It's that time of year again! Wait, actually it's not quite here yet. Despite the fact that all the department stores are playing Christmas music and hawking Christmas wares. Regardless of the homes in the suburban sprawl already kicking off the Christmas lights competitions,
and the not-so-cute little doggy and kitty sweaters flying of the shelves...
it's not here yet! I mean, come on! Advent doesn't start until December 1st and Hanukkah is still over two weeks off! (It doesn't start until November 27th!). So you would think that all of this early preparation indicates a huge level of enthusiasm. NOT necessarily. The "holidays" seem to be beginning earlier and earlier. I'm certain the stores love this, but for many, the onset of the holidays can be a harbinger of stressful times!
I figure now would be a great time for us to head off potential holiday stress. For many people, the holidays are a fun, exciting, and happy time. A time filled with joyous gatherings with family and friends, parties, and all manor of celebrations. But for others, it is a time of sadness, stress, disappointment, over eating, and hangovers. One of the reasons this happens is because we often enter the holidays with very unrealistic expectations of the way the holidays will be. This brings us to:
Thinking error #7: Super Idealistic! You hold romanticized pictures of reality. You have beautiful but unrealistic expectations for yourself, for parents, for marriage, children, love, a profession, your workplace. Naturally, nothing in the real world measures up to this kind of thinking!
As we begin this discussion, it's important to point out that some people who experience depression, anxiety, and excessive feelings of loneliness and isolation during the holidays may actually be suffering from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Symptoms of this disorder typically coincide with the decreased number of daylight hours during the winter months. If this is the case, I always encourage you to talk with a professional about it! (In person!) In the meantime, making a point to increase your exposure to bright fluorescent light often helps more than you might imagine.
But all the pressure that we put on ourselves during the holidays can bring about a significant amount of stress! We expect ourselves to function at an incredibly high level, usually on less sleep, while decorating for the holidays, attending parties, planning meals and celebrations with families, friends, and coworkers, and shopping, shopping, shopping! During all of this, we expect our parents to be supportive, our spouse to be understanding and nurturing, our children to behave perfectly and appreciatively (ha!), and our coworkers to be accommodating! The only problem is, they're all dealing with the same holiday stressors that we are!
So what do we do? With the help of the excellently awesome Albert Ellis Institute, I give you these 10 great "Happiness-Producing Rational Beliefs!"
"Happiness-Producing Rational Beliefs!"
1. Don't blame others for not making you happy! Take responsibility for making yourself happy this holiday season! And do things that you think others will be happy about, because it's always more fun to be around people when they are happy!
2. Give yourself permission to make yourself happy… Even if when you do so, others make themselves unhappy!
3. Make time for yourself to do things which bring you pleasure and enjoyment in the short-term.
4. Do some things for others and your community without expecting anything back in return. Remember, it feels good to do good! And you deserve to feel good this holiday season!
5. Sacrifice short-term pleasures and put up with short-term discomfort in order to achieve longer-term gains. Call a truce with that family member or friend with whom you've been having a conflict. You'll be amazed at how much more enjoyable and how much less stressful your holiday gatherings will be!
6. Accept the fallibility of others and yourself! You will make mistakes, you'll do things that are absolutely silly, maybe even make a fool of yourself! But instead of saying then "I'm awful", "I'm terrible" or "I'm worthless", say instead "I make mistakes, but I'm still pretty darn ok." And make a point to apply that same rational thinking when others behave in ways you don't like!
7. Don't take things personally this holiday season! It's possible that the person who is grumpy at the holiday gathering you're hosting has actually had some really stressful times lately! (Or could be suffering from SAD! But they also just might be a jerk! And if that's the case, why would you expect their behavior to be any different!?! Just remember that their words and behavior do not determine your being!)
8. Take a chance and try something this holiday season that you've always wanted to try, even though you might fail.
9. Remember that what people think about you doesn't really matter so much as you might think!
10. Give yourself the gift of a lower stress holiday season! One where you will appreciate your own value this year. I certainly value you!
If you have any questions about dealing with holiday stress and challenges, feel free to post the question and I'll respond!