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Stress Management During the Holidays

November 13, 2014

The most common questions I get asked during the holidays are “How do you stay so calm and relaxed? Don’t you feel the stress?” It is usually followed by the question, “How do I cope with the stress of the holidays?” There is no real secret. I live by knowing what I wish to experience in most of my life. It is in that knowing that I stay within my comfort and calm. Let me lead with an example: I do not enjoy shopping but I do enjoy buying gifts! So, I sit quietly with a glass of wine or hot tea and relax on my dock and create a list. It is never a complete exhaustive list but it is always inclusive of the key people in my life. Then I thoroughly enjoy thinking of a special gift. Once I have comfortable come to a completion of developing the list, I stop. I may stop before I have a gift listed for everyone and for me that is ok! I know for whom I am still thinking about gifts. I keep my eyes open throughout the days until something goes “Yea! That’s it!” I then add that idea to the list. I enjoy this process!! It’s fun for me!! I may also add people to my list as I go forward.

 

I remember when I was married. My husband was a Grinch when it came to shopping for the holidays until one day I said, “Follow me. We are going to go to Capital Grill in the mall and have a drink and strategize this event. It will be fun, I promise.” He agreed!! We sat and had some hors d’oeuvres at the bar and created a list of everyone for whom we had to buy. We then added the gift or store from which we wanted to purchase. We then ordered the shops by virtue of where they were in the mall. I made a reservation for dinner at Capital Grill for 1.5 hours later. The challenge was to get all the shopping done and get back to the restaurant before the reservation! He thought I was crazy until we had a ball together! We did the same routine every year and every year we enjoyed the experience together!

 

So, I was asked to speak to a business group regarding Stress and the Holidays so I handed out cards with 3 questions what are the top 3 stressors for you during the holidays, what are your coping mechanisms for stress, and what is your number one question regarding stress. The answers are the basis to this blog article. I hope this is helpful to you all!! Happy Holidays!

 

YOUR TOP STRESSORS

  • Gift Shopping
  • Matching gift to recipient
  • Budget for gifts and events; Not enough money
  • Traffic on Main Avenues
  • Lines
  • Crowds
  • Time restrictions
  • Juggling numerous activities simultaneously
  • Events and Conflicting events
  • Guests
  • Family
  • Travel
  • Immediate demands
  • Too much to do
  • Being around stressed people
  • Guilt around gifts and the need for reciprocity
  • End-of-year work
 

As you read this list you can see there are numerous “things” that influence stress in peoples’ lives. As I mentioned in the talk, stress only occurs where there are expectations. So, let’s look at the stressors and see the patterns of expectations that weave through them.

 

The shopping for and matching and buying of gifts are often stressors due to the buyer’s need to meet the expectations of the recipient so that they are pleased. You forget that YOU are the greatest gift! What kinds of gifts can you give that are simply of you. The need to spend on gifts suggests that the gift of YOU is not valued the same. The shopping and time can of course feel like a part of the too much to do! Again, you are feeling stress from the expectations of getting “it” all done. What would you like to do? Guilt that may be felt around having to buy gifts for those who bought you gifts is pure expectation and fear of judgment! It is okay to simply receive!!! In order for giving to be complete you simply have to receive. You obviously give of YOURSELF in some way to the person who bought you a gift. Allow your Self to be the gift they received! Thanks and gratitude are generally ALL the giver needs to feel complete. If a charity felt they had to give a gift to everyone who gifted them where would they be? It is not necessary to give a gift to everyone who gives a gift to you!

 

The traffic, crowds, travel, and lines can all have a crossover with the juggling numerous activities at once and time restrictions. You are only restricted by time when you are doing more than you are wishing to do or are able to do. You are only doing too much because you think you “should” (expectations). What are you able to do and what would you wish to do to prepare for a holiday celebration? What kind of holiday celebration would you like to experience? Allow your Self to define the holidays as you would like to experience them. Given that experience and your preferences, accept your money and work schedule. Another aspect of these stressors is to find a way to enjoy the crowds and lines. Make it a personal challenge to spread smiles! Leave yourself enough time to accept the lines and crowds. Or shop in a way that does not require you to deal with traffic, crowds, and lines. Once you have put these small tasks into motion, see how you can begin to build a more relaxed enjoyable holiday experience. A final note about being around others: being around stressed people can increase your stress. Stress or anxiety is contagious. You can feel it from others. Again this is why it is critical to know the experience YOU wish to have. Others’ experiences, then, are less likely to be of influence.

 

The events that occur during the holidays are intended to be for celebration and gratitude for the relationships shared. Yet, for many, the events become expectations and then when they are in conflict with other events or there are just too many, people can feel stress from not being able to go to all events “as expected”. This is counter to the intent of most events. There is always someone somewhere who is going to have to say no. Why can’t that be you? It is inside you that YOU come up with the reasons why you cannot say no. Yet, when you are struggling to NOT say no, ask yourself if you would say no in a situation where there was a necessity (illness, travel, etc.). If you would, then you can say no simply because it is necessary for YOU to say no! Learn to listen to your Self. Honor your Self first and then honor the invitations! Learn to stop responding to the expectations of others. If you are struggling with the abiity to say “No” then more than likely you are feeling the pressure of too much to do!

