The holidays are here! In our house holidays come with a mix of excitement and hesitation. Holidays are full of beautiful memories and special events, but they can also lead to stress. As a Thrive Ambassador for Kaiser Permanente Orange County I was able to speak with Dr. Michael D. Hanna about stress management during the holidays. As always, I hope these tips are helpful for you but please speak with your doctor with any questions!
As a behavioral health specialist, Dr. Hanna shared some of the tips he passes on to those who take his “Stress & Emotional Health Management” class which is offered at Kaiser Permanente Orange County. As most readers know, it is Kaiser Permanente’s philosophy to thrive through preventative treatments before problems arise. Here are some awesome tips we plan on implementing in our family, but Dr. Hanna does suggest reaching out to your doctor if stress becomes unmanageable.
Did you know there is good stress and bad stress? One way to manage stress is to first know it is not all bad! Negative stress or ‘distress’ deals with difficulties like illnesses, job loss, money problems, and the like. Eustress is actually the term for positive stress. Eustress includes stressful times with positive goals at the end. Weddings, pregnancies, moving to a new home, and holiday planning can all fall under eustress. Noting that Holiday stress is in many cases considered positive stress helps me as I look through these tips!
Managing our expectations is the first step to getting the holidays off right. Most of us reading would agree that what we really value is our relationships. Managing our expectations and knowing our stress triggers can help us communicate what it is important and build lovely memories with our friends and family. The three biggest triggers to derailing a picture perfect holiday likely come at no surprise. More interaction with family can be stressful, sticking within a budget can be difficult, extra activities can drain us physically, and all those triggers can add up to losing our cool.
Below are 10 helpful tips from Dr. Hanna for managing Holiday Stress and enjoying the Season…..
- Acknowledge Your Feelings – Make your feelings known to a safe person. While we all know there are family members we disagree with too much, there are also friends and family that can help us validate our feelings. Speaking up in a safe and appropriate place can help you keep the peace. Bottling up your feelings can lead to an awkward disaster!
- Reach Out – Giving back in the community and the world is really what the holidays are all about. Thinking outside of ourselves helps us remember the big picture. Our family likes to pack Operation Christmas Child Boxes each year, but there are many other ways to give back too. I would love for you to leave your favorite charity in the comment section below!
- Be Realistic – Holidays do NOT need to be perfect! New situations come in and you will have to adjust. Keep in mind that our kids are always watching us (is it only me that has a problem with this?). How we navigate the holidays and bumps in the road will be mimicked. Try to be realistic and take bumps in stride and kids will often follow.
- Set aside Differences – Anyone else not closely aligned politically with their family or is it just me? At the end of the day we are all different, and just because we are family doesn’t mean we are on the same page about…. anything. Lowering your expectations for others and keeping conversations a bit more superficial can be the key to peace in some situations. Be the bigger person and hopefully others will follow. Set appropriate boundaries and let things go in the name of peace
- Stick to a Budget – Everyone groans at this one, but it is so true! Having a cap on spending will really help. Our family often draws names so each adult buys just one gift for one other adult. Handmade gifts have saved the day for our family for so many years! Talk about what is a comfortable amount to spend, stick to it, and you won’t have regrets in January.
- Plan Ahead – As Dr. Hanna mentioned before, one trigger for holiday stress is physical demands. Often times the difference between a meltdown at that after hours event and no melt down is just a nap beforehand. We try to make sure our kids have snacks and are well rested before a late night.
- Learn to Say “No.” – This is so hard for me! Saying “No” needs to happen sometimes. You don’t want to resent the person that asked for help or the project during or afterwards. It is really best to know your limits and not stretch in too many directions.
- Leave a Little Early – People often feel like they need to stay for the entire event, but you don’t need to! If things get too rowdy or it is simply too late for your kids feel the freedom to leave early. We have to remember this when we are at media events, our kids just get tired too quickly and things aren’t fun when you are overtired.
- Don’t Abandon Healthy Habits – Moderation is key. Don’t completely deny yourself, but don’t throw all your healthy habits to the wind either. It is not uncommon for people to gain five pounds during the holiday season, once again, make choices you won’t regret when January rolls around.
- Take a Breather – Packing too much onto your ‘to do’ list during the holidays can lead to major stress and missing the whole point. Even a small amount of down time can help you reset to remember what is important. Dr. Hanna suggests going for a walk or taking in a matinee. Set aside time to relax and reflect during the holidays and you are more likely to enjoy the season.
Some things to keep in mind for yourself and your loved ones. Holidays can trigger depression. Memories of years past can remind us of loved ones that have passed, relationships that are no longer, illnesses and other things we faced on those anniversaries. Be aware of this for yourself and those that you love. Some need extra emotional support and or therapy. The busyness of the holiday season often leads to folks forgetting medical and mental health appointments, sometimes when they are needed the most. Dr. Hanna reminds us all that it is always good to reach out when you feel overwhelmed.
And lastly Dr. Michael Hanna shares that the power of positive psychology can go a long way. He suggests doing your best at focusing on what works well. In terms of the holiday season, we should focus on what we are looking forward to and what will create happy memories for our future. Express gratitude, commit to personal goals, encourage others, learn to forgive, take care of your bodies, and above all else, be kind.
“The How of Happiness” by Sonja Lyubomirsky was highly recommended by Dr. Hanna and I have added it to my personal reading list. I have added it to our Amazon list (affiliate) if you are interested as well. It is Prime eligible!
I want to wish every single one of my readers a very happy holiday season! Our family is very much looking forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas. I am not going to lie, the last several years have been stressful, but I am personally taking this post to heart! We hope you and yours delight in the holidays you hold dear as well. In the spirit of good will, I would love for you to share your favorite charity in the comment section below. Leave the name of the charity, a bit about why it has captured your heart, and a link if you have it. Our family promises to donate something to as many as we can, and I would like to encourage readers to consider the same. Thank you so much again to Dr. Hanna for encouraging us today with tips for reducing stress during the holidays!