are celebrating Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or are in the midst of the Advent season, ultimately—what are your reasons for celebrating these special times? If you do not practice a particular religion, what are your reasons for celebrating? Is it a time to focus on family and spend time with one another, or maybe it’s a time to share a meal together and develop tradition?

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Developing and defining the reasons behind your celebration is key to keeping your focus where it should be and not allowing your stress to take over. Using the holidays as a teaching moment with the kids in the family, explaining traditions to them, and even reacquainting yourself with your belief system allows for a deeper look at why you celebrate. And definition always equates to clarity. Maintain perspective on why you celebrate.

7.       Lastly, HAVE FUN! Most of the time, you will have the day off from work and school unless you work in a hospital or convenience store. Even then, focus on having fun! I have worked plenty a holiday in the hospital setting and we all knew that we would rather be at home with family, but instead of letting it get us down, I remember eating good food and enjoying the company of the other people who were there. If you are fortunate to have the day off, practice self care! After the kids receive their gifts, go sneak off and take a hot bath. Go grab a long run in.

 

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Be bright and find your happy, whatever that may look like to you! 

 

Do something that brings you a bit of happy and fun! Remember that you are in charge of how you feel, no one else. If you’re dreading seeing those certain family members or family friends, then recognize this and set boundaries—go ahead and mentally decide how you will handle a tense moment.  Even for the biggest Scrooge, the holiday season truly seems to pump a sort of magic in the air! Embrace the intangible magic of the season, be excited, and enjoy yourself— realizing that perfection is impossible and YOU ARE ENOUGH.

Tying it all together…

For many, holidays bring about a mixed bag of emotions. Dashed expectations, poor childhood memories, stress of making everything “just right” can certainly dampen the season. Practice these seven tips for surviving the holiday season and making it your own special day(s). As adults, we can recreate and turn around past negative holiday experiences, making the present holiday season a better experience for our kids, for ourselves, and for our spouses. Feel empowered and ready to take on this season.

 

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“I’m going to take on this holiday season with happiness and confidence!”

 

Wishing you and yours a truly magical and happy holiday season,

Rachel Ann Dine

 

www.humanitascounseling-consulting.com

Humanitas Counseling and Consulting, LLC

816 Greenbrier Circle, Suite 209

Chesapeake, VA

23320

757-739-6771

Seeking Humanitas: 19 ways to become the best version of yourself

Have you ever experienced the feeling of being stuck in life’s quicksand, feeling as if you’ve taken two steps forward and three back? While the experience can be discouraging, know that there are a few ways things you can begin to evaluate to make sure you’re not continuing to do the same thing over and over and expecting different results, which we know is ultimately the definition of insanity. The pattern of trying to change can become futile if we do not take an honest look inwards and evaluate ourselves.

 

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This guy is thinking, “I thought it would be different this time, but everything is the same…”

 

While in my counseling practice, I tend to stay away from life proverbs and instead, adhere to evidence-based practices, sometimes making life changes becomes easier when you acknowledge that there are common experiences, and just plain old down to earth life lessons that apply to all of human kind and will help create a more well-balanced life and increased life satisfaction when you implement them.

And that is why I have created this list of life lessons or life hacks, if you will, that encompass beliefs that I strongly adhere to and have seen to actually WORK in evoking positive change. Some of these beliefs and lessons are absolutely backed by empirical data and research, however, I wanted to create a relatable list for you, not a research article! : ) A list that you can internalize and leave feeling empowered after reading.

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Every person that I work with professionally and know on a personal level, brings valuable contributions to this world, although sometimes being able to realize the valuable contributions you bring can become muddled under depression, feelings of low self-worth, a break-up…or whatever other negative life experiences may have or are occurring.

So let’s get started…

1.       The common denominator in life and in all situations you are in, is you. No matter where you go, who you’re with, or what you’re doing, you are always the consistent person who is present. If you don’t like your current situation or relationship, guess who is the only person that can change it? You guessed it, you. Not anyone else because we have no control over anything or anyone else. Feel empowered knowing that in a world where at times, we feel we have little control, the one constant that always prevails is that you are able to be in control of YOU.

2.       Grow where you are planted. Life continues to move no matter where we are or what we are doing. If you can learn to be happy with wherever you are, then you have unlocked one of the greatest abilities to create life satisfaction. I think specifically of our great military population when writing this life lesson although it could be applied to anyone encountering a move or major life transition. The only way for you to grow where you are planted in your new community is to get out there, make an effort to find your place, and cultivate an environment where you feel supported and are able to actively engage in your interests. Just because you are in a new environment does not mean that life has to be put on hold. Remember who you are and actively seek out activities in your new environment that will help you continue to flourish and nourish the best parts of yourself.

 

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If a flower can survive in a concrete jungle, then so can you.

 

3.       Accept where you are in your life but never become complacent-always seek to actively make positive changes. So maybe you’re working in a dead-end job but have a dream of attending nursing school? Why not set aside a tiny bit of money from each paycheck to put towards school or obtaining a certification that you want? Accept that you’re not exactly where you want to be but NEVER lose sight of your end goal.

4.       Embrace both the good and the bad experiences you encounter in life. Perspective will make or break any situation you encounter and have to overcome. Ever heard the phrase it’s all in your head? Well it’s absolutely true. The way we view a situation that occurs in life will make or break how we handle it. Developing resiliency has been shown to be a contributing factor to life satisfaction and contentment. So if you’re constantly feeling victimized, it’s time to reframe your thinking and view yourself as a survivor, using those negative experiences to help you realize what you are able to overcome. Which brings me to my next life lesson…

5.       Use negative people to propel you forward. Be defiant (in a positive way) and empowered to strive towards reaching your goals even more. Let those naysayer’s negative energy empower you to achieve the goal you’re striving towards.