 

Then there are the guests and family that we have to entertain or by whom be entertained! I think if you were to sit quietly in your thoughts, you would be able to define the expectations of these others and see how you are trying to meet the demands and expectations of the many instead of staying within your own experience and self. If you cannot get to every family member’s homes then you cannot. If they cannot all get to yours, then they cannot. And what about the way family sees family? The dynamics of family can be conflictual because of perceptions. Growing up together everyone has very different views of themselves and each other.

 

HOW YOU COPE

  • Disconnecting
  • Reading
  • Relaxing
  • Massage
  • Vacation
  • Meditation
  • Breathing Deeply
  • Art
  • Napping, Sleeping
  • Reading religious text
  • Exercising
  • Walking; walks on beach
  • Movies
  • Time with friends
  • Smiling
  • Have fun
  • Yoga
  • Doing
  • Alcohol
  • Overeating
 

All of the coping strategies up until number 18 are valid. If you are not using them, you may want to explore the use of several of them. Anyhting you may do in a ceremonial or ritualistic way can be healing and releasing of stress.

 

I want to address the use of “doing” in reaction to stress separately. The act of “doing” so that you can avoid the stress, keeps the stress and it’s destructive impact alive in the background. Think about it, to avoid something you must know where it is in order to stay away from it. Consequently, if you are staying active in order to avoid stress you must know what and where the stress is to keep it at bay. If, however, you are “doing” in order to keep moving through a “to do” list, then you are coping!! Mostly because putting something off, or procrastinating, can increase the stress as you get anticipate it coming due. How are you using activity or “doing”? If it is in the former way, you may want to stop and relax, meditate, journal, or breathe!! If it is the former, good for you!!

 

Let’s look at alcohol, drugs, and food. They are all stressors in our lives unless used in moderation and without connection to emotion. Once any of these are connected to our emotions, in particular, avoiding or masking them, they become significant stressors and can become habitual and, consequently, destructive. When I talk of drugs, I include prescriptions. During the holidays it becomes particularly easy to use substances to avoid the emotional and physical stress. Unfortunately, however, we are a people of dependent style. We tend to be externally focused. These characteristics lend to the use of substance to calm us, heal us, and take care of us. The truth is, it doesn’t work. Substance, whether, alcohol, drugs, or food, do not calm, heal, or take care of us at a time of stress, anxiety, or fear. When we use them to do so, we are further increasing the physical stressors and, at times, the chemical and emotional stressors which is further destroying ourselves. If you find yourself using any of the three during stressful times, do not judge yourself or label yourself. I would, however, recommend you speak to someone who can help you sort through the stress and the need for care. You need a person and your Self at those times not substance.

 

YOUR QUESTIONS ABOUT STRESS

1. How to handle stress during visits
2. What is an effective way to remove stress
3. How to avoid it
4. How to avoid getting sick from stress
 

In order to cope with stress you must know your stressors and the expectations associated with them. Once you are aware of that you can begin the process of developing the experience you wish to have in various situations. Knowing the experience you wish to have in any situation in life allows you a great opening to see the expectations of others and how you were and are trying to meet them. Being able to live beyond expectations removes a HUGE percentage of stress. It allows you to begin to live in absence of stress. What I mean by that is we may have stress approach you but you are so aware of the experience you wish to have that you address and move beyond the stressor immediately. You are no longer avoiding or skirting the stressor but knowing what you wish to do allows you to eliminate it – gracefully.

 

I am very often asked why we would want to live without stress. Some think it motivates them, some think it protects them, and some think it is serves them in other ways. The truth is that stress does not need to exist – at all. Our lives have become so “demanding” that we have introduced stress into it and have then glamourized it. We have huge profitability in “Stress Management” programs. So, it is imperative that we have stress so that we can be taught how to manage it! To some of my Executive officers with whom I work, they say “At work stress is good because it is fun and part of the relationships!” Ugh! There is, ultimately, no need for stress. At the beginning, we made need some stress to keep us alert to danger, but only at the beginning. Once we are living in absence of fear, we have no use for stress or stressors.

 

Never do you want to avoid! Certainly you do not want to avoid stress because the very act of “trying” to avoid stress creates stress!! Aaah! Please do not try to avoid stress! Allow your Self to stay aware of what stresses you and then ask yourself what the expectations are that define it. Then you can ask how to move beyond those expectations if it isn’t already clear.

 
 

We get sick from stress because it weakens the immune system. If you eliminate or mitigate stress, obviously you eliminate illness from it. From the beginning, with the indigenous people around the world, it was known that “stress” (imbalance) causes illness and injury. In order to truly eliminate illness due to stress, you must eliminate stress. If, however, you are feeling stressed and don’t want to get sick, I recommend you use a Germ Bullet to ward off most illnesses that are able to attack you during a weakened immune response to stress. For more information on the Germ Bullet, please go to nsaroma.com or call 561.393.0065.

 

The bottom line is this: in order to live without the impact of stress you must eliminate it. There are many ways to “manage” the stress you have and that is wonderful as the first step. Once you are managing your stress, you need to eliminate it. Or, for some of you who are achievement oriented, you can go directly to eliminating your stress!

 

I thank you all for the opportunity! May your days be free, fun, and without expectations!

 

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Kristen Bomas, PA
398 Camino Gardens Blvd., Suite 104
Boca Raton, Fl 33432

561.212.7575
KB@KristenBomas.com

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