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.

 

be bright
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

Anger Management: Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers all wrongs

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh tongue stirs up anger”.

–Proverbs 15:1

anger

How do you respond when you’re angry? What mentality overcomes you—the “turn the other cheek” philosophy or the “eye for an eye” mentality?

In situations where we experience anger, our reaction to the situation can often times be the deciding factor that either fans the flames or diffuses a situation.

When I worked in the inpatient psychiatric hospital setting, I taught a behavioral management course to incoming staff. Amongst many techniques, the technique that deescalated a situation almost every time was remaining calm in response to a heated situation. Remembering to keep your voice low in response to the angry person, body language relaxed, and eye contact continuous but not overbearing, were the key responses in bringing a person’s anger down to a reasonable and communicative level.

It is in our biological make-up to mirror the actions of another human being (i.e. mirror neurons in action!), especially when we like that other person. So by remaining calm and lowering our voices, it has the ability to cause the person that you may be in opposition with to instinctively lower their voice, and in turn, calm them down.

While you and the other person may not have a positive relationship, the key here is that one person’s reaction to the other has the ability to completely calm the other person down or oppositely, incite them. Next time you are in a heated situation, I encourage you to try this.

When we lash out at another person in response to their anger, it only adds the proverbial fuel to the fire. As in the Proverbs verse above, our response to a situation is very powerful. How we choose to conduct ourselves has great bearing on almost any situation that we are in.

Consider this scenario. Your child is misbehaving. They’ve torn the house apart and are not listening to you when you’re telling them to take a bath. You have two choices here. One, you can scream at them until the cows come home which will most likely result in tears and a spanking—and you losing your cool. Or you can take a deep breath, approach them calmly, offering choices and speaking quietly.

kid

A child’s response to the situation will become directly influenced by how you respond to them. While the first option I mentioned may be effective for the short term, it will most likely help your child develop a maladaptive set of behaviors and they will learn that “screaming gets stuff done”. The second option, although more time-consuming and requiring more patience, will inadvertently teach your child how to handle a tough situation. See the difference?

Second example. Your partner has just really angered you. They forgot to pick up milk and laundry detergent on the way home, are now totally engrossed in that “stupid video game” they like, and their dishes from breakfast are still sitting on the counter.

Once again, you have two choices. The first choice is to give into that disproportionate rage you may feel as a result of working all day, not getting enough sleep the night before, and feeling brain fried-lashing out at your partner and screaming “You can’t do anything right!! What a loser! You are so lazy!”. Or you can calmly make your way to where your partner is, sit down to ask them to clean up after themselves, and or ask them to go with you to the store to get the items that they forgot, turning the anger into a proactive response where you actually get to spend time with your partner reconnecting.

couple reconnecting

I’ve seen the first reaction play out time and time again with the couples I work with in therapy and I will tell you that after a time, the angry partner ends up causing the other partner to shut down. When the screaming starts, the other partner either leaves or slowly begins to detach from the relationship—losing the desire to make their angry partner happy.

Remember: You have no control over what the other person’s response will be to your calmness. But by you taking the responsibility of staying in control of your emotions and reacting calmly and assertively to a situation, it will diffuse your own anger and allow you to become more approachable in the long haul. Not to mention, your blood pressure will stay at a healthy level and after continuing to practice peaceful communication, it will become second nature to who you are!

Developing and cultivating a calm response to situations takes time, energy, and practice. For many people, it is not an intrinsic response. Perhaps you grew up in a household where you watched your parents yell, fight, and slam doors to prove a point. Perhaps over the years, the only way you felt heard was to yell. Either way, when we continually exhibit a negative set of behaviors, they will become engrained pieces of our personalities—humans are patterned creatures with a propensity to gravitate towards the familiar.

Being the best version of ourselves and making healthy choices in responding to anger calmly can be very difficult! Especially if you feel that your newer healthy responses are not as effective as your previous angry self.

Anger has the ability to corrode even the healthiest of relationships. Disproportionate anger especially. Taking out our own personal stress on the people that we are closest to and not giving them a pass for those simple shortcomings (forgetting to buy groceries, leaving the bed unmade, forgetting to take the trash out) are the quickest ways to alienate your partner or children.

The next time that you can feel the rage start to bubble up, take a deep breath and ask yourself, “Where is this coming from?” Seeking to understand yourself and what is causing you to react in a certain way is a powerful key in behavior change. I encourage people to use the Alcoholics Anonymous acronym HALT for a quick assessment on what’s going on. Are you Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and or Tired? If you answer yes to any of those questions, chances are you are not in a good place to begin with.

Attempt to alleviate the HALT issues that are occurring and then tackle your grievances—calmly.

Food for thought: if you have “lost your cool” today, remember that you are human and tomorrow is another opportunity to practice peaceful communication and anger management.

tomorrow

 

“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” –Proverbs 12:18

Encouraging you to practice calmness and peace in your interactions today and everyday,

Rachel Ann