By Scott R. Mote
As the holidays approach, like most people, I envision a relaxing and joyful time that I spend with my family and friends. I think of the good food and the time spent together with loved ones and all the good feelings that come with these traditions. But, as the holidays get closer, the reality sinks in. I start stressing about how many gifts to buy, how to stick to my budget, what to make for dinner, how to stay away from self-destructive coping mechanisms, how to manage my time at home and at the office, and how to make this the best time of the year for my family. It’s no surprise that the holiday season is a mixture of excitement and stress. To ease your stress during this joyful, yet stressful time, follow some of these tips that have made my holidays more enjoyable.
It’s not your responsibility to make other people happy.
Many people believe that it’s their job to make others happy. This is far from the truth. For example, your significant other hasn’t been happy at her job. Every night you coach her and try to fix her problem. You start feeling stressed because you feel helpless and cannot fix it for her. There’s a difference between loving and supporting someone and trying to fix their problems in hopes that they will be happy. We cannot change how others feel. Your spouse is responsible for her own emotions. What you can do is support her, love her, listen to her and give her advice, but you cannot change the way she feels. She owns those emotions. The truest source of happiness comes from within.
“There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.”
Epictetus (Greek Sage and Stoic Philosopher)
I always keep this thought close to mind during the holidays. No matter how many gifts I buy or how much time I spend with my friends and family, I do it because it makes me happy. I know that it is not my responsibility to make them happy.
It’s ok to say no.
You are invited to several holiday parties, lunch gatherings, soirees and galas. Your best friend is stressed and wants to get together to talk, your workload is heavy, your client needs you to review paperwork, you have to make time for your child’s holiday play, and your mom wants your help baking cookies. It is nearly impossible to meet everyone’s demands and say yes to their invitations. It’s ok to say no. If saying no is difficult for you, try “Thank you for the invitation, but I have a prior engagement” or “I would love to attend your event, but I have already committed to another event.”
If you are having trouble determining if you should say yes or no to the invitations, set up criteria based on your values. Ask yourself questions such as “Do I really want to do this? What do I gain from doing this? Does it interfere with family events?” This will help you choose wisely.
The best gift you can give your loved ones is your time. Yes, I know that there are emails you need to answer, phone calls to return, appointments to make, etc. Try to eradicate those thoughts while you are spending time with loved ones. Put away your phone, laptop, briefcase and anything else that reminds you of work or other responsibilities that have nothing to do with the present moment. Join conversations with your family, without thinking about how much work is waiting for you at the office. Let go of whatever is not there in that moment—the past, the future. Be there, right there, right then.
“There is only one time that is important – NOW! It is the most important time because it is the only time that we have any power.” Leo Tolstoy
Keep your expectations for the holidays realistic. That way you will not set yourself up for an emotional letdown. Many times, people have a vision of what the holidays will be like—happy families, tasty dinners, gorgeous decorations—but things don’t always go as planned. People argue, packages arrive too late, the food doesn’t turn out as expected, your uncle drinks too much again this year, etc. If something like this happens, it is ok. The holidays are not ruined. Be grateful for all of the things that went well.
Take it easy!
Yes, this is probably easier said than done, but make sure you take time to relax, get enough sleep, exercise and enjoy the moment. Try not to over-indulge on food and alcohol, as this can lead to more stress and anxiety. If you find yourself stressed, think of ways to decompress, such as getting a massage, meeting with a therapist, volunteering at a local food pantry, taking time for yourself and managing your expectations.
If you find that you are still stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed, seek help. The Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program helps lawyers, judges and law students manage life's stresses.
OLAP has saved lives, careers, marriages and families. All inquiries are confidential. (800) 348-4343 / ohiolap.org
By Scott R. Mote, Executive Director of the Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program.