The Holidays are upon us and if you’re anything like me, this time of year usually involves some sort of annual rendezvous with a group of people you may or may not be looking forward to seeing. Innocent questions from well-intentioned family members or the annual comparison with long-unseen friends can leave us spinning.

There can be an immense amount of pressure associated with the gatherings that dot the calendar throughout the month of December: Have you finally met the love of your life? Have you lost those five pounds you’ve been meaning to address for the last ten years? Have you gotten a new job that you can proudly discuss? Did people like the hors d’oeuvre you made?

Did anyone notice the decorations you worked so hard on? The list goes on and on, and for most of us, the answer to some or all of these questions is a resounding no. How do you handle the holidays and the pressure that comes with them? The following is a brief how-to guide to hopefully get you through.

  • Practice gratitude. Yes, you may not have the picture of the perfect life you’ve dreamt of, and Aunt Sally may have just spilled red wine on mom’s white sofa, but what exactly do you have to be grateful for? Are you healthy? Did you wake up this morning? Did you have the opportunity to visit with people who are still alive and inviting your somewhere? Practicing gratitude can change your perspective in some pretty phenomenal ways. In fact, studies show that writing down three things per day that you are grateful for can result in long term improvements in mood. Give it a shot!
  • Practice self-care. The Holidays can involve a great deal of hustle and bustle, not to mention the fact that they take place right during the height of cold and flu season. Shift your perspective a bit about what is important and take care of yourself amidst it all. Does it really matter if you use plain napkins or holiday ones that you have yet to go to the store to buy? If opting for the plain leaves you some time for a nap, go for it. Get outside and let the sun hit your face for a bit; even spending 30 minutes per day outside can substantially improve how you feel both physically and mentally. Drink water, eat right, sleep enough, and set yourself up for the best possible success when it comes to managing your emotions after the holiday rendezvous.
  • Seek the bigger picture. What do the holidays mean to you? What does your religious tradition or faith have to say about why we join together and celebrate this time of year? If you are not religious, what are some meaningful memories this time of year holds for you? How do you find meaning in gathering with family and friends? The Holidays come from a long history of celebrations steeped in deep meaning. Take a minute and reflect on what is meaningful to you, and on why you are gathering together in the first place. We are meaning-seeking creatures, and without meaning, we lack the sense of purpose and direction that not only gives our life a sense of fulfillment but also contributes to improved mood and reduced anxiety. Seek your meaning and be grateful for it.

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