The Holiday Season is Upon us: Will You Let it Stress You Out This Year?

Life Balance

Nora and Tim help you find balance when dealing with a stressful debt situation. Learn how to manage stress and enjoy travel without breaking the bank.

The Holiday Season is Upon us: Will You Let it Stress You Out This Year?

  • Comments 2

The most important word in that question is "LET." I firmly believe that we have a lot of control over how we react to situations in our lives -- which means that we can choose to experience less stress. Sound good to you? Read on!

Stressors and Our Reactions to Them

We can't always control the stressors that pop up in our lives -- everything from angry bosses to morning traffic to parent-teacher conferences. But we don't have to react to them in ways that keep us miserable or make us crazy. Think about it: its one thing to experience a moment of automatic fight-or-flight stress when the driver in front of you cuts you off and nearly causes a wreck. In that case, it's normal to feel the rush of adrenaline that goes along with the fear of a crash and the understandable anger you have toward the other driver.

But it's another thing if we carry that fear and rage around with us all day . . . or all week . . . or forever. Too many people do that, whether the anger started with their boss, their spouse, their bankroll, or life in general. And that's the reaction we can choose to avoid. Once a moment of crisis has passed, we can steer ourselves away from the fight-or-flight mindset.

What We Choose to Think About

One of the best ways reduce the stress in our mindset is to choose carefully which kinds of thoughts we seek out. Here are five big areas where I've tried to apply this:

  • Television. I don't watch the local news, politicized cable news channels, or many prime-time dramas, because they're simply too loaded with bad news and negative viewpoints that have nothing to do with me. When I do watch television, I'm much likelier to pick a comedy or a documentary. Better to laugh or be informed than to get dragged into an unhealthy mindset.
  • Music. My iPod is loaded with many genres of music, but if I find myself in a funk, I turn again and again to the music that makes me feel best, whether it's "Energy" by The Apples in Stereo or the Ninth Symphony of Beethoven. Music has charms . . .
  • Books. As with television, I don't read about serial killers or serial adulterers, and I don't expose myself to political screeds. Instead, I focus on the fun escapism of fantasy novels, the emotional depth of classic fiction, or the personal edification of books that explore psychological or spiritual topics.
  • Conversation. There are some people I've learned to avoid, not out of rudeness, but simply because I don't want to be dragged down by their negative worldviews. Over the years, I've intentionally decreased my patience for listening to whining, pettiness, or "I can't" attitudes. I'm way too prone to all these bad habits of thought myself, without encouragement from anyone else.
  • Internal monologues. This is the tough one, because I have a strong introspective streak, and it's very easy to dwell on the negative aspects of life, things I could've done better, and so on. But I try hard to transform negative monologues by posing questions to myself like, "Okay, but what are you going to do about it, starting now?" and, "So then how did you turn that bad situation around?"

The point of all of these areas isn't to divorce yourself from every piece of bad news; that's unrealistic. But you can avoid immersing yourself in other people's bad news -- or even your own -- any more than you need to.

The Actions We Choose to Take

Let's finish on an even more practical note. What are some specific things you can do to deal with the stresses that will inevitably arise -- especially during the holidays -- even after you do all the things I've just outlined? Here are five things that I recommend:

  • Exercise! This will come as no surprise if you've been reading this blog for long. In fact, click here to read an entire post on just this topic.
  • Connect to a higher purpose. If you're a Christian, this could mean celebrating the approach of Christmas in a spiritual way by reading daily devotions or participating in special church programs. But anyone, religious or not, could use the closing weeks of the year as a time to reflect upon where they're headed in life and what's most important to them. For that matter, your higher purpose might be to make this holiday season a great time of togetherness for your family. Whatever works.
  • Seek out positive interactions with your favorite people. This is the converse of avoiding negative people as suggested above. The holidays are a perfect time for this, since even friends you've lost touch with won't be surprised to get a holiday card from you. Make a point of renewing some of those old connections, and of spending time with the people who mean the most to you.
  • Meditate. You could do this in the mode of a particular spiritual tradition (I've gotten a lot out of Zen meditation myself), or you could just get up half an hour earlier in the morning, sit in a quiet place, and let your mind enjoy a small dose of peace. Many people find that the rewards of meditation far outweigh the energy they put into it, and there's good scientific evidence suggesting that meditation can actually help us rewire our brains to deal better with stressors.
  • Sleep. In our hurly-burly world, it's way too easy to get too little sleep. In fact, most Americans are probably slightly sleep-deprived most of the time. Don't be one of them!

I hope you'll add to this list of stress antidotes in the comments. The big point is this: tough though our challenges may be, we can take purposeful actions to help ourselves remain calm -- even under the craziest pressures of the holidays -- as we increase our physical, psychological, and financial health.

What are YOU doing this holiday season to create an atmosphere of peace inside you?

PREVIOUS ARTICLES:

 Tim Walker

Tim is a writer, marketer, and social media pro in Austin. He joined CareOne's blogging team as a contributing writer for the Life Balance blog in 2009. As a blogger who has personally overcome debt challenges, he draws from his own experience to provide tips on living a balanced life and keeping fit. You can read more of his thoughts (on fitness and everything else) at his personal blog, What I've Learned So Far. Compensated CareOne Blogger

To follow us click here

Your comment has been posted.   Close
Thank you, your comment requires moderation so it may take a while to appear.   Close
Leave a Comment
  • * Please enter your name
  • * Please enter a comment
  • Share
  • With school back in full swing, this is a perfect time of year to enjoy fun family activities that won't break the bank.

  • Do you dread the holiday season for what it does to your waistline? Do you wake up in January overweight and out of shape?

Page 1 of 1 (2 items)