Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Stress and the Holidays~ Created or Imagined?

Whether we like it or not, the holidays are rapidly approaching. At my local grocery store, on one side of the aisle were Halloween decorations, on the other side, Christmas. I understand that this is the 'make it or break it' time for retailers, I was in retail for many years. However, what I am observing from clients, friends, and family members, is the FEAR associated with the holidays, instead of the joy.  Fear that there isn't enough time, enough money, enough, enough.... Is this the reality or an illusion that has been created by the media and by us?

Correct me if I am wrong, but the holidays appear to show up around the same time each year. So it shouldn't be a shock to any of us that Thanksgiving is only a couple of weeks away, and December follows in it's footsteps. Could it be that we are creating our own 'stress', by perhaps generating drama where it doesn't exist? Trust me, I use to be that person. Whenever November rolled around on the calendar, I would immediately go into the " Oh my gosh, there is so much to do", drama. It was a story that I told over and over, and of course others were eager to join me in telling their story as well. And yet, somehow each and every year, it always got done.

The holidays are a time when we become the season of what I call the "Overs". We over eat, we over spend, over drink, and over think! This is a coping mechanism that we have created to excuse our behavior. Good thing we have new years resolutions!  The reality is, very few resolutions are ever kept. In fact, Forbes magazine published an article that said only 8 % of people actually follow through on their promise. So what do we do? We beat ourselves up for not being able to commit. STOP IT!!

As a Board Certified Life Strategies Coach, I have some suggestions that worked for me, and perhaps they will work for you as well.

I know that for many, the holidays are a difficult time, especially if you have lost a loved one, or your life situation has changed. You see, most of us don't live in a Norman Rockwell painting or on a Folgers commercial. The media bombards us with images of family and friends gathered around the piano singing as the snow is falling. Then we look at our life and wonder what happened to us? One of the things that I find useful when I am feeling that way, is to help someone else. This takes the focus off of me, and onto the needs of others. This immediately shifts my perception from victim to gratitude.

Also, I have learned how to say "No", without guilt. I can now decline an invitation, without having to make up an excuse. If there is an event that I must attend, then I set a time limit. I may leave at the designated time, or I might find that I am enjoying myself, and choose to stay. However, if I decide to leave, I thank the host, say my good byes and head out the door. If I encounter someone who says" You are leaving already?", I simply tell them that I have another commitment, even if that commitment is only to myself by going home, putting on my PJ's and watching a movie. It's a win win for everyone.

I also shop throughout the year for family and friends. If I see something that I know for certain they will like, I buy it and put it away for the holidays. It's small bites instead of one large chunk at the end of the year, and much easier to swallow financially.

Another strategy is to create a holiday fund. I have money deposited each month into an account so I don't miss it. Then in November, it is re-deposited automatically into my main checking account. But even if you don't have that ability, you can easily create a container marked Holiday Fund. Put a certain amount in each paycheck, and you will be surprised at how much you save. I also throw extra change in a jar. By the end of the year, I usually have over $200.00!!

The reality is, there is nothing magical about January 1st, other than it's the inception of a calendar year. Your new beginning can start today if you are truly committed to making a change. So let go of the stress as much as possible. Don't allow it to rob you of the beauty that is right in front of you. Be grateful for all the gifts that you have been given, and don't forget to help those in need. We aren't promised tomorrow, and we can't re-live yesterday. All we have is right now, in this present moment.

I wish each and every one of you, a wonderful, joyful, and blessed holiday season.

Until next time~