The snow has fallen, the days are shorter – the holiday season is here! For most people, the holidays bring a mixed bag of excitement and stress. With so many obligations pulling you in different directions it can be hard to appreciate this time of year. Regardless of what is on your holiday to-do list, there are 3 strategies you can employ to manage your stress and enjoy this holiday season.
Know Your Purpose
Every attendee of Maximum Influence knows how important clarity of purpose is to effectiveness. You simply cannot be effective if you haven’t clearly articulated the impact you want to have. The same principle applies to any endeavor and can help make the holiday season less hectic and more enjoyable.
Each year, my extended family of over 60 people holds a Christmas party that is so loud with laughter that we surely violate noise ordinances. They’re as fun as they are loud. However, it’s much more than a great party. The parties serve a more important purpose of knitting together an ever-expanding group of family members, providing continuity from my 92-year-old Grandmother to the newborns introduced each year.
Over the years, my purpose has evolved from merely enjoying myself to ensuring that old and new members of the family feel just as welcome and vital to this family as everyone else. So, when it’s 5:00 PM on Christmas Eve and my immediate family and I feel so exhausted that we consider staying home for just one year, we push forward, knowing how important it is to continue building strong family connections for future generations. Instead of spending all of my time with people with whom I’m most familiar, I make a conscious effort to meet new family members that will continue this tradition in the future. Knowing my purpose elevates this party from a great time to something even more valuable to me.
Make A Plan
A 2011 study conducted by Robert Epstein reported that planning was the number one tool participants found most effective in managing stress. Thoughtful planning gives you a sense of control and will steer you clear of two pitfalls that suck the joy out of holidays: unrealistic expectations and over commitment. Keep your expectations in check by measuring them against your purpose. Do you need the full-on animated light display in your yard or can you put lights around a few trees?
With a clear purpose in mind it is much easier to make plans to achieve it and to avoid activities that undermine it. By clearly articulating my purpose in attending the family party, I instantly become focused on the top priorities for the evening. I know who I need to make time to connect with and I make it a point to do so. When I swing by the grocery store to pick up a premade appetizer, I don’t feel inadequate because I’m purposefully spending my time where it matters most. Don’t get caught up in the unrealistic expectation that everything needs to be perfect. Make a realistic plan based on what is important to you and you’ll be less likely to experience skyrocketing holiday stress due to over commitment.
Seeing relatives you may not see often can lead to some stressful conversations. Many of us know someone who stirs negative emotions just by thinking about them. It’s important that we don’t let these negative emotions lead us astray of our purpose. To prevent this from happening, channel your inner “high stakes conversation” specialist. Our article Leveraging Emotional Intelligence During The Holidays provides helpful tips to maintaining diplomatic discussions.
The fundamental first step is to turn up your self-awareness. Emotions drive actions, and being aware of your underlying emotions can help curb impulsive behavior that may fuel the fire and help you lose sight of more important things, such as maintaining relationships and open communication. Obviously, this is easier said than done, but by starting with a clear purpose for the event or for a specific interaction, you will be more self-aware when strong emotions arise. Awareness helps you maintain perspective and your options for a thoughtful response increase.
My Grandmother is truly one of the great influences on my life. She is also one of the greatest influencers I’ve ever seen. She leads a family of over 60 people through unfailing examples of love, laughter, gratitude, and compassion. I’ve watched my Grandmother smile and her obvious pride as she watches four generations of family members reconnect and have a great time together every Christmas. For me, remembering that our annual party serves a greater purpose than simply having a good time makes me feel good about making the extra effort to show up and reconnect each year.
Happy Holidays, everyone!