Stress and the Holidays

What is really getting to you this holiday season?

We all know that the holidays are stressful for many reasons. Lately I have been thinking about some of the deeper reasons why the holidays can be a time of both light and darkness. The answer may be in saying less yes, and more no.

Be authentic to reduce stress at the holidays

On the surface, there are the usual reasons for stress at the holiday time, not enough money, not enough time, too much work to finish before the year end and time off.  However, I believe at the heart of this year-end drama that plays out every Christmas/Holiday season, there is something even more serious going on.

When we look at our memories about the holidays, they can be positive and filled with love and family, or sometimes they are horrible and filled with fighting and family.  There are even many holiday films about the “joys” of families getting together over the holidays, and the emotional stress these get togethers can cause. 

Ultimately however, I wonder if the true stress is within ourselves. Are we in essence at this time of year, sorting through our sub-conscious, and seeing how much deep down we don’t connect to our most valid versions of ourselves?  I guess what I am getting at really is a sense of authenticity, and at this time of year, when we are more thoughtful about our connections to others, perhaps it is a time when we should ask….are we really being who we want to be, to whom we want to be? Whether friends or lovers, are we being authentic people to those around us? For example, don’t you wish you could only send Christmas cards to the people who send them to you? How many times do you send out all 40 cards, taking the high road even though you know you might get 10 back if you are lucky?

What about the people you are visiting? Are you doing so out of obligation or a genuine desire to spend time with these people? The more we do because we have to do it, because it looks good, because we are supposed to, the more we drift away from our true self. Authenticity means doing what you want, when you want, because you want to do it, and because you care about doing it. For some that might sound selfish, but actually, it is called being real. Hopefully what you want to do is good for the rest of the world and the people around you, eases your own suffering, and does not increase the suffering of others. 

Ultimately I believe all stress comes from holding two different expectations in our mind or heart at the same time…the thing we want to do vs. the thing we feel like we have to do. Stress would not exist if those things aligned. 

So as you rush around this season, buying more gifts than you can afford, spending time shopping vs. with your loved ones, spending time working too hard, instead of resting and maintaining healthy boundaries, ask yourself,  “Am I doing what I want? Am I being with who I want? Is that person going to care if I send a gift or a card? Has he or she even spoken to me in the past year? Have I spoken to him or her in the past year? Gage your responses, pay attention to what you really want, and learn how to let the stress go with every “no”. 



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