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Don’t Celebrate Stressmas

Don’t Celebrate Stressmas

Christmas can be an extremely stressful time. You’re surrounded by sentimentalized marketing messages, based on perfect families having a perfect time together. Peace is everywhere; everyone loves their gifts, the Christmas meal is perfectly cooked and no one suffers indigestion or drinks too much. Children are always good and never become over-excited and uncontrollable.

That’s the problem. Real life is far from perfect. Some families don’t get on well together. This maybe the one time of the year they meet, and still they expect nothing to go wrong. Then people eat or drink too much, voices are raised and tempers flare. Maybe there’s a gap this year: a loved one has died, or is far away. Maybe there are no loved ones. People sometimes have to spend Christmas alone. For many people, Christmas will bring more pain than joy; pain made far worse by feeling everyone else is having a good time.

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Christmas comes but once a year, and when it comes it brings…wildly unrealistic expectations. There’s a strong sense of how things—and people—ought to be. Everyone ought to be happy. They ought to get along. You ought to be enjoying yourself; and there must be something wrong with you if you aren’t. Along with such crazy expectations come guilt and blame. So people quarrel, and because everyone ought not to be quarreling at Christmas, it’s someone’s fault they aren’t happy.


When this happens, don’t ever be tempted to feel guilty about your emotions, let alone accept responsibility for anyone else’s. Even if you don’t show how you feel, you still feel it. “What’s wrong with me?” you ask yourself. “It’s Christmas. I should be happy. I should be thinking how much I love my family, not focussing on how much Uncle Fred’s drinking upsets me; or how much I’d rather be at home than sitting here, trying to eat my mother-in-law’s inedible turkey; or feeling that if Cousin Jane doesn’t stop her revolting children from behaving like animals, I’m going to scream.”

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Here’s the truth. No one can control their emotions. You cannot make yourself feel happy or cheerful by an act of willpower, any more than you can stop yourself from feeling angry or resentful or sad. Emotions simply arise by a natural process. They come as and when they wish, just as thoughts come into our minds unbidden and sometimes unwanted. All you can control is whether or not you act on those emotions. If someone irritates you, but you hold back from showing it to avoid spoiling everyone’s evening, that’s a praiseworthy act. It’s not your fault you felt irritated. It just happened. There’s neither cause for guilt nor blame.

Christmas is a wonderful time of year to practice forgiveness, and especially to forgive yourself. The old year is coming to an end. As it dies, forgive yourself for all the times in this year you destroyed your own hopes and expectations; for the ways you let yourself down; for behaving badly; for messing up. Forgive others for all the ways they disappointed you. Forgive life itself for whatever bad things it brought. Let it all go with the year that is passing. And when the New Year comes, let your first resolution be to stop setting yourself and others so many unreal goals and expectations based on perfection.

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Whatever the marketing guys and the media try to tell you, life is messy, unpredictable and frequently unpleasant. That’s just how it is. No one is to blame, least of all you. Buying products won’t change it. Nor will the time of year, however many carols are sung and Santas appear in the stores. Christmas lights aren’t magic talismans against pain, upset or hurt. Just because it’s a holiday season doesn’t mean you ought to feel happy. There’s no reason you should ever feel some particular way; and no way to try to make it happen if it doesn’t come about naturally.

Walk into the New Year with an open mind and a hopeful attitude. Let go of all the baggage you’re carrying. Simply drop it and walk away. All the possibilities of the coming twelve months are before you, so pause on the threshold and enjoy a few moments of anticipation. Then step confidently into your future. While you can’t make that future better than it will be, you can always hope for the best. Who knows? This year you may be right. It sure beats facing the future full of grim expectation of misery and disappointment.

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This will be my last posting on this site until January, so I wish you all a calm, relaxed and baggage-free holiday period. And whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or no particular festival at this time, I hope you manage to give Stressmas a miss this year.

Adrian Savage is an Englishman and a retired business executive who lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his thoughts most days at Slow Leadership, the site for anyone who wants to bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership, and The Coyote Within.

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Published on July 15, 2019

10 Simple Strategies to Make Your Life Better Starting Today

10 Simple Strategies to Make Your Life Better Starting Today

Habits are an important part of the direction you take your life, and — as I’ll share with you shortly — there are certain daily habits you can adopt right away that are guaranteed to improve your life.

Think back to when you were just six or seven years old…

At that age you probably didn’t have many habits. But, as the years went by, you picked up more and more good and bad habits.

You may not have thought about it before, but habit forming never really stops.

That’s why it’s never too late to change your habits and transform your life.

So, if you feel burdened by your bad habits, start kicking them into shape by replacing them with these 10 positive, life-changing strategies:

1. Go to Bed a Little Earlier and Wake up Earlier 

Starting tonight, get yourself to bed 30 minutes earlier than usual. And, then make sure you get up tomorrow morning 30 minutes earlier, too. This small change can have a BIG impact on your day. 

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Instead of furiously rushing in the morning to get ready for work, the extra time will give you a golden opportunity to start your day off on the right note. You can drink a smoothie while sitting on your porch, spend 10 minutes exercising and stretching, and still have time to read a few pages of an inspiring book.

