Coping with Holiday Stress

By: Margaret Ley, TCCC Chaplain

No doubt you have started making your holiday lists. It is that time of year when many details and plans have to be put in place in order to make the magic holiday moments take shape. It really doesn’t happen by chance. There are lists for events, travel, decorations, food, presents, and so on. Pile all of that onto an already hectic lifestyle and that can easily add up to holiday stress that can feel overwhelming. Are you up for one more list?

I would invite you to take a few moments to set a timer for about three minutes, and turn your note pad to a fresh sheet and start writing as many answers as you can to this statement, “I am…” Try to avoid adjectives and stick with nouns such as: I am an adult, a mother, a sister, a worker….keep going and give yourself enough time to stretch your brain. Time’s up. How many identities are crowded into what makes you – you?

Our multiplicity of identities can be a source of stress. For example the phone flashes a text message from work in the middle of a holiday meal in which I am experiencing myself as a hostess, daughter, wife, aunt, and suddenly being called out as chaplain forces me to rethink my obligations at that moment. Suppose you are an artist and everyone on your gift list looks to you to supply some “over-the-moon” creative gift to top the one from last year. Harder still are those identities we may have to embrace that we did not choose. We may have on our list: I am divorced, widowed, orphaned, homeless, or sick. There are some who will say, “I don’t know who I am.”

When we start approaching this time of year when holidays make us more reflective about the meaning of our lives often people report experiencing more stress in their lives not from the stuff that has to get done, but from trying to please too many people. That stress has potential to work itself out often in destructive ways to our health, our relationships and regrets of things said and done. This little list I suggest you write might give you some insights into how you decide to cope with the coming holidays and decide what is most important.

I would invite all of us to take a breath. You are alive. Take another deep breath. You are inspired. Holidays are meant to bring us back to this moment of inspiration. When you start to feel overwhelmed, try saying this, “I am here.” Be present to each moment and know that it is okay to say no to obligations that wear you down and take your breath away. Accept each breath, let go of expectations and be open to those who share this moment with you especially those who feel isolated and alone. Each breath we take is a gift and may each breath be an inspiration of peace in the coming days.

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