Written by Katie Jackson-Griffin, LCPC

Holiday Stress Doesn’t Have to Overshadow a Joyful Season

‘Tis the season to be jolly! The holiday months are filled with excitement, joy, and anticipation. At least, that is what people hope for during the holiday season. However, many feel a lot of stress because of the holidays. As a result, the fun and joy of this time of year can often be overshadowed by stress. It’s understandable to feel burnt out by the end of the holiday season. However, gratitude is a powerful tool that can combat holiday stress and increase satisfaction. Here are 3 ways to boost your gratitude this season, depending on the type of stressor you may encounter.

1. Holiday Stressor – Extra family time

Gratitude Method – Use balancing “and” statements 

The holidays come with lots of invitations: parties, dinners, and special holiday events. These traditions can be fun! However, it can also be overwhelming to have extra plans and to spend time with family that you might not always get along with. It’s easy to become focused on the things that feel hard. You might find yourself thinking:

“It’s going to be so hard to find something to talk about that we have in common.”

“It’s going to be cold and crowded at this event.”

“I don’t have any free time during these months.”

While these statements might be true, they are also getting in the way of you enjoying the good things about this time of year. To apply gratitude in this type of situation, try using “and” statements. Instead of only focusing on the holiday stress, using “and” statements allows you to have a more balanced approach. As a result, you remain aware of the positive aspects of these events. Try statements like these: 

“It’s going to be so hard to find something to talk about that we have in common AND it gives me a chance to learn more about them.”

“It’s going to be cold and crowded at this event AND I can enjoy this limited opportunity to see the pretty lights.”

“I don’t have any free time during these months AND I can make sure to build in extra time to rest in the coming weeks.”

A situation isn’t usually all bad or all good. Using this balanced approach allows you to remember the things you are grateful for amidst the stress. 

2. Holiday Stressor – Food

Gratitude Method – Use fact-based gratitude statements

If you struggle with body image or your relationship to food, stress can flare up around the holidays. Work and family events can cause extra pressure to “look your best.” Thus, when you combine this with diet culture’s influence on what and how we should eat, anxiety and judgment about your body increases. Shifting your focus to gratitude for your body can help ease these feelings. Your body is worth more than just what it looks like. Your body does a lot for you! When you notice that you are criticizing your body, shift your thinking to gratitude about what your body does for you. Examples include:

“I’m grateful that my stomach digests food to give me energy.”

“I’m grateful that my body has kept me well enough to attend this event.”

This powerful shift can help you to focus on the facts of what your body provides for you. Thus, this change in thinking boosts your overall gratitude for your body.

3. Holiday Stressor – Traveling

Gratitude Method – Shift thinking to what is possible

Traveling is often part of holiday plans. And with traveling comes crowded airports, long wait times, and extra costs. From time-to-time, you may be stuck in unpleasant situations. As a result, you may tend to only focus on what is limited or not possible. Unfortunately, you can’t make the line go faster. You can’t control long delays. Instead of letting this holiday stressor bring you down, you can shift to what IS possible.

If you are stuck in a long line at the airport, consider what you CAN do instead of focusing on the minutes ticking away and the line not moving. Perhaps you can listen to a podcast, have an interesting conversation with someone you’re traveling with, or even play “I Spy.” Of course, this doesn’t make the line move faster, but it can improve your irritation about how long you must wait. Shift to thinking about what is possible to help yourself not feel so out of control! 

Boosting Gratitude During the Holidays

It’s impossible to have a completely stress-free holiday season, but with these ways to boost your gratitude, you can help yourself tolerate the stress better. Remember, you have the power to shift your perspective, reduce your self-judgments, and enjoy the holiday season. This can be the difference between feeling utterly exhausted at the end of the holiday season and feeling tired, but satisfied. You deserve to create and enjoy as many positive memories as you can!

If you need support with holiday stress, Restorative Counseling can help!

The entire team at Restorative Counseling believes in the power of self-compassion. Gratitude and kindness towards yourself can be the ultimate motivators to help you strive to manage your holiday stress and accomplish your goals. Restorative Counseling is here to help support you. To get started, schedule an appointment with one of our clinicians today.