Holiday stress: It’s only temporary

If you have to deal with mall drivers one more time, if you’ve got a houseful of I’m-bored-already kids, if you hold your breath and cross your fingers every time you fork over your credit card, if — OK, enough with the “ifs.” I’m getting sweaty, my heart is racing, my chest is tight and I can’t help but feel that a sabertooth tiger is tracking me. Which is exactly why I — and possibly you — need to remember Dr. Jonathan Abramowitz’s “Five Tips for Surviving the Holidays.”

  1. Identify what has you on edge, says Abramowitz, a professor of psychiatry and psychology in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Medicine and College of Arts & Sciences who deals with anxiety disorders. “Recognize how it makes you feel and slow down your thought process to keep your emotions from going 0 to 100 in 5 seconds flat.”
  2. Put your expectations into perspective. If you’re not working, you may be anxious about spending money. If you are working, chances are you’re trying to manage your workload along with the numerous demands of the holidays. Or maybe your in-laws, known for their Rockwellian Christmases, are coming. Work toward a game plan you can execute (and that won’t execute you).
  3. “Think of yourself first; we cannot control what others do or say but we can change the way we think about things.”  Sound selfish? It’s not. If you’re feeling out of control, chances are you’re letting someone else or something else exert too much control over you. It’s like on an airplane when they tell you, in the event of an emergency, to put on your oxygen mask first, then help your kid put hers on. You need to be in control before you can function properly.
  4. Limit demands and ultimatums. This may be one that’s not so obvious. Says Abramowitz, “Replace ‘should,’ ‘must’ and ‘have to’ with ‘I wish,’ ‘maybe’ and ‘my preference … .’”
  5. Perhaps most importantly: “Remember the holidays are temporary; January is right around the corner.”

OK, deep breath. Carry on.

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