The tree is up, the lights are twinkling, the hot cocoa is poured and you’re cozied up to a warm fireplace with your loved ones.  For many, this is a season of family, laughter and celebration. But, it’s also a time of year that can get even the jolliest of us stressed out.  If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed this Christmas, you aren’t alone. Over 60% of adults report that they feel stressed during the holiday season.

Overwhelm happens when a person believes that their stressors are more than they can manage. You’re more likely to be overwhelmed by negative emotions, like anxiety, fear or anger. And because a number of factors can spark these feelings, it becomes quite difficult to understand the exact source of the stress.  When this happens, what should you do? Here are a few tips to get you through the overwhelm so you can enjoy the things worthy of celebrating.

1. Take Mental Breaks – When you’re in the midst of a tense time, it’s difficult to see anything else beyond the feeling of overwhelm, mounting work pressure or the mountain of tasks that need to get done. It can often feel like you’re trying to triage your way through your to-do list until you get a chance to catch your breath.  Whenever you feel that survival mode kicking in, pause. Take a couple of deep breaths. Nice, long, deep breaths. Pause for a few seconds to create enough space between you and the situation to reflect and regain valuable perspective.

2. Avoid the “What Ifs?” – The parties, the dinners, the presents, every part of the holidays feels like an unknown this year. In these times, it’s tempting to dwell on the “What if?”

What if someone gets sick or we’re unable to travel?  What if there’s family drama…again?  What if we don’t have enough money to buy gifts for the kids?

“What if?” statements heap fuel on the fire of worry and tension. The more time you spend worrying about what could happen, the less time you have for what’s actually in front of you. This includes the actions you could take to help you stay calm and keep your stress levels at bay.

Whenever those nagging “What ifs?” start to creep in, acknowledge what’s going on. See how you can turn those thoughts around into positive statements:  Reframing is key when it comes to addressing those negative thoughts.

Some examples include:  Let’s have an amazing time together on Christmas Day – and maybe even start a new tradition!  I’m looking forward to family time that’s full of laughter and joy.  We’re creative. We can purchase the perfect gifts without spending a ton of money.

3. Laugh – In the height of holiday planning, it’s easy to forget to carve out time for fun and laughter.  Laughter is an amazing form of stress relief and provides a number of short and long-term benefits.

As a matter of fact, laughter:

  • Increases your intake of oxygen, stimulates your heart, and boosts endorphins.
  • Calms down your stress response, causing a relaxed feeling.
  • Improves your immune system, can function as a natural painkiller, and can lessen depression or anxiety.

So, next time you find yourself tensing up, find a funny YouTube video, look up a funny joke or scroll through some of your favorite knee-slapping photos.  Better yet, prepare them in advance so you don’t have to search for them in the moment.

While you may not be able to control everything happening around you, but you can influence and control what goes on inside your head.  There’s always something to be grateful for. So, no matter what comes your way, commit to focusing on enjoying and cherishing the people around you. Try out one of the above ideas this holiday season and may each moment be filled with joy.

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