‘Tis the Season: Tips for Stressing Less & Bonding More During the Holidays

Is your “to-do” list a mile long? We work hard to make the holidays meaningful for our families and communities – and may get stressed or overwhelmed in the joyful process! Have you noticed when your stress level is up, your children are affected too? It’s what I call the “trickle down theory of stress.” It’s contagious! Thankfully, there are things we can do to simplify, keep cool, and make this a great holiday season. I’ve asked several of my colleagues here at the Institute to share some of their favorite tips and holiday stress-relieving practices in addition to my own. Savor these!

    1. “First, put on your own oxygen mask; then help others.” This airline industry advice is a great metaphor! The best way to help our children manage stress is to be a calm, grounded presence. Make time for some of your favorite stress-relieving activities – even if you think you don’t have time. As therapist Erin Kelly says, it can be as simple walking out the front door. “I enjoy getting outside. This area can be so beautiful at this time of year. I like to take a walk and breathe in the crisp, cool air, taking in the mountains and clouds.” Being in nature, vigorous exercise, yoga, deep breathing, hot baths. My Qigong teacher is often asked which practices are best. He says, “If you practice it, it is good for you; if you don’t practice it, it isn’t good for you.” Find what you love. Then, do it, even in the midst of the busy season!

 

    1. Help your child or teen find their favorite ways to calm. Encourage them. If you can, do some relaxing activities together. Take a walk or play a laughing game. Blow bubbles. Do a craft. Dance. Draw. Make a family collage of smiling faces. Lie on the ground underneath a tree and breathe. Close your eyes and discover how many different sounds you can hear. Notice what it feels like to calm and savor the moment.

 

    1. Remember what really matters. Joy Malek, clinical director at the Institute encourages families to ask themselves “is this activity/tradition still meaningful?” Sometimes half a mile of our mile long “to-do” list are things that aren’t really that meaningful anymore. It’s OK, even healthy, to change traditions as children get older, family members pass on, our circumstances evolve. Create new traditions that have meaning, that foster connections, and are simple.

 

    1. Yes, keep it simple. This is one of my favorites from my colleague Dr. Vicki Chiang. It is all too easy to go overboard, she says. Baking cookies, making homemade gifts, wrapping each present with a decorative ornament. This year, create traditions of simplicity. Give yourself permission to let go of some demands. If your gift from a store can be wrapped there – great! Maybe your tradition can be for the kids to put a couple of fun stickers on the store wrapped gift. If you want a tradition of baking from scratch, make sure it’s a simple and fun recipe. This is not the time of year to make it difficult with all the things you have on your plate.

 

    1. Practice gratitude. Psychological and spiritual traditions encourage gratitude. And contemporary research on the brain identifies specific benefits to fostering thankfulness. Gratitude can help reduce our stress! Some families today are keeping gratitude journals, or starting off each family meal with a list of three things for which each person is grateful. Perhaps plan to express gratitude to friends and family that we don’t see very often – but with whom you will be spending time with over the holidays.

 

  1. B.R.E.A.T.H.E: On behalf of the CPC (Community Prevention Counsel) I sum up our wishes for you and your families with this poetic acronym from my colleague Raquel Kislinger, MA.

Believe in Resilience;
Encourage,
Affirm,
Take time to
Hug, hope, and
Enjoy

An earlier version of this was published in the CPC (Community Prevention Counsel) News for La Canada Unified School District 2012

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