Every year, holidays roll around. It might be the winter holidays, the summer holidays, or one of those that are interspersed throughout the year. And, of course, they bring with them additional stresses (as if we weren’t stressed enough, already.)
But there are things you can do that will help you cope… and even more than cope, to overcome.
I’m not going to rehash all the advice you can get at the other blogs, websites, and gurus. You can be overwhelmed just by trying to read all the advice that comes out around holidays, much less trying to implement it.
No, I don’t want you to do a bunch of things that you aren’t already doing. If you aren’t already using some of those techniques to cope with the stress, you probably aren’t in much condition to do it now with added stresses. Of course, if you haven’t really been stressed yet and are just now looking for stress help, then feel free to go read all the other blogs on it. You will probably find something for you there.
Stress — the misunderstood helper
Still with me? Great! First, remember that stress, in and of itself, is a part of life. The same struggles that are required for a butterfly to emerge from the cocoon are the same ones that build the muscles so that it can fly once it has emerged. So, don’t think of stress as necessarily bad… or that you can escape it.
Did you know that your body gets stressed when you see the love of your life or when you kiss said person? Very few people think of that kind of stress as bad. In fact, scientists call it eustress (good stress). This is opposed to distress (bad stress).
What makes distress instead of eustress? Mostly our stories. Our stories are our interpretation of events. If you see someone coming towards you and you think it is your enemy, you will have a very different reaction than if you think it is your best friend. And when it turns out to be neither, you will still have a predisposition to treat the person the way you would treat whichever one he reminded you of. That’s how powerful our stories are.
As you prepare for the holidays, you may find yourself resenting the extra work, effort, and planning/scheduling you have to do. Perhaps you are telling the story of how put-upon you are. Or maybe you are telling yourself the story that the end result isn’t worth the effort. In effect, it is a waste of your time and energy.
What if you reviewed your story and decided that it WAS worth the effort. How would that change the stresses? Wouldn’t that suddenly alter the efforts you are making to one of INVESTING rather than spending/wasting? Remember that investing is done with the expectation of reward/return in the future. Look at the returns (rewards) of your effort (enjoyment of the meal, the relationships strengthened or repaired, the affirmation of family, the reaffirmation of love and affection through gifts….)
Or perhaps you will be getting together with Uncle Fester this year. You and Uncle Fester have a “personality clash”. Or, at least, have had in the past. As a result, you are expecting more of the same this year. Just the thought of dealing with him is sapping your strength and raising your stress levels.
How can we make that different? First, look at why you are clashing. Are you expecting him to be like you? Are you expecting him to be different than he is? (Do you hear that word “expecting”?)
What if you if you released your expectations for him? What if you expected him to be the same? (“But that’s the problem, I’m expecting him to be just like he is every year. That’s what’s causing me stress.”)
I would suggest that part of what is causing you distress is your expectation/desire for him to be different than he is. What if you allowed him to be who he is and not who you want him to be? Once you decide to let him be who he is, he becomes like a lot of other people you encounter. (You may not choose to hang out with those people, but you treat them quite civilly in your interactions with them. If you don’t and you can’t… you may want to consider a visit to a therapist.)
If you want to take it one step further, look for the ways that his personality is actually a benefit to him. (You are noticing his good points and his strengths.) When you do this, you make him back into a human being rather than someone who exists to make your life miserable. (Note: while there is a small possibility that he exists to make your life miserable, the odds are highly against it, so you are better off assuming that he isn’t there for that purpose — just as you aren’t here just to make his life miserable (even though you may be doing it.)) By looking for his good points, you might even discover that he has strengths that could complement yours.
“But, John, do I have to do that?” Nope. It’s your choice. You can choose to keep your distress and energy-draining viewpoint or you can change it. But changing it is as simple as changing your stories.
So, as you enter holiday time, instead of working on a big list of dos and don’ts to relieve stress, look at the stories you are telling yourself. Change the story and you change the meaning of the event. Change the meaning of the event and you change the way you handle the stress. You can actually turn the distress into eustress.
Give it a try. And then share your results with us in the comments. I would love to hear your experiences with this.
Changing our stories (and, thus, our mindset) is part of what I help my clients do. They report back how it transforms their lives and their businesses. If you’re ready for transformation, I’d love to talk to you about it. Contact me and we can set up a time to talk.