There’s a lot to do around the holiday season: things to get, people to interact with, places to go. But feeling stressed isn’t a product of all of these tasks and interactions. It’s a product of the meaning you give to it. When we perceive events (or tasks or people) as overwhelming, we start to feel like it’s just too much to handle. We may even question if we can indeed, cope. This creates stress.
If you cannot remove the source of your holiday stress, try changing the way you think about it. This doesn’t necessarily mean trying to convince yourself that fighting the crowds at the mall might actually be fun this year, or that Uncle Harry really isn’t that awful to be around. The fact is we usually don’t fall for tricks like this. We experience certain things as unpleasant and trying to convince ourselves they aren’t is a hard sell. Instead, for a quick de-stress, try to embrace the moment as it is, right now. After all, the moment is already here. Why not accept that it is?
So here’s what to do. When you notice those overwhelming feelings or anxious thoughts arising, simply say to yourself: “This is how it is (right now in this moment).” The store sold out of what you came for (this is how it is right now). There’s a ton of traffic and you’re running late (this is how it is right now). The kids are throwing a tantrum in the middle of the mall (this is how it is right now). Your sibling just ignored you when you arrived for dinner (this is how it is right now).
Telling yourself, “this is how it is,” can neutralize the moment by helping you experience the situation more matter-of-fact. It can release you of the urge to change things that are outside of your control or have already passed. For an added boost, you can add the phrase: “. . .and I can be okay with that” or “. . . and I can cope with that.” Together, these two little phrases (this is how it is right now and I can be okay with that) create a big impact on the way you perceive a situation – as less emotionally charged and more manageable. So embrace this holiday season, moment by moment, for better or worse. You’ll be less stressed for it.
About the Author
Erica Curtis is a licensed marriage and family therapist and board certified art therapist. She has a private practice in Santa Monica and teaches in the Loyola Marymount University department of Marital and Family Therapy and at UCLArts and Healing. She has lectured at USC, UCLA, UCSD, and for Kaiser Permanente and has been used as an expert source for articles appearing in USA Today, Boston Globe, PBS, Life Hacker, EHow Family, Women’s World Magazine and Cosmo, to name a few. Erica also consulted for a documentary by the BBC and appears as a parenting expert on KidsInTheHouse.com. You can learn more about Erica at www.TherapyWithErica.com.