It’s not only your responsibility to make the holidays great, but lowering your stress is up to you as well. It may be hard to believe, but you are in control! That means you have to change something if you want this holiday season to be different — more memorable, more peaceful, and more manageable. You may need to change several things.

That’s where this blog post comes in. Here are 3 things you can do right now that, if done sincerely, will make a huge difference.

1. Be Thankful

I know, I know, Thanksgiving is over. But should our mindset of thankfulness really ever end? As Christians, we are told over and over to have an attitude of gratitude, like in Colossians 3:15: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.”

Thankfulness is something we expect in return for good manners and civility. We say thank you when someone opens the door, when someone hands us something out of reach, or when someone answers our questions. It is so expected that many of us become irritated if a thank you is not given. “I can’t believe that lady didn’t say thank you when I held the door for her!”

Most of us are thankful for the things we do not expect. “I didn’t know you were going to do that. Thank you very much.” Or we are thankful for the wonderful things we don’t get often. My sister Kathy made her chicken and noodles tonight and I was very thankful she asked me over. Or we are thankful for the things that make a big impact on us: “You gave me great advice.”

However, we often miss the little things we could be thankful for throughout our day. Everywhere we look there are things to be thankful for and the more thankful you are, the less stress you’ll have.

Your challenge is to create a thankful list of 10 things. This is to be done every day until you get the hang of it and begin to look for things on your own. You have likely been asked to do something similar before. This is different because there are actually things that are not acceptable in order to get you to think more specifically.

The following are not allowed due to how obvious they are:

    Any holiday
    Home
    Visitors
    Family
    Friends
    Anything faith related
    Bacon
    Car/transportation
    Education
    Money
    Pets

All of these things are worthy of thankfulness, but for this exercise, think harder! What can you be appreciative of right now? Be specific and not predictable. Here is my list right now:

    I have enough tape for presents.
    My energy is up even though it’s late.
    I have 80’s music playing and great songs are coming on!
    The car alarm that just went off doesn’t go off every night anymore.
    The Reese’s Pieces that my dog threw up, cleaned up nicely.
    My cat did not bring in a mouse today (never mind, she did).
    My writer’s block unblocked.
    I remembered to take my trash out (yes, I’ve been forgetting).
    My toenail polish lasted longer than expected.
    I had the right socks for my boots today.
    I know where a hair tie is and I’m prepared to use it!

Get the idea? Now it’s your turn. Be thankful and lower that stress.

2. Cut the Worry

I used to worry all the time about what people thought of me. Total strangers, the sacker at the grocery store, the people in passing cars, everyone. I was so consumed. When you live your life like this, it is exhausting. And with the holidays, everything is more intense. “Will Ron like the gift I gave him?” “Did I spend enough money on Brady?” “Is my house clean enough for Judith?” “Is that person mad because I held up the line?”

Each time you worry about what someone thinks of you ask yourself, “Do I really care what that person thinks of me?” or “Do I really care what strangers think of me?” Or you may even have to say, “I shouldn’t care what they think of me.” Keep this up! It has changed my life. Now I don’t even have to ask the questions. My perspective is healthier because I have trained myself to think differently.

Things happen with or without worry. Let’s say it is 9:50 a.m. and your appointment is at 10 and the drive will take another 20 minutes. Obviously, you will be late. It is too late to worry about whether you will be late, it is now a certainty. At this point let the person who is expecting you know. Then relax. Even if the other person will be unhappy, relax because there is nothing you can do about it. Of course, it sounds so simple. (Note the sarcasm in the following.) “Oh, I’ll just relax and not worry. Sounds good.” Nope, it isn’t that simple, but with practice and repetition, this one gets easier.

We tend to worry about a lot of things we cannot control. Next time you start to worry, ask yourself, “Is there anything I can do about it?” If not, then stop worrying right then. And when it comes back three seconds later, just repeat the process.
Worry is unhealthy and unproductive. Scripture is clear in many places that worrying is a total waste of our time on earth. Luke 12:25-26 says this: “And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span? If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters?”

So treat yourself to a proverbial chill pill, and ask God to break your habit of worry today. The Christmas lights just may shine a little brighter when you come out from under that cloud.

This should be a time when we feel daily peace. Here's how you can! Click To Tweet

3. Find Some Peace

Ah. Just the word peace brings up a little stress relief for me. Isn’t peace what we want every day? It is occasionally illusive and, oddly, tough to find sometimes at Christmas. This should be a time when we feel daily peace. The to-do list below is designed with you in mind so that the peace you crave is something you can have not only this season but each and every day.

    List 10 Things that YOU like about YOURSELF. (You are good enough.)
    List 10 things you know how to do. (You are smart enough.)
    List 10 people who love you. (God loves you!)
    List 10 things you have done well. (You can do many things “right!”)
    Read Scripture. (Might want to skip Lamentations.)
    Pray.
    Exercise every day, even if you start with only 10 minutes.
    Remember, not everyone will like you and that is okay.
    Even if it’s cold, get out into nature every day.
    Close your eyes (not yet, you have to read the rest), breathe in deeply through your nose, focus on your breath and exhale out of your mouth slowly. Repeat five times.
    Laugh (even if it’s fake, your body doesn’t know the difference).
    Write a letter of forgiveness to someone, even if you never send it.
    Organize one area of your house or office that has been bothering you.
    Do one thing you have been putting off.
    Become aware of negative self-talk and stop it.
    Hang out with someone positive.
    Tell the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).
    Listen to the music of your youth.
    Love on your pet or visit a shelter and share the love.
    Stand up for yourself kindly.

Try a couple of these and then a couple more until you find what works for you. Peace is not overrated and is a great key to lowering stress. Of course you know all of this, now do something and make a change.

Adapted from “A Delightfully Short Women’s Guide to Lower Holiday Stress” by Dr. Susan Harrison. Copyright 2017. All rights reserved.

Dr. Susan Harrison

Dr. Susan Harrison

Dr. Susan Harrison is a consultant, speaker, coach, and teacher who empowers professional women to take control of their stress relief. For more information, visit drsusanharrison.com.
Dr. Susan Harrison

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