Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Be wary of traps, or risk being weary of holidays
Stress for Success
December 14, 2010

Do holiday decorating, socializing and gift-giving energize you? Or on January 2 are you depleted and depressed?

If depleted, maybe you suffer from unrealistic expectations.

Respond to the four situations below. “Yes” answers indicate you’re either locked into “Holiday Traps,” which stress you, or “Holiday Treasures,” which energize you (Adapted Kicking Your Holiday Stress Habits by Donald & Nancy Tubesing.)

Answer “true” or “false” for each item. If it’s difficult to decide, estimate which answer would be 51% true of you.

1. It’s important to make the holidays perfect. Your house, food and gifts must be memorable and appreciated. But every year you feel let down when reality doesn’t match your Madison Avenue expectations. You expect yourself to feel loving, joyous and peaceful but find yourself feeling lonely, sad and discouraged.
True False

2. You love to decorate your home for the holidays. All of the festive sights, smells and sounds are magical and energize you. You love hearing from others through their cards and can hardly wait to visit and celebrate with loved ones.
True False

There are no perfect holidays – for anyone. If you think others experience them you’re experiencing the “Magic Trap (#1).” Magical thinking tends to be “all or nothing thinking:” everyone’s always perfectly happy or they’re miserable.

Unmet expectations are often unrealistic; no one could satisfy them. If you want your holidays to be perfect it’s your expectation that’s stressing you. Those around you rebel against your need for perfection, causing the very problems that later depress you.

Turn this into a “Magic Treasure (#2)” by:
* Accepting others as they are. Don’t expect behavior from them they historically haven’t shown. If your brother is always late, let him be late. Don’t take it personally. Accept that it’s a part of him for whatever his reasons.
* Which holiday expectations historically fill you with joy? If it’s planning and selecting gifts, do it and enjoy it.

3. Both you and your new mate have your own treasured holiday traditions and you work hard to blend them together. But it’s more confusing and exhausting than comforting and enjoyable. Why does she have to have things her way?
True False

4. The holidays put you in touch with the meaning of life. The rituals and traditions stimulate spiritual reflection as well as a sense of excitement and wonder. Your traditions help you through the difficult times even when your feelings don’t quite match the occasion.
True False

Some traditions are worth continuing, others need to be pitched, while still others can be tweaked and made better. Move from the “Traditions Trap (#3)” to “Traditions Treasure (#4)” by:
* Resurrecting beloved traditions from your past like singing holiday songs before dinner, attending a religious ceremony, or volunteering at a soup kitchen. Ensure participating in this tradition lifts your spirits versus depresses you with yet one more obligation.
* Ask friends about their traditions and adopt an appealing one for yourself.

Next week we’ll consider moving from another Trap to a de-stressing Treasure.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple, at http://www.letyourbodywin.com/bookstore.html. Email her to request she speak to your organization at jferg8@aol.com.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

It’s time to tame holiday burdens
Stress for Success
December 7, 2010

Do you eagerly look forward to the holidays? Does your creative and spiritual energy expand?

Or are your holidays filled with too many “shoulds” that exhaust you?

Over the following weeks you can respond to a series of situations from an assessment requested by O Magazine that I adapted from the book, Kicking Your Holiday Stress Habits by Donald & Nancy Tubesing. These will help you move from your “Holiday Traps,” which stress you, to “Holiday Treasures,” which balance you.

1. You lose control over your activity calendar saying “yes” to all invitations and requests. Each carries a “social obligation” burden that can overwhelm you. Or the opposite, you sit at home waiting for someone to include you, which doesn’t happen so you’re alone again.
True False

2. You love the busyness aspect of the holidays because it fills you with a sense of purpose and worth. All of the social gatherings reconnect you with the support system you hold dear. Plus, the extra commitments help you appreciate the solitude and silence when they return.
True False

The first situation represents the stressful “Activity Trap” and the second one the stress reduction “Activity Treasure.” A “Yes” answer to #1 indicates that you are adding to your own stress while a “Yes” to #2 suggests you are nurturing yourself, therefore protecting yourself from the holiday strains.

It’s startlingly easy to get caught up in the holiday Activity Trap. You have your own expectations of yourself and of others while they have their expectations of you, as well. Often these expectations are very unrealistic.

To avoid the Activity Trap, list everything you want to accomplish during the holiday season then cross out the unnecessary activities.
* If everything is a priority to you then nothing is. So, identify your top priorities and make time for them, even if that means something else gets tossed out.
* What energizes and what drains you? Do more of what invigorates and less of what exhausts you. It doesn’t have to be a 100% change. Small movements in a healthier direction will do for now making more significant moves with time.
* Hold onto the activities you enjoy, even if they aren’t essential or could be done by others. You need them. They nurture you.
* Do unpleasant tasks as quickly and painlessly as possible, then reward yourself. Refuse to suffer.
* When you’re over-stressed, lighten your load. Accept help and imperfection.

Finally, turn obligations into energizers by creatively updating them:
* Instead of sending out holiday cards with a telling of the past year, write a compliment to each recipient.
* Surprise some on your list with a brief, long-distance phone call.
* Fill out your holiday cards at the library, a favorite restaurant or someplace enjoyable to you.

We’ll look at moving from another Holiday Trap to a Treasure next week.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple, at http://www.letyourbodywin.com/bookstore.html. Email her to request she speak to your organization at jferg8@aol.com.