Dr. Steve gives us some tips on how to chill during the holiday rush – without taking drugs!
The holiday season is a stressful time for most of us. Whether you are Christian or not, we are all affected by the increased pressure to have fun, put on a bright smile and be politically correct – “Happy Holiday Season.” For people who celebrate (or at least buy presents) there is the increased noradrenaline and cortisol rush as we try to find the time to make a list, schedule in shopping, and not get in an accident while rushing from store to store.
If you have a partner there is the inevitable negotiation as to who will buy what and when. I am one of those guys that leaves shopping to the last minute, and that is fine with me but not so much for my partner. I can go shopping on Christmas Eve and get everything done in two to three hours and feel good about it. Do I get the perfect gift – probably not, but hey, I got a gift and I have the process down to an art so I don’t get stressed about it. What’s the secret – faith brothers and sisters – faith. It all works out if you let it.
“Yea of little faith” may benefit from a few tips to survive the Christmas season and still stay in the good books of your partner. In a nod to the Twelve Days of Christmas here are the 12 Tips that should make the process go smoother.
Tip 1: Get over it
Sometimes, allowing ourselves to have fun when we are irritable over the whole gong show of Christmas craziness is just galling. It seems like a personal affront and we begin to relate all too much with Scrooge – bah, humbug!
If you are heading in this direction it is time to GET OVER YOURSELF. Christmas isn’t for you. Well, it is, but only when you make it about others. Christmas is for all the children and the child within you. If there are no children in your life take care of the child within your wife, your friends, and your relatives. Take care of the child within the little old lady crossing the street – smile, talk in a kind voice and offer your arm. In this way, the spirit of Christmas will infuse your waking moments with kindness and grace.
Tip 2: Attitude – get into the spirit
Attitude is everything as the saying goes. It’s Christmas time for God’s sake. Lighten up. I know you may have traumatic associations with terrible experiences around Christmas. Many of us have them. Welcome to the club. You have many friends. However, instead of perpetuating those terrible associations, stand up and reclaim your lost heritage of the Christmas spirit of good will to all men and women.
It’s all in your mind anyways, so change the thoughts that are running amok in there and tell yourself I am going to have a good time this year no matter what happens. This will be the best gift you could ever give yourself.
Tip 3: Acknowledge
Acknowledge that this is the holiday season, whether it fits your idea of how it should be celebrated or not. I know, it has become too commercialized, it has become a crazy rush to spend and demonstrate how much we care for our loved ones by the amount and value of the gifts we buy for them.
Acknowledge that there will be line-ups and plan accordingly. Bring along something to read, chat up the people in line with you, spread a little cheer, and enjoy the craziness all around you.
Acknowledge that traffic will be insane and then make some choices like using public transit, walking, or biking (a bit rough to carry presents unless they are small).
Acknowledge that you are busy and to stay level-headed you will need to think, at least a little, about not going crazy. Your awareness of the Christmas reality will help you to be proactive and not be a victim.
Tip 4: Meditate
One way of assisting your goal of staying conscious is by meditating. Taking time during the holiday season to stop, sit, and meditate demonstrates that you are in control of your environment and to some extent your experience. You are taking the time to stop the kaleidoscope of desires, images and feelings through a proactive process of meditation.
Even five minutes will help you get through this time. Meditating multiple times may be necessary as the day approaches. Do it whenever you feel your heart rate rising or sweat pouring down your face or anger rising.
Tip 5: Breathe
If you can’t meditate in line waiting for the cashier you can at least breathe. When we get angry or anxious our breathing pattern changes and we get into a cycle of negative bodily sensations, thoughts and feelings. Stop, let out all your breath, and take in a long slow breath. Hold, and then let out slowly. Repeat until you feel your body relax and your mind clear.
It is the easiest thing in the world to do but it takes a conscious act of will to remind ourselves that we can change our state with this simple technique. You can do it anytime and anyplace. No one will think you are weird – you are just breathing.
Tip 6: Communicate
Communication with your partner is essential throughout the year and even more so, if that’s possible, during the holiday season. The little things do matter. This season, my wife wrote up the cards and I took them to the post office. Simple, efficient, and no hassle for either one of us. We discuss what the other person might like, check in to see if presents for relatives have been taken care of and decide together where we are going and who we will visit over the holidays.
Tip 7: Plan
Not my strongest suit around Christmas but I can always hope. My wife is great at this. She starts getting the cards ready weeks before the mailing deadline, thinks about what to buy and for whom; then buys, wraps and mails out everyone in an efficient and seemly relaxed manner. She is my guru in this area.
I think it is a matter of priorities. My priority is everything else until the last minute and then Christmas shopping leaps up on my to-do list. I know everything will work out so there is not much pressure to change.
If on the other hand, you feel anxious or worried about this, give shopping and the other activities of Christmas a higher priority. Heck, schedule it in. That always works for me. If I don’t write it down, it doesn’t exist.
Tip 8: Take direction
If you are a guy that has troubles at Christmas, you can lessen your stress by accepting help from your partner and the kids. They will tell you what they want. If they haven’t, ask. Then they will definitely tell you. Of course you will have to slow down enough to listen, work out what and when to do the suggestions and keep yourself in a good mood all at the same time. But hey, you are a big boy and have survived much more challenging things – you can do it if you want.
Tip 9: Buy early and, if not, enjoy the rush
Ah, that kind of says it all for tip 9. People who buy early have a lot less stress in my experience. For those of us that wait to the last minute, let’s stop complaining and take responsibility for our actions. If we insist on last minute shopping, do it from a warrior’s perspective. No regrets, today is a good day to die.
Tip 10: Ask what people want and write it down
There is nothing worse than having one hour left before the stores close and you are trying to remember what it was your wife, brother or nephew said they wanted for Christmas. Very stressful. Instead, just enter it into your smartphone. You always have it with you so no problems with leaving it behind like a physical note pad or piece of paper.
Tip 11: Make your own cards and gifts.
The value of this tip became apparent when my wife asked me to help create Christmas cards using some beautiful ragged paper she had and by cutting up old cards and gluing them on the paper. My job, though small, was to find the glue and unplug the nozzle (a task that required some elbow grease and mucho amounts of ingenuity. Hint: use a screw).
I actually had fun and being part of the creative process was satisfying beyond my expectations. The added benefit was spending time with my partner and feeling part of the gift-making process. I know my part was miniscule, but the effect was large.
Tip 12: Drive around and look at the lights.
I am always amazed at how people can decorate their houses. Sure, it’s a little crazy sometimes. The record this year is 601,736 lightbulbs by Timothy Gay in the USA. Christmas lights are a bit like fireworks. They sparkle the imagination and bring delight to young and old alike. Live a little and take someone for a ride around town and drink in the colors of Christmas.
Finally, don’t expect yourself to do all of these suggestions. Pick a couple that seem right for you and have fun implementing them. If you do, you and your partner will have a very MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!
Photo: Flickr/Visit Flanders/Christmas Atmosphere