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Seven ways to reduce stress this season

By Staff | Dec 10, 2010

There’s the expectation that the holidays are carefree and full of joy.

If that is your experience, you are free to go.

For the rest of us the holidays are often hectic with more to do than could possibly be done. Add to that the prospect of spending time with certain family members and the stress level really climbs. You could move to a cave in a remote location or shut yourself in the house until Jan. 2.

If that’s not possible, then here are seven ways to reduce stress and find joy in the holidays.

1. Give up the idea that you will do anything, much less everything, perfectly. Those bows don’t have to look like Martha Stewart wrapped your gifts.

2. Do you really want to go that BYOC (Bring Your Own Cookies) tea at your neighbors, whom you don’t really like? Politely say no, then spend that time doing something with your family – like making those bows.

3. Carve out some time for yourself. I don’t mean time to write 10 more Christmas cards or to put those little candies on the sugar cookies. Take some time each day – start with 10 minutes and see if you can stretch it to 30 – to just be with yourself. Fix a cup of tea and find a cozy spot to just sit and stare into space. Put off any guilt feelings until the 10 minutes are up, then you can go back to beating yourself up because your bows don’t look like Martha Stewart made them.

4. Okay, this may seem like a stretch, but give yourself permission to cut back on everything (or at least a few things). For example, scale down the Christmas card list from 500 to seven. How about 20? 30? Those cousins who only come out of the woodwork during the holidays will be just fine if you don’t give them a present or a big plate of cookies. Be honest with yourself and others about what you really want to do. Trust me, the world will not come to an end.

5. Let this be the year that your family pitches in and helps with all the work involved in making this the most joyous time of the year. Believe it or not, kids (and spouses) can clean the living room, do laundry and bake cookies. Notice if you’re shaking your head saying, “Oh, no, I remember the last time I trusted (fill in the blank) to (fill in the blank). It was disastrous.” This is a good time to re-read No. 1.

6. Now, for those “certain family members.” You could not invite them. Seriously! If that seems too drastic, tell yourself, “It’s only for a few hours,” unless, of course, they’re staying with you for a week. No matter how long they will be with you, decide what you can and cannot change. You can’t change Uncle Bob’s political views, no matter how 1950s they are. You can, however, change how you respond to his assertion that women should be barefoot and pregnant. Try using humor. If that doesn’t work, slip him a mickey and keep reminding yourself that he’ll soon be going home and you won’t have to see him for another year.

7. Remember what brings you joy and serenity during this time of year. If it’s spending time with your family, then let go of outside distractions and do just that. If it’s listening to Christmas music and watching sappy Christmas movies, then do that – while making those bows, of course. If it’s celebrating Hanukkah or the birth of Christ, make devotion a daily part of your holiday. This does not replace No. 3. Those few minutes are just for you to do nothing. If doing nothing is what brings you joy and serenity, then add at least 20 minutes to your down time to cover No. 7.

If none of this appeals to you, then head to that cave and come back out on Jan. 2, just in time to send Uncle Bob packing, take down the tree and throw out the stale cookies.

– Joan Brooks is a Certified Rubenfeld Synergist and president of the International Association of Rubenfeld Synergists, guiding clients through difficult times in their lives: past limiting beliefs and behaviors, past habit to choice and back home to their bodies, where they can fully access all they truly are.