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The end of the year signals the abundance of the life cycle for many with the reminders of generations of families coming together and the seasonal leaves changing, for example. Closure and rebirth is such a beautiful process. With that being said, stress is bountiful during the holiday season and creates a dampener in many family households. I was thinking about the paradox of the holiday season and how I could help my readers with some insight about how to enjoy the season’s festivities. I could make something up about how the time change makes young people have more academic concerns or flu season compounds problems by diminishing our physical and mental capacities; while life’s responsibilities double or quadruple. But the reality is things do not really change for children as they do for adults. Yes, kids may have a holiday performance or mid-year exams but these activities are relatively commonplace.

What impacts youth the most during this time of year is how parental behavior is modeled during stressful situations. Consider this: Stress starts with the Thanksgiving feast when you are multitasking making the beautiful meal, cleaning the house, and getting the kids ready for guests. Then, to top it off, there is no break for you between Thanksgiving and the holidays to come, as Christmas and Hanukkah are right around the corner—parties, shopping, cooking. Just thinking about it stresses me out! Plus, the daily routines of work and maintaining the household are still knocking at your door! Not only do you have your own internal pressures to get everything done, (and done well); but the external pressures of friends and family are also bountiful. The exhaustion and overwhelming feeling of it all places stress on the relationships you have with your family and friends. And so begins the holiday hustle….and the fun is taken out of what should be joyful time with your family.

Here are some suggestions for dealing with the holidays and transforming them into enjoyable and meaningful experiences. Rather, than increasing stress and negative interactions with your children.

FOCUS. Think about what is really important. What do you really want out of the holidays? Don’t let society define this for you.  For example; holidays are really about being grateful. So this year ask everyone in the family to participate by either preparing a dish or preparing the table with something special like an artistic project. When you finally sit down to eat, take a minute and ask everyone to say one thing for which they are truly grateful.

BE INTENTIONAL. Take your new-found focus to another level but taking control of your intentions. Your mindset affects your actions and your attitude. If you set some intentions ahead of the holidays you can change your actions and your experience. For example: “I intend to be joyful this season.” With this intention always in mind, you will notice yourself smiling more often. It will also require you to say no to things that may undermine your intentions like taking on more responsibilities at the office or agreeing to bake cookies for your daughter’s school function.

BE OPEN. There is a lot going on during the end of the year and even if you focus and set intentions, you must remain flexible. A change in plans might throw a wrench into the works but it could also lead to a new and wonderful experience.

The FINALE:

And if nothing helps…here are some great shows to watch to get you in the mood: ‘From Grinch to Gaga’ — http://tbo.com/events/from-grinch-to-gaga-holiday-tv-full-of-feel-good-shows-20131125/

Or you may feel like shopping for some “feel good” gifts: http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20550777,00.html

And finally…the true nature and spirit of the season. A real heart-felt story: http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/copsandcourts/ci_24592340/homeless-garden-project-fills-holiday-store-feel-good

In my next post I’ll talk about mindfulness practices that will help you to focus on the here and now while establishing some new traditions for happy healthy holidays.

Best wishes,

Dr. Stephanie

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