“Happy Holidays!”

A commonly used phrase with a whole host of expectations attached. This time of year is full of nostalgia, joy, and peace, but for many, it is also a time of anxiety, stress, and a general feeling of overwhelm.

Take your already busy life. Then, throw in family expectations, travel, finances, gifts, get-togethers, celebrations, and a long list of “to-do’s”, and you’ve got a recipe to be disappointed that the holidays aren’t always “happy” or as perfect as you think they should be. On top of that, this time of year in general tends to be more difficult for those suffering from anxiety, depression, ADHD, mood disorders, and any other mental health issue. We still can’t get an accurate reason why, but this time of year is always tremendously hard with Evan. It then ripples and creates disruption for the rest of the family.

If you want to find “happy” this holiday season, try incorporating these sanity-saving tips:

#1 Remember to BREATHE

I know it sounds like common sense, but when we are stressed, we take shallow breaths. This deprives our brain of the oxygen it needs to think clearly. A deeply relaxed person breathes approximately seven times a minute, and three deep breaths can reset your entire nervous system. Any time you feel yourself getting stressed or overwhelmed, breathe deeply. When you are experiencing a really great moment, breathe. Take a moment to appreciate it and feel grateful.

#2 One Thing at a Time

When we’re under stress and have a lot to manage, it’s easy to think that multi-tasking will help us be more productive. I have found myself typing an email and getting distracted with the kids, homework, and dinner. Before I know it, I’m wrapping a present, miss sending the email, and feel more stressed as a result.

In reality, you are not able to give your full attention to any of things you are working on, and you’ll end up making careless errors and taking longer to complete them than if you had just done one thing at a time. In fact, multi-tasking drops both your efficiency and effectiveness by 30%. A University of London study found that multi-media tasking (switching between screens and devices) lowers your IQ more than twice the amount of smoking marijuana! Just say no 🙂

#3 Put Your Oxygen Mask On First

My mom is a flight attendant and makes awesomely hilarious announcements. My favorite being, “In case of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, please place your mask on first, and then assist your child. If you are traveling with more than one child, pick your favorite or the one with the most potential.” We clearly share the same sick sense of humor.

There is a reason you are told to put your mask on first before helping others. Unless you are rested and healthy, you cannot be an effective resource for others. As a woman, wife, mother, daughter, professional, etc., it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Trying to get all of your normal things done on top of gifts, cards, holiday parties, and other holiday stuff is enough to wear down the best of us.

Don’t let your need or desire to want to please others to come before caring for yourself. You are no good to anyone if you’re exhausted. If you don’t slow down, life has a funny way of doing it for you. I truly believe that is why I ended up with a tumor in my salivary gland. Your body can only withstand so much stress before it shuts down.

#4 Have Realistic Expectations

Expectations are the death of happiness. When we are angry, frustrated, or disappointed, it’s usually because our expectations and reality are out of alignment. Communicate your expectations to others, and have realistic expectations of yourself. Assume that people are doing the best they can. The holidays stress a lot of people out, and for good reason.

There are family dynamics that cause anxiety, rushing around to finish last minute tasks at work and home, kids out of school that need to be entertained, and financial pressure. Throw in a healthy dose of self-judgment for any goals or resolutions where you might have fallen short, and then we beat ourselves up because we didn’t live up to our own expectations. Congratulations! You’re human. Be nice to yourself, and give others the benefit of the doubt.

#5 The 3G Combo – Grateful, Giving, and Gracious

Give Back. Studies have quantitatively proven that doing for others benefits us emotionally and physically. Volunteer or find ways to give back to your community this time of year. It will make you happier and healthier.

Gratitude! Pay attention to the good moments and celebrate them. Tell people what you appreciate about them, keep a gratitude journal, and write thank you notes! In reality, you don’t even have to find anything to be grateful for. The simple act of looking releases serotonin and dopamine, the feel good neuro-chemincals in most anti-depressants.

Be Gracious. Being kind is the nicest gift you can give, and it doesn’t cost a thing. This means being kind to yourself as well.

Just remember, you are doing a kick-ass job. Take time to pat yourself and others on the back for all of the things that have been accomplished. Focus on the good moments, celebrate what’s most important, and be kind to yourself.

Thank you for being part of our community! From our family to yours, wishing you a “Full of Great Moments” holiday and a peaceful, healthy, and wonderful 2018!

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