Summary: The "good stress" of the holidays may seem ineluctable, but it doesn't have to overtake your life. Follow these suggestions, courtesy of communications coach Cathy Emma, to stay sane as you accomplish your winter goals.
It's that time of year again: Time for the joy of giving and receiving, the celebration of family, ... the stress of planning and shopping and cooking and hosting and visiting and of generally taking on so much extra responsibility!
How do you stay sane? Frankly, some of us don't. But there are measures any of us can take to give it our best shot.
If you (or those you love) suffer from disease—be it a mental illness or a physical illness—the additional stress of the holidays can push you over the edge. The way we communicate when we're feeling internal pressure generally looks like the following in one or more ways: absent-minded, terse, angry, hostile, loud, tearful, apologetic, brusque. Depending on our personalities and the ways we've been taught to cope with stress throughout our lives, we can exhibit any combination of these traits in response to even the simplest of questions asked by friends and family and even co-workers. We can also go to the opposite extreme and become completely silent.
None of these responses helps us solve the problem of our stress. In fact, just the opposite: It compounds it for us and for those around us.
This week, I received an e-newsletter from communications specialist Cathy Emma, who provided some excellent techniques for heading off holiday stress at the pass. Among her suggestions were these:
- Keep your fitness track on plan. "Healthy living relieves stress," Cathy reminds. And putting yourself first means that there will be more of you to go around when the time comes.
- Appreciate the positive aspects of the holiday. When you expect to be stressed out, you usually are. But when you're able to remind yourself exactly why it is that you're taking on the extra load right now, it helps you feel like you have a voice in your own life and your plans, rather than resentful obligations. It may help to mentally note one reason why you choose to go through with your plans each time you feel any stressed-out resentment creeping in—such as, "I'm making these special pies, so that Grandpa has something sugar-free to eat this year."
- Keep the stress out of your voice and speech. The fact is, we all take on an extra load to our personal calendars at this time of year, no matter how we celebrate. Even if we choose not to celebrate, we're likely to pick up on the frenetic energy around us at the office, at our friends' homes, and in the streets, sidewalks, and stores. But coming from a place of stress is not only unprofessional, it's selfish. Cathy encourages us to use a tone of voice that's "bright and enthusiastic." Practice speaking like this regularly, and you will begin to feel it sincerely.
© KiKi Productions, Inc. 2009