Dr Bev Smallwood

Articles Library: Coping

De-Stress Your Holidays

‘Tis the season to be jolly. Or so the song goes. However, many of us are like 3-year-old Julie and her mom. The two of them had spent the entire morning in a very crowded mall. Even though the day had been very tiring, they proceeded to bake cookies when they got home, determined to fulfill every scheduled activity.

Christmas cheer, however, was not to be found in the measuring, mixing, and molding. In fact, Julie’s mom was grumbling under her breath all the while. Finally, Julie sighed and said, “Mommy, are we almost done making memories?”

Great intentions – spoiled with an attitude overcome by exhaustion. Has this ever happened to you? If so, heed these two do’s and two don’t to retain your jolliness (or at least your sanity) during this busy holiday season.

1. DON’T set yourself up for disappointment.

Here’s a secret. This will NOT be the holiday when all the gifts and the get-togethers will be perfect. Hold unrealistic expectations to the contrary, and you are guaranteed disappointed. The higher your expectations, the more difficult it is for reality to measure up.

The holiday season is real life, exaggerated. It’s a roller-coaster of joy and irritability, of wonderful surprises and painful disappointments, of peace on earth and war in the mall. Expect it, accept it, and you won’t be disappointed.

2. DON’T neglect yourself.

It’s tempting during the holidays to exercise less, eat more, drink more, relax less often, and sleep less. The result? Fatigue, self-condemnation, and irritability.

This is no time to neglect taking care of yourself. But it won’t happen unless you plan it and schedule it. Make actual appointments with yourself for relaxation, exercise, and sleep. Before each holiday party, make a plan for moderate eating and drinking and stick to it.

3. DO take time to honor missing persons.

When a loved one is missing from holiday events, you feel the loss even more acutely than at other times. Don’t try to ignore the obvious holes in family traditions when key players are not there.

Set aside a time in the holiday get-together to pause and reflect on the lost loved one’s life. Recall meaningful or funny experiences you shared together. Collectively cherish the person’s impact on you as individuals and as a group. Such a time of reflection may increase the pain momentarily, but will help to free you emotionally to make the most of the time you have with those loved ones you have with you during this special season.

4. DO stay focused on what is important.

Set aside personal quiet time each day to experience your faith and to stay in touch with the true meaning of the holiday. Let that insight guide your actions throughout this month and year-round.

Involve your family in activities focused on giving from the heart. For instance, through the Red Cross, I adopted a family whose home had been burned. I requested that the family have children close to the ages of my grandchildren. My precious little ones still talk about the experience of shopping for the adopted family and then delivering the presents to the children who had lost everything.

How can you involve your family in reaching out? After all, shouldn’t the spirit of the season be giving rather than “gimme?”

Dr. Bev Smallwood is a psychologist and professional speaker who is the author of “This Wasn’t Supposed to Happen to Me.” Visit her website, www.DrBevSmallwood.com; or contact Bev at 601.264.0890 or by email, Bev@DrBevSmallwood.com. Also connect with Bev on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and her blogs, Shrink Rap and New Morning Devotionals.

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