2. Be Grateful for the Good Things in Your Life 

Setbacks and obstacles are inevitable in life. But, with a positive mindset, you’ll be able to overcome most of these. And, when you do, you’ll boost your self-confidence. 

This is something you can definitely be grateful for. 

However, if worst-case scenarios are playing out in your life, then sometimes, to stay strong, you’ll need to keep your mind on the good things that are happening to you. For example, your relationship with your partner might be crumbling, but your career is continuously getting stronger. It’d be easy to feel downtrodden and miserable about your relationship problems —  but, it would be much healthier to keep your mind and gratitude on these things that are going well, such as your career.

3. Drink Water All Day Every Day 

I’m sure you’ve heard the advice of drinking at least eight glasses of water a day, but are you following that advice? If not, you’re robbing your body and mind of essential hydration. 

With the right amount of water intake a day, you’ll be amazed how good you feel — and how good you look!

4. Take 15 Minutes to Set Goals for the Day, and Then Tackle Them One by One 

This strategy will put your life into a new stratosphere! And, it’s very simple to do. 

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Simply spend 15 minutes in the morning (either at home or at work) planning what you need and want to achieve during the rest of the day. Once you’ve listed your tasks, the next step is to put them into order of priority. 

For instance, you have three things to do: catch up with your emails, write a project update, and prepare a briefing for your CEO. It’s best if you put these in order of importance. In this example, your emails can probably wait until you’ve created your CEO brief and updated your project documentation.

5. Turn Off Your Cell Phone (or Put it on Airplane Mode) When You’re Focusing 

A 2012 study found that even looking at a cell phone or feeling it vibrate in your pocket can significantly distract focus and reduce your ability to complete complex tasks.[1]

It’s no surprise really, as our thoughts are subconsciously drawn towards checking our phones when they’re switched on. It’s a bad habit — but one that most of us have. However, when you need 100% focus (like I do when writing my articles), then switching your phone off, or at least putting it into airplane mode, will free your mind and supercharge your focus. Try it and see!

6. Walk as Much as You Can 

Have you noticed that most people’s lives are sedentary? They drive to work, sit in front of a screen all day, then drive home and binge on the latest Netflix series. It’s no wonder there’s a growing epidemic of obesity and mental health issues. 

Our bodies are made to move — so we should move them! This can be as simple as walking up the stairs to your office instead of taking the elevator, and going out for a walk around the block at lunchtime. In the evening, instead of arriving home and crashing on the sofa; spend 20 to 30 minutes walking around your block.

When you make these things a habit, you’ll be amazed by how much better you feel. You’ll have less stress — and more energy.

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7. Be Mindful of Your Surroundings

How often do you stop, think and appreciate the “here and now”? I’m guessing not very often. But, I understand why. Modern life is demanding and fast-paced. There’s precious little time to appreciate the small things. 

But, if you want to live a healthy and happy life, you must break out of this trap. You can do this by allocating 15 to 30 minutes each day for mindful meditation. This could be in a park, in your garden, or even in your lounge. The trick is to focus 100% on your surroundings. 

For example, if you’re outside, watch how the leaves on the trees blow around in the wind. By keeping your focus on this movement, you’ll clear your mind from your usual stresses and strains. This will give you brain a much-needed break. And, as well as improving your mental health; you’ll find your creativity gets a boost, too.

8. Ask for Help When You Need It 

No one can know or do everything. Which is why you shouldn’t be embarrassed to delegate tasks to others when needed, ask questions when you don’t have the answers, and work with partners and colleagues to clarify intentions. 

When I first set up Lifehack, I tried to do everything myself: blog writing, website creation, marketing, financial planning, etc. However, I quickly learned that it was much better to hire some help. Not only did this inject some fresh ideas and inspiration into Lifehack — it also made the whole operation way more enjoyable!

9. Practice Self Care 

Are you looking after yourself as well as you should? If not, then take steps to improve your diet, exercise more, and to speak to yourself with encouraging words and thoughts. 

The latter suggestion is often overlooked. But how you speak to yourself determines how you feel, what you believe, and what you achieve.

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10. Embrace Learning 

You cannot transform your life without learning something new. That’s because the process of change forces you to adapt. But, many people stop learning as they get older, as they find the learning process boring and bothersome. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. It can be fun and rewarding. 

Whether you decide to learn to play guitar or study the basics of accounting — embrace learning, and begin changing your world for the better.

I’m sure you’ll agree that these 10 strategies are simple enough for you to start putting them into action in your life. (I suggest you begin today!) 

Nevertheless, you’ll probably need to use some extra willpower for the first 30 days or so, as this is the typical length of time it takes to create a new habit. After that, these strategies will be part of your day-to-day life, and you won’t need to think about having to do them. In other words, they’ll have become habitual actions.

If you need any further encouragement to get started with the 10 strategies, then consider this:

Even just adopting one of the strategies can turn the tide in your favor. But, when you implement all 10, you’ll create an unstoppable trend towards success, health and happiness.

So start making your life better — today!

Featured photo credit: Javier Garcia via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Deborah R. Tindell and Robert W. Bohlander, Wilkes University: The Use and Abuse of Cell Phones and Text Messaging in the Classroom: A Survey of College Students

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