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5 Tips from Positive Psychology to Help You Avoid Holiday Stress

5 Tips from Positive Psychology to Help You Avoid Holiday Stress

Are your holidays filled with relaxation and quality time with family or are you resorting to drinking a little too much eggnog to make it through?. If you are, you are not alone. In fact, 90 percent of Americans who completed a survey indicated that they feel stress during the holidays and 24 percent experience difficulty with family members. If you’re looking for ways to reduce holiday stress and create warm memories with your family, follow these five tips from positive psychology and bring the magic back to the holiday season.

Let Go of The Past and Stay Present

Just like in the holiday classic “A Christmas Carol” sometimes we are haunted by the ghosts of Christmases past. We tell ourselves that because our mom has always been critical or our dad always brings up politics and religion that they will this time too. We prep ourselves for the discomfort this has caused in the past which makes us brace for this holiday. Instead try wiping clean the slates of past transgressions, arguments, tears and discomfort. Sometimes letting go seems more difficult because we think that by not holding on to anger, hurt or frustration we are somehow condoning the past. When you let go something or forgive someone, you aren’t saying that everything was okay, you are just saying that it cannot hurt you anymore. Be like a first time visitor to your own family. Be curious, open-minded and look for the good in people’s words and actions. Martin Seligman ,the founding father of positive psychology, recommends breaking habituation, savoring experiences and using mindfulness as ways to increase happiness in the present.

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Focus on The Positive

Instead of focusing on the really bad meal you are served year after year, try being impressed the beautiful holiday decor or the great after dinner drinks.. Be a detective finding the good things that are going on around you. Neuroscientists have studied the brain and discovered that as you practice looking for positive  your brain actually becomes more adept at finding other positive events. Our neurotransmitters are like wire covered in plastic coating, but in our brain that coating is the myelin sheath. The more times a particular neuropathway is used, the thicker the myelin sheath becomes and this , like a well-developed muscle, strengthens your positive mindset. So when heading home for the holidays try finding something positive in each moment. Eventually this will be come less of a task and more of your brain’s default mode.

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Practice Gratitude

University of Pennsylvania did a study in 2005 that proved one of the greatest contributing factors to overall happiness in life is how much gratitude we show. At Thanksgiving we all pay attention to things we are grateful for. Why not try including a little gratitude at every family gathering? Having each family member state one thing they are thankful for has become a part of my family’s holiday meal tradition. You can also adopt a daily gratitude pracice like journaling 3 things each day your are grateful for. This effective method is proven to decrease stress and increase subjective well-being (aka happiness).

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Keep Your Usual Routine

Gretchen Rubin, author of My Happiness Project and Better Than Before has researched how our habits make us happier. Her advise over the holiday season? Stick to your habits. This means, if you are an early riser, continue to get up early even if you are surrounded by night owls who like to sleep in. If you exercise regularly, you need that exercise for mood balancing endorphins. Don’t skip the work out and then wonder why you are so cranky. Staying on a sleep, exercise and eating routine that works for you will keep you balanced. This doesn’t mean not to indulge in a treat or try something outside your normal pattern, it simply means that creatures of habits are comforted by those habits! Not only will this help you to avoid holiday stress, it will also make the transition back to work or home an easier one when the holiday is over.

Give Presence not Presents

San Francisco State University did a study that demonstrated that experiential purchases, such as a meal out or theater tickets, result in increased greater well-being than material possessions. This means that giving gifts doesn’t make you as happy as sharing experiences. Part of the human happiness equation is our need for social connectedness. Instead of buying clothes, chocolates or candles, try taking everyone ice skating or on a sleigh ride instead.

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Last Updated on December 9, 2019

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

Everyone experiences mental stress at one time or another. Maybe you’re starting a new career, job, or business, or you feel incredibly overwhelmed between work, parenting, and your love life (or a lack of it). It could even be that you simply feel that you have way too much to do and not enough time to do it,  plus, on top of everything, nothing seems to be going the way it should!

Yup, we all experience mental stress from time-to-time, and that’s okay as long as you have the tools, techniques and knowledge that allow you to fully relieve it once it comes.

Here are 5 tips for relieving mental stress when it comes so you can function at your best while feeling good (and doing well) in work, love, or life:

1. Get Rationally Optimistic

Mental stress starts with your perception of your experiences. For instance, most people get stressed out when they perceive their reality as “being wrong” in some way. Essentially, they have a set idea of how things “should be” at any given moment, and when reality ends up being different (not even necessarily bad), they get stressed.

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This process is simply a result of perception and can be easily “fixed” by recognizing that although life might not always be going as YOU think it should, it’s still going as it should—for your own benefit.

In fact, once you fully recognize that everything in your life ultimately happens for your own growth, progress, and development—so you can achieve your goals and dreams—your perception works in your favor. You soon process and respond to your experience of life differently, for your advantage. That’s the essence of becoming “rationally optimistic.”

The result: no more mental stress.

2. Unplug

Just like you might need to unplug your computer when it starts acting all crazy, you should also “unplug” your mind.

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How on earth do you unplug your mind? Simple: just meditate.

It isn’t nearly difficult or complicated as some people think, so, if you don’t already meditate, give it a try. Whether you meditate for 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or 2 hours, this is a surefire way to reduce mental stress.

Meditation has been scientifically proven to relax your body (resulting in less mental stress), while also reducing anxiety and high blood pressure.

3. Easy on the Caffeine

Yes, we know, we know—everyone loves a nice java buzz, and that’s okay, but there’s a fine line between a small caffeine pick-me-up and a racing heart and mind that throws you into a frenzy of mental stress.

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Try giving up caffeine for a while and see how you feel. And, if that’s completely out of the question for you, at least try to minimize it. You might find that lots of your mental stress mysteriously “disappears” as your caffeine intake goes down.

4. Attack Mental Stress Via the Back Door

That’s right: your body and mind are part of the whole being, and are constantly influencing and affecting each other. If you’re experiencing a lot of mental stress, try to reduce it by calming your body down—a calm body equals a calmer mind.

How do you calm your body down and reduce physical stress? A  great way to reduce physical stress (thereby reducing mental stress) is to take natural supplements that are proven to reduce stress and anxiety while lifting your mood. Three good ones to look into are kava-kava, St John’s wort, and rhodiola rosea:

  • Kava-kava is a natural plant known to have mild sedative properties, and you should be able to find it at your natural health food store or vitamin store. It’s available in capsules or liquid extract form.
  • St John’s wort is a natural flower used to treat depression. Again, it’s found at your local health store in capsules or liquid. Because it uplifts mood (enabling you to see the brighter side of all experiences) it helps relieve mental stress as well.
  • Rhodiola rosea is a natural plant shown to reduce stress and uplift mood, and Russian athletes have been using it forever. Like the other two supplements mentioned, rhodiola rosea can be found at your natural health store in capsule or liquid form.

While these supplements are all natural and can be very helpful for most people, always check with your health care provider first as they can cause side-effects depending on your current health situation etc.

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5. Good Old-Fashioned Exercise

This tip has been around forever because it works. Nothing relieves mental stress like running, kickboxing—you name it. Anything super-physical will wipe out most of your mental stresses once the exercise endorphins (happy chemicals) are released into your brain.

The result: mental stress will be gone!

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or just plain stressed, try using some of the above tips. You can even print this out or save it to refer to regularly.

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