Around the holidays, emotions tend to run high. We’re happy to break bread with our loved ones, but after an hour, we’re looking for the vodka to stay sane. We’re excited about parties and presents, but we’re anxious about how much this is all going to cost us.
With stress levels high, and potentially skyrocketing, it’s easy to let little things get us upset. Moments that might have gone unnoticed before, are now all-out grounds for war. Here are some tips for eliminating some stress and regaining perspective.
Don’t go crazy about gifts: Ever year, a mob of shoppers looking for sales and discounts descend upon malls and department stores. If joining the madness brings you joy, by all means, dig in (and try not get trampled in a stampede). But if you’re like me and shopping gives you hives, consider avoiding these extravaganzas at all cost. In fact, spend less time and money on presents by starting a secret Santa arrangement (in which you buy only one person a gift), agreeing to buy only for the kids, setting a strict dollar limit, or having a cookie exchange instead. These will not only help your wallet, but also save you time in which would you would otherwise be walking around like an elf without its head.
But do give your time. Consider foregoing gifts all together in exchange for giving your time. Sure, I’d love to receive a cashmere sweater from my sister. But even more, I’d love to spend an uninterrupted day with her instead. Even if you do decide to celebrate a gift giving holiday, save some time to volunteer with your loved ones at a local shelter or with an organization that helps the less fortunate. Shifting the focus away from ourselves, and on to others, has tremendous power to show us how mostly petty our concerns really are and highlight what really matters.
Don’t take things personally. Believe it or not, people are human and they make mistakes. If your brother forgets to call you, don’t take it personally; he’s probably just busy. If your colleague didn’t email you back, don’t take it personally; she probably received 50 other emails that day. If your friend never texted you back, don’t take it personally; scroll through your own phone and count how many texts you haven’t responded to yet. As a rule – and during this hectic time especially – remember that it’s not always about you. Remembering these four magic words may unlock a life that is less stressful, more productive, and far more peaceful than you thought possible this year.
But do have personal moments. No matter what holiday you celebrate, there is external pressure – from friends, family, and Hallmark commercials – to celebrate with a lot of hoopla among lots of people. And while this communal experience can be valuable, there are those whose end up feeling even more alone among a group of people. This holiday, focus on having personal moments of togetherness in which you do nothing at all. Maybe this means buying a venti caramelmochafrappucinolatte at Starbucks and sipping it in silence with someone you love. Or maybe it’s taking a moment on your own to write cards while listening to a record that reminds you of home.
For opportunities to volunteer during the holidays: