by Tamara Hull, LCMFT

December 22, 2023

It’s that time of year again!  The “holiday craze” is upon us!  Along with the usual stress and rapid pace, the holidays can add layers of additional expectations and obligations that impact our peace of mind and the relationships we have.  Three mindsets to consider applying this holiday season to minimize holiday stress and maximize joy are: (1) Keeping your “oxygen mask” on, (2) Giving yourself permission to make new, healthy choices, and (3) Cultivating your ability to actively lower the volume/intensity of stress in your life.

  1. Apply the Oxygen Mask Theory – Many of us have heard this saying before plane takeoff, but the concept of “placing the oxygen mask over your nose and face before trying to help others,” can be applied to managing the stress in your life as well.  Start by periodically taking a moment to “take your own stress temperature” on a scale of 0-10.  Prioritizing your time and energy early as stress levels begin to rise can provide a significant change.  It is far easier and faster to recover from a stress point of 3, than to wait until you have a 7, 8, or higher rating.
  2. Give Generous Self-Permission – Many of us have longstanding holiday traditions and family culture norms, but the holidays can also bring a host of additional demands from those around us.  However, this year can be a time of personal growth.  Give yourself permission to make requests of others, share responsibilities you have traditionally shouldered alone, or to delegate (possibly even eliminate) optional tasks and activities.  By asking for help and giving yourself permission to receive support from colleagues, family members or friends, your work and stress loads can be significantly reduced, and opportunities to experience the joy of the season can increase.
  3. Cultivate Stress Reduction Tools – This holiday season is also a time to grow your resilience by trying short practices designed to help manage your stress.  Devoting 5-10 minutes daily to mindfulness and meditation routines can help prevent the intensity of your stress reactions.  YouTube offers a variety of free meditation options. Finally, taking a moment to practice deep breathing using the 2:1 Exhale/Inhale method can bring stress down quickly. To begin, take a deep breath by inhaling through your nose.  Hold the breath for several seconds and then breath slowly through your mouth.  Repeat for at least three times. This simple exercise activates the part of your nervous system which slows the heart rate and decreases blood pressure.  Consequently, strong emotions are calmed, and the decision-making portions of your brain can operate better during conversation with others after stress has been triggered.

Consciously applying a new mindset and easy practices to manage stress can help replace relationship conflict with peace and joy, and help put the “happy” back into your “Happy Holidays!” Enjoy!