6.       Let go of all negative temptations, people, and things that are in your life and holding you back from becoming the best version of yourself. Watch how far you’re able to go when you no longer give these negative pitfalls room in your life.

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7.       Allow your life purpose to help define the decisions you make. Have a strong sense of who you are. Life purpose is incredibly important. What do you believe you are here on earth for? Are you a natural helper, an artist, an organizer, or a math wiz? Find out what you excel at and run with it!

8.       Set boundaries. People will take as much as you are willing to give, sometimes by no fault of their own, but because you are willing to give until you feel depleted. Develop a sense of self-awareness, the ability to check in with yourself and evaluate how you feel. If you’re constantly feeling run down and taken advantage of, it’s a pretty clear indication that you may not have proper boundaries in place. Learn to say no.

 

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Think of setting boundaries as a no trespassing sign on what you will not tolerate in your life.

 

9.       Give consideration to the past, whether it’s childhood experiences, bad relationships, etc., but realize that you do not have to be defined by those experiences. Enough said.

10.   People can change. But it takes vast amounts of time, energy, and most importantly, work. Example: if you’re in an abusive relationship and are staying because you are holding out for change, it’s time to take a step back and assess whether or not your partner is actively motivated to change. Are they attending counseling, classes, and accepting responsibility for their poor behavior? If not, it may be time to realize that change is not taking place. All behaviors can be unlearned, so even for yourself, consider what needs to happen for you to start making healthy changes

11.   Know your self-worth. What you accept in life is a direct reflection of how you feel about yourself. Allowing people to treat you badly only reinforces negative feelings about self, and gives the other person a pass on treating you poorly. When we believe that we are worthy of all that is wonderful, your tolerance on negative treatment will change. You will be able to see that “I AM deserving of better” and you will not allow for that negative treatment to continue. This is a process, but it can be done

12.   Learn to self-soothe and self-regulate emotions. You are in charge of how you feel, no one else, and nothing else is. Being able to find your center and calm yourself down without having to lean on anyone else or any substance (food, shopping, alcohol, drugs, etc.) is a freeing and empowering experience that will only exponentially increase feelings of self-efficacy and self-confidence.

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13.   Be independent and self-sufficient. Learn to stand on your own. Take care of yourself well, because when it’s all said and done, who else will?

14.   Be proud of yourself and your accomplishments, but in all times, remain humble. You may be a bona-fide genius but if you allow this to overtake you, it will alienate others. Accept compliments but continue to acknowledge that you’re human and not above anyone else. We all have wonderful contributions to give, and no one is better than the next—thinking that you are a cut above aids in narcissistic thinking and prevents real relationships to occur

15.   Expand your thinking. Let go of rigidity in your thinking. Nothing is black or white, there is a lot of grey. Research shows that individuals that are rigid in their thinking fair worse in life because often times, there is more than one answer to a question, more than one explanation for behavior, etc.

16.   Communicate your feelings and advocate for yourself. Speak up for how you feel, but learn to do so in a way that is thoughtful, calm, and rational. When we let our emotions overpower us, we can end up saying thing that are hurtful and “off the cuff”. Take a deep breath, wait for a period of time until you are calmer, and then use an approach that is thoughtful and caring to convey your feelings. Coercion elicits resistance so when someone feels backed up into a corner, they will push back. Remember this concept and use basic “I” statements to own how you feel. Not accusatory and hostile communication techniques that may intimidate.

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17.   Show empathy to others. Not sympathy necessarily, but empathy. Put yourself into another person’s shoes for a moment. Seek understanding before making judgments. We are all in this life together. You may have had more advantages in your life than the next person, but allow yourself to seek understanding on why that coworker is so angry, why your partner has difficulty in expressing their feelings, etc. Seek understanding of your fellow humans.

18.   Know thyself. Make a list of strengths and weaknesses you feel that you have. Embrace those strengths and accept the weaknesses while actively acknowledging them in day to day life and attempting to improve. Who are you? What defines you? What roles do you play in life? Discovering the answers to these questions allows you to develop better self-awareness and in return assists you in knowing thyself

19.   Lastly, create a life that you love. Create an existence where you feel empowered, fulfilled, and as if you are contributing to the greater good of both humanity and most importantly, yourself. In a grossly simplistic explanation, creating a life you love can be achieved by doing all of the above listed life lessons.

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Although this list is not exhaustive of self-help, use it as a starting ground for finding your happiness and checking in on yourself. If you are struggling and finding it difficult to deal with life and relationships, it may be time to reach out for help from a therapist.

One of my favorite parts of being a therapist is when I am able to witness the “AHA moments” or the experience of the lightbulb coming on that evokes clarity for a client. These moments, these life epiphanies, as I call them, occur in session when a client and I are able to connect the dots and make a life changing realization about relationships, behavior, drug use, whatever the case may be. Only then, does real understanding and change begin to occur.

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My hope is that by reading these life lessons, you are able to experience an aha moment as well, and develop an understanding of your own self that allows positive change to begin to take place. As cliché as it sounds, the evolution of self should always be occurring. Year after year, we change, we grow, we may slip back into old habits, but no matter what, you can always use these experiences to learn from and develop into the healthiest version of yourself—humanitas.

Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.

—Aristotle

Wishing you clarity, growth, and happiness in your everyday existence,

Rachel Ann