Holidays Stressing You Out? Change Your Thinking with 3 Tips

Published on: 08 Dec 2015
woman stress holidays

We look forward to the holidays with anticipation and, perhaps, some trepidation. There can be a lot of stress and pressure during holiday activities. This short article will present some thinking tips for the holidays, some ideas you can use to make the holiday season less stressful and more pleasant.

Thinking Tip #1: Get Away from “Should” Thinking and Into Preferences

One of the most common ways in which we get ourselves upset is by thinking other people ‘should’ or ‘must’ behave or act certain ways. If a family member is being selfish or shortsighted, we will be upset with them. It would be nice if they were less selfish and more thoughtful, but there is a big difference between thinking they should versus a preference of it being nice if they would.
When we acknowledge it as a preference that is not happening, we are mildly and temporarily disappointed. When we believe they should act a certain way, we can be upset, sometimes enraged for extended periods of time.
The tip here is to shift your thinking that others ‘should’ or ‘must’ act a certain way to thinking it would be nice if they did but certainly not a requirement for your enjoyment and peace of mind.

Thinking Tip #2: Ditch the “I Have To Do This” Attitude

Another way in which we can diminish our enjoyment of holiday time is by feeling forced or coerced into some activities or chores. We know we are forced into it when we tell ourselves “I have to.” The phrase, “I have to,” is so commonly used within our own mind that we take it for granted and don’t realize the coercive impact it has on us.

Nobody likes being forced and when we do feel as though we are, we can resist and oppose through defiance. What that commonly looks like is procrastination and avoidance; or, we become depressed, or easily irritated and angry. We can engage in sabotage-like behaviors that prevent us from doing what we ‘have to’ do because we don’t want to do it.

The antidote for this ‘have to’ kind of thinking, even if somebody else tells us we have to do this or that, is to transform it into ‘choose to’ or ‘choose not to.’ Really, we do have choice because we don’t have to do anything.
Of course, there are consequences to every choice or lack of choice we make. Whenever you tell yourself “I have to,” consider changing that statement to “I choose to.” Even things we might not want to do or don’t like doing — we can choose to do it or choose not to do it. We don’t have to. Nobody is forcing us.

Thinking Tip #3: Why So Serious? Everything Will Be OK

Don’t take it so seriously. In his very popular book, “Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff,” Richard Carlson points out numerous insights that can make our life more enjoyable, many of which have to do with not making things bigger than they are.

If, at a holiday party, somebody spills punch all over the floor, it is not a catastrophe. If things aren’t going the way you would like them to go, the world is not falling apart. If, while driving to a family gathering, somebody swerves in front of you and almost crashes into you but didn’t, it is not worth amplifying and magnifying the event to mountainous proportions and letting their actions influence your mood to the point where you are overly upset. In the larger scope of things, it’s small stuff.

The idea here is that nothing is so important, so big that it has the power to take away our inherent joy in being in the moment. The more we can live in the present, the more we recognize most things that upset us are small stuff we don’t need to sweat.

These few thinking tips for the holidays are, of course, applicable at any time throughout the year. Try out these few tips and see if you don’t find yourself experiencing a bit more comfort, ease and enjoyment during the holidays and in life.

Talkspace articles are written by experienced mental health-wellness contributors; they are grounded in scientific research and evidence-based practices. Articles are extensively reviewed by our team of clinical experts (therapists and psychiatrists of various specialties) to ensure content is accurate and on par with current industry standards.

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