Regardless of whether or not you are celebrating the holidays, stress is in the air during the months of November and December. Just being on the road or entering a grocery store will be evidence enough to see the increased energy this time of year.
Most people will experience “eustress,” a term coined by Hungarian endocrinologist Hans Selye to mean, "stress that is healthy, or gives one a feeling of fulfillment or other positive feelings." But some people will experience “distress”; the type that causes anxiety, sorrow or pain. The losses we have experienced in our lives rarely hurt more than during this season filled with advertisements, social gatherings and the well-wishers reminding us to “have Happy Holidays.”
Rethink Your Expectations
Pause to remind yourself of what is important and focus on your values. Our society has high expectations for this time of year and social media has increased the pressure. Pictures and posts of light-adorned homes, decorative table settings and beautiful families in their matching red sweaters may prompt us to compare with our own lives. Remember – Charlie Brown made a feast of toast and jelly beans because the focus was on the relationships rather than the meal.
Connecting to others can help mitigate the sense of loneliness. Say “hello” to a neighbor you’re usually too rushed to acknowledge, exchange friendly words with people at the office, or pick up the phone to connect with someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. You can even volunteer at an organization with a mission you’d like to support or participate in a giving opportunity through your workplace or social media.
Practicing gratitude has far-reaching benefits. When you are looking for things to be grateful for you will find treasures in the most unlikely of places. Maintaining a gratitude journal can support your efforts and serve as a record of all that you value in your life; it can be especially helpful when you are feeling down.