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To unlock holiday magic? Be grateful and kind.

by Deidre Ashley

December 14, 2016 | from Sound Mind | The Jackson Hole News & Guide

With winter comes the holiday season and all it entails, including stress. While the holidays can be full of joy and great memories, they can also add anxiety. Let’s face it, our lives are hectic, and this time of year can make them more so. What is the best way to maintain your mental health through the holiday season?

Financial stress is difficult for many throughout the year. Add holiday expectations and that can most definitely increase. It is tempting to overspend this time of year, but that can be the largest cause of stress and anxiety.

Come up with a realistic budget and try to stick to it. It is difficult to not fall into the “buy, buy, buy” commercial messages that are everywhere. But remember, spending money is not the only way to show others you care.

Quality time spent with people you care about or gifts made by the giver can be more meaningful than something bought in a store. Sometimes it may be hard to remember what the holidays are really about.

Give yourself permission to be human and let some things go. It is common to get caught up in the “shoulds.”

Take some time and notice the difference between things that you “have” to do and those that you “want” to do.

Be realistic about what your schedule and tolerance allow. Take a moment to actually enjoy those things that you are doing. Notice how festive the decorations look, how delicious the meal is or other fruits of labor.

Try to take care of yourself through the holiday season. During times of stress we are more vulnerable to illness and anxiety. Enjoy the season but keep in mind moderation. Sweets, alcohol and busy schedules can take their toll on your health.

Try to get regular sleep and watch the intake on all those holiday goodies. Stick to your exercise routine if possible. It will help with indulgence as well as provide some additional stress relief.

Reach out to others. For many people this time of year is difficult. They may be away from family or isolated in other ways. Connect with friends, volunteer or check in with someone who is struggling. Doing something for someone else can make you feel great and make a huge difference for someone else.

Practice random acts of kindness. This is such a great way to balance the stress of the season and doesn’t need to cost anything. It could be something as simple as letting someone else have the great parking space or complimenting a store employee who has obviously had a stressful day.

Be grateful for something every day. Taking the time for gratitude can make such a huge difference in your physical and mental health and can go a long way to change your thinking about stressful holidays.

Every year at this time I like to review one of my favorite quotes. It’s by Melody Beattie:

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates vision for tomorrow.”

All in all the season may be busy and stressful, but it does not have to drive us over the edge. It is an opportunity to show others we care, even if they are strangers, celebrate our holiday traditions or religious beliefs, show gratitude for those things that we do have and appreciate each other.


Deidre Ashley is executive director of the Jackson Hole Community Counseling Center. She is a licensed clinical social worker and has a master’s degree in social work.