Understanding the source of stress is the necessary first step in reducing it. At the end of the year, stress levels go up with the demands for our time and attention. Unfortunately, the holidays can be very stressful with all the extra planning and preparation added to our plates, especially for those of us gifted (or cursed) with a high attention to detail! The added planning, relational dynamics with extended family and gatherings require what brain scientists refer to as ‘shifting set’ more frequently to deal with all the extras on top of our normal routines during the holidays.
Readying ourselves to face these stresses requires what Braaten and other professionals refer to as shifting set, that is, updating or shifting cognitive strategies to respond to the changes in our environment. “The tough part,” says Braaten, “is that shifting set, which can be hard for us at any point in the year, is particularly pervasive at the holidays.” For such updates to be successful, one must have the cognitive flexibility to shift attention between one task and another and to rapidly adapt to changing circumstances. (Harvard Medical School: Holiday Stress and the Brain)
Strategies to reduce extra stress and increase joy during the holidays:
- Get a grip. Take some time to reflect on what is most important about the holidays to you and what you want to accomplish (e.g. making memories with your loved ones. starting a new tradition)
- Lists. Make your lists and check off items as you complete them
- Give. It really does bring you you. God’s word says, it is more blessed to give than to receive.
- Gratitude. Keep your daily practice, or start one, of beginning and ending each day by thinking of 2-3 things you are thankful for.
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