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Turn Holiday Stress into Personal Development Crash Course

a large family celebrating the holidays around the dinner table

What if someone told you there was a way to let go of the holiday stress and use it to your advantage? Check out these tips and create your own personal development course!

Before the whirlwind of the holidays descends on you, take a moment to read over the following lessons. Will you nail them all in a single get together or even over the whole high-octane holiday season this year? Probably not—and that’s OK!—but mentally preparing yourself to approach the holidays with a growth mindset will help you take more away from family get-togethers than a stress headache.

Lesson 1: Patience

Holidays involve a lot of deadlines, organization, and scheduling. Still, more often than not, things don’t go according to plan or something new comes up that requires you to make a ton of changes and even cancel certain things altogether. That can be frustrating, annoying, and also hard to fix or deal with because it always seems like you’re trying to assemble a 5000 piece puzzle, and either some parts are missing, or someone comes and shuffles them all around.

See, the thing is, this time of the year is supposed to be filled with laughter and joy, and here you are, going crazy over someone bailing out on dinner, your brother being an hour late to your rooftop party, or realizing the online shopping you did arrive on time. Holiday stress shows us pretty well how we’re able to turn something so small into a huge deal, and can, therefore, be a great patience lesson when we figure it out and realize it’s not the end of the world.

There are so many things in life that require getting worked up about, and seeing your dinner getting cold because people didn’t show up on time isn’t one of them. Once you start changing your perspective, you’ll be able to reduce the stress and possibly even laugh it off. Is it ideal? No, you worked hard on something and invested your time and effort, but in the grand scheme of things, is that really that important? If the answer is no (and it almost always is), calm down, and deal with it in the best possible way, which won’t end up giving you a headache.

Lesson 2: Tolerance

There probably isn’t a better time to learn how to build up your tolerance than the holiday season. Enduring long lunches and dinners while listening to people repeat the same old stories, and your grandparents hinting at how they’re not getting any younger, and you still haven’t given them any grandchildren isn’t easy, joyous, or enjoyable. Most of the time, there is nothing you can do about it, so getting angry and finding it all so irritating won’t do any good, especially for your wellbeing.

Learning how to let some things go and be more tolerant is a work in process that doesn’t have a finished result: we all have to brush that skill every day. And although some life situations make it hard to do so, holidays shouldn’t be one of them, so think of them as stepping stones in your personal growth and turn every situation in your test practice. That way, you’ll have a goal to learn something from every one of them, which will, in turn, equip you with tools to deal with anything else in the future.

Lesson 3: Forgiveness

family gathered around a holiday table with a grandmotherly figure bringing a roast turkey to dine on
LightField Studios/Shutterstock

Once you’ve started working on your patience and tolerance, forgiveness will become a little bit easier as you’ll start seeing things from different perspectives, listening to others tell their sides of the story, and developing empathy when respect starts to kick in. Now, by no means are we saying that forgiving is easy, but realizing that there’s more in it for you than the person you’re trying to let go off the hook, makes taking a step towards it a little bit lighter.

Forgiveness almost always feels like someone lifting a huge stone off your chest as you’re letting go of heavy feelings weighing you down. Holidays are the time when we’re surrounded by a lot of friends, family, coworkers, and acquaintances we either have a history with, been successfully avoiding for a while (yes, we’re talking about your ex), or hold a grudge against. If there’s ever a time to let all of that go and put the past behind you, doing so under the twinkling Christmas lights or while eating delicious pumpkin pie seems like a pretty perfect idea.

By making yourself dig deeper into your feelings and seeing how they affect your health, mood, and even your actions and reactions, you’re getting on the right path of learning how to forgive those who did you wrong and letting that be their cross to carry. After all, you wouldn’t want to miss your grandma’s holiday feast because you’re still mad at your cousin now, would you?

Lesson 4: Gratitude

Instead of getting stressed out about having 15 people sitting at a too-small table, finding time to buy presents for everyone, and panicking about whether the turkey will be perfectly cooked, take a deep breath and think about how lucky you are even to be worrying about things like that. Terrible things happen every single day and stewing about the fact you were only able to bake five instead of your traditional seven holiday cakes this year isn’t the end of the world. Although it might feel like it, it isn’t.

Once you’ve calmed yourself down, it will be easier to let the feelings of gratitude bubble up to the surface.

Instead of worrying whether you’ll be able to fit everyone at the table, think about how grateful you are to have so many people come to your house. Instead of stressing about whether you’ll be able to get everyone’s gift on time, feel happy about having enough money to afford it. And rather than worrying about your culinary skills, be grateful for being able to provide your space and time to cook a holiday meal and host all of your favorite people under one roof. Practicing gratitude during the holiday season puts things in perspective and makes it easier to translate it into other aspects of your life.

Lesson 5: Let Go & Just Be

Learning how to be grateful for everything you have and enjoy all the precious moments with your friends and family is the ultimate goal of your personal development crash course. And it’s a goal you always want to be reaching towards because letting go of all the negative thoughts and feelings leaves space for happiness, joy, and truly savoring the present moment. Carpe diem may be a cliché, but it really explains everything in two little words (three in English): seize the day.

We all succumb to feelings of stress and panic every time the holiday season comes around the corner. Turn it all around this year and think of it as a wonderful opportunity to grow, become more patient and tolerant, forgive those who hurt you, realize how grateful you are for those around you, and focus on staying in the present moment cause all we really have is now.

Karla Tafra Karla Tafra
Karla is a certified yoga teacher, nutritionist, content creator and an overall wellness coach with over 10 years of international experience in teaching, writing, coaching, and helping others transform their lives. From Croatia to Spain and now, the US, she calls Seattle her new home where she lives and works with her husband. Read Full Bio »
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