"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

For happier holidays, set your expectations—and breathe

December 4, 2023 – The holiday season is upon us and with it comes an abundance of activities and obligations. There are gifts to purchase, parties to attend, cookies to bake, latkes to fry, and families to entertain. The stress will be unrelenting and the expectations will be beyond expectations.

Amid the hustle and bustle, a brand new study finds that inflation, tight funds and world events are adding pressure many Americans have I'm feeling much more tense and overwhelmed than usual this holiday season. More than half of respondents also remain concerned concerning the increase in COVID-19 and flu cases, each of which may turn into unwelcome guests at social gatherings.

Nicole Hollingshead, PhD, a psychologist within the department of psychiatry and behavioral health at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, said the survey results really reinforce the necessity to take a step back. “We know from research, particularly around cognitive behavioral therapies, that what you do Do can really affect how you feel,” She said.

Stop living “from the neck up.”

“Doing” begins with being connected to ourselves, explains Sonia Jhas, a Toronto-based mindset expert and author of I'll start again tomorrow (and other lies I've told myself). “Many of us live from the neck up in the vortex of noise and self-inflicted narratives,” she said. “We don't ask ourselves the query: 'What are my values?' And 'What are my evaluation criteria for the vacation season?'”

Jhas recommends that folks create a “mindset manifesto” before the vacations begin to set expectations for the vacations.

“Take a step back and ask what you want himself for the holiday season,” she said. “Do I want lightness? Do I want comfort? Do I want support? All of this can erase the self-limiting beliefs we hold about ourselves. The key is to have clarity up front before we get caught in the fire so that we have a better chance of making these bumps feel like small bumps rather than massive derailments.”

This practice of setting expectations (or setting intentions) is one of the vital essential strategies that Inger Burnett-Zeigler PhD, licensed clinical psychologist and associate clinical professor at Northwestern University in Chicago, recommends—not only for the vacations, but for every day life .

“This is where you start to take care of yourself and can examine where boundaries need to be drawn,” she said. “This can refer to what boundaries you set when you are financially constrained so that you don't feel stressed about spending.” Or what you might be willing to commit to, for instance, only doing a number of the cooking and to let others do the remaining.”

Find out what you may and wish to present, she said, and likewise ask others to pitch in and assist in a way that respects the boundaries you set.

Just breathe

The idea of ​​mindfulness simply means taking a break, a moment to attach along with your own body, a method that will be particularly helpful in stressful situations.

“Energy without oxygen equals fear,” says Kim Buchanan, a healthy healer and wellness expert based in Roxboro, North Carolina. “We are never taught how to breathe properly, and if you look back at times when you were afraid, you'll probably realize that you weren't breathing.”

Breathing “correctly” in times of stress can mean respiratory calmly and consciously out of your belly by slowly inhaling through your nose for six seconds after which exhaling through your nose for six seconds along with your mouth closed. The process, Buchanan said, “sends a message to our parasympathetic nervous system to calm the body.”

Breathing comes right down to the rule of three: awareness, intention and a focus. Buchanan said she takes a step back every morning when she wakes up, focuses on her respiratory and sets her intentions for what she would really like to see positively.

“There's an awareness that something is going to happen, like the fear and baggage that we carry around when we're with family,” she explained. “You pay attention to what the triggers are. And then work on defining your intention so that you can change your approach to the situation when it arises.”

Buchanan said that it will probably also mean the difference between engaging in a political argument with someone or “leading with heart,” between excited about a peaceful approach to coping with drama or a difficult person, and between using his Focus shifted to something you might be grateful for, like a lovely flower arrangement within the room.

“I call this being rooted in the present moment,” said Elena Sonnino, a life coach and speaker based in Baltimore. “Many people behave a little differently this time of year; They are pulled in countless directions and thrown off balance about what is important to them,” she said.

“That's why I encourage people to do some kind of daily exercise that keeps them in their body (as opposed to their head). Whether breathing or cuddling in bed with a pet, these mini-moments are conscious, intentional pauses about how the animal wants to feel, such as at the end of a party or at the end of a family gathering.”

But Sonnino also pointed out another important point. “Two things can be true at the same time,” she said. “I can be happy about one aspect of the vacation and completely stressed about things in the world. By naming it and giving myself a permission slip, I don’t have to go so far down the rabbit hole.”

Take small actions

For people who aren't in a relationship or have a large family, don't have children, or live too far away from their families, the holidays can be a lonely time. This is a stressor that Burnett-Zeigler says is all too common but less often talked about.

“This is where mindfulness comes in,” she said, “where people can bring themselves out of the comparison zone and the social media zone back into the present moment and consciously engage with people or activities that bring them joy” (e.g. B . shake hands with a friend or create a holiday setting for your home).

Ultimately, there isn't any “one-size-fits-all formula for cracking the code on the holidays,” Jhas said. “Break it down into little pieces, connect with your mind and body and remember that you are there for you,” she said. “You only need a few small parts to create another anchor.”