Although this season is portrayed as a season of joy, the holidays are often a stressful time for many people. This time of year for many people involves travel, huge shopping lists, waiting in line, being stuck in traffic, groceries, family visits, and above all pressure. Many people experience stress, depression, and anxiety during this time of year. Here are four tips that I hope will help you lighten your mood, and manage your stress:
  • Remember to take care of yourself too. Because you are so busy taking care of others (buying presents, preparing meals, making sure your relatives are taken care of) it is easy to forget to take care of yourself. Each day, take a little bit of time to do something that recharges your battery: go for a walk, take a bath, talk to a friend, or anything else that nurtures you. 
  • Drop your expectations. Part of what makes the holidays stressful is the pressure of beliefs about what a "perfect" holiday occasion should look like. The problem with all these beliefs of what should/must/ought to be is that reality never matches our image of what is "perfect," nor can we ever recreate a beautiful memory. When you notice yourself getting all worked up about things having to be a certain way, take a deep breath, and relax with the way things are instead. Try to find at least one little thing you can appreciate about the situation as it is, and you will feel a whole lot better!
  • Smile! Even if you don't feel like smiling, just the act of contracting the muscles in your face to smile activates areas in your brain that release endorphins, the chemicals in your brain related to positive emotions. When you smile, the muscles in your face are actually more relaxed than when you scowl or have a "neutral" expression.
  • Focus on the present moment. When you are stuck in traffic or waiting in line, instead of becoming frustrated, anxious, or stressed, you can regard that moment as a mini vacation from all the things you have to do. Because you are stuck anyway, there is nothing else you can do. A great way to focus on the present moment is to fully tune into your senses. Take a moment to breathe deeply and be fully present for every breath, look out of the window at the sky, or listen to the sounds around you.
With these four little things, I hope your holiday season will be a time of meaningful connection with the ones you love!