Four Tips to Take You from Stressed to Blessed this Holiday Season: Learn to Reduce Anxiety Using Stress Management

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As the holidays fast approach, there are many tools and tricks that can allow you to enjoy the gifts of the holidays—without getting stuck in the stress of the season. Learn practical, easy to implement interventions from Dr. Carolyn Daitch, international author and expert in anxiety and stress management.

Dr. Carolyn Daitch photo

Dr. Carolyn Daitch

One of the best stress busters I know is mindfulness. When you have a lot of things to do and you don’t know which ones to do first, put those thoughts on mute and focus on one activity. Really get into the moment and the experience of that activity.

The winter holidays are a time of enjoyment and relaxation… right? For so many of us, however, a stress-free holiday season is one gift that just never seems to materialize. But this year, as the holidays fast approach, there are many tools and tricks that can allow you to enjoy all the gifts the holiday season has in store—without getting stuck in the stress of the season.

“The first thing to tackle is perfectionism,” says Carolyn Daitch, Ph.D., international author and expert in anxiety and stress management, and director of the Center for the Treatment of Anxiety Disorders. “I frequently say that perfection is the enemy of the good. All too often anxiety arises around the thought that we have to make things perfect: the dinner for the extended family has to be exquisite, the house glisteningly clean, and the presents you give need to be the perfect expression of your care. This holiday season, give yourself the gift of recognizing that a good, well-meaning effort can be good enough. You don’t have to strive for perfection. Rather, honor yourself for your effort, and allow and even welcome the imperfections."

Once we relax our expectation of perfection, it’s also easier to allow others to step in and lend a hand. Many of us are familiar with the sentiment: if you want a job done right, you’d better do it yourself. In keeping with that thought, delegating tasks can bring up stress and worry as you’re putting the results of a task in another’s hands. But when we embrace the idea that a well-meaning effort can be good enough, anxiety can soften.

Second, when you are doing tasks or chores, give yourself the gift of doing them mindfully. This means staying in the moment as you engage in an activity, really focusing on what you’re doing and allowing yourself to be present in the here and now. “One of the best stress busters I know is mindfulness. When you have a lot of things to do and you don’t know which ones to do first, put those thoughts on mute and focus on one activity. Really get into the moment and the experience of that activity. For example, when you are wrapping presents notice the colors of the wrapping paper,” says Carolyn Daitch, author of award-winning book, "Affect-Regulation Toolbox", "Anxiety Disorders: The Go-to Guide for Clients", and "Anxious in Love."

A third common area of stress that can be managed is potential family tension. Are you worried about that tension between your mother-in-law and your sister? Inviting close family friends to come share in the extended family’s get-together is a great way to diffuse tension that might otherwise arise if guests weren’t present. Or what about that co-worker who isn’t making it home to visit family this holiday season and would otherwise be spending the holidays alone? Inviting others to share in your family celebration can be a gift to all involved.

Last, but not least, you can restore a sense of calm to your body. When the stress builds up, take a moment to pause. “Everybody knows about taking a few breaths, but not everyone knows how to breathe in the best way to calm their feelings of overwhelm. It is very important to make sure that you exhale significantly longer than your inhale. By making sure that your exhalations are long, you are telling your nervous system to relax , and then it is much easier to think with perspective,” says Dr. Daitch.

Also, give yourself permission to take a little time for yourself to relax. Often going on holiday “vacation” means attending to a long list of household chores and holiday-related tasks. Make sure you do something that you enjoy--a hot bath, or reading a chapter of a good book. Allow yourself to sit down to watch that movie with the kids rather than snatching the down-time to clean the kitchen. Relax into the holidays this season!

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Sue Lynn Seecof
@anxietytreatmnt
since: 07/2010
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Dr. Carolyn Daitch
since: 07/2010
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