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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 July 10, 2020

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

Boundaries are limits

—they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

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Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

1. Self-Awareness Comes First

Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

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You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

  • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
  • When do you feel disrespected?
  • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
  • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
  • When do you want to be alone?
  • How much space do you need?

You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

2. Clear Communication Is Essential

Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

Sample language:

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  • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
  • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
  • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
  • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
  • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
  • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
  • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

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Final Thoughts

Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

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