6 Tips for Less Stress & More Joy This Season

6 Tips for Less Stress & More Joy This Season

The clock is ticking toward the holidays, and  two very different feelings  are flashing on your emotional news feed:  impending joy and impending doom.

OK, maybe doom is overstating it; dread may be closer to the mark.  But let’s  face it, many of us are finding ourselves up at 3:00 in the  morning checking  our to-do lists and reviewing incessantly the parade of  possible catastrophes:  “Will my brined turkey be a disaster?” “Will  everyone be happy with their  gifts?” “How much weight (and debt) am I  going to gain?” “What if my family  doesn’t get along?” “What if I’m not  ready?” “What if I totally fail?!” Wait,  are we preparing for the  holidays — or final exams?

It doesn’t have to be this way.

It’s time to change our relationship with the holidays. We don’t have  to  break up with them, but just know that as with all things anxiety,  the holidays  aren’t the problem; it’s the story in our head about the  holidays that needs to  change.

So, don’t gather up the mistletoe or menorahs, waiting for that  starting gun  to say: “On your mark, get set, stress!” Instead, put down  the supplies, take  off your running shoes, and change your expectations.

The holidays are not a control-freak boss or a mother-in-law poised  with a  perfection-sensor critiquing your every move — more likely,  you’re doing that  number on yourself. The holidays are an opportunity —  your opportunity — to  acknowledge and celebrate in the ways that you  would like.

So, this year, give a gift to yourself. Be daring. Choose how you  want to  celebrate this season. Yes, you do have many choices in the  matter. Whether  that’s a tailgating party, a marathon family reading of The Hobbit,  or  the more traditional hot cider in front of the fire, don’t let the  anxious  chatter — “You should, you must, you’ve failed!” — ruin it for  you. Find your  own meaning, there are no right or wrong answers. If  it’s real to you, it’s  real.

Here are six ways to help you have more joy and less stress this holiday  season:

Get Specific and Fact-Check Your Worry

If the mantra in your head is: “I have to make this the most perfect  holiday  ever,” it’s time to release yourself from the impossible. The  constant worry  that this thought generates is sure to distract you — if  not derail you — from  enjoying what is. Take a minute and on one side  of a piece of a paper write  down what your worries are about the  holidays. Your worst picture of what could  go wrong. Then, on the other  side of the page, write down your answers to a  different question: What  do you think will actually happen? Or, put another  way: The next  morning, how do you think things will have actually turned out?  Pick up  the paper and read it from time to time, then notice what happens in   your body when you read your answers to those second questions. It’s  like  someone unplugged you from the stress machine and you’ve tapped  into the truth.  Make sure there’s room for reality in your head and at  your holiday table.

Don’t Script, Live

If you back up and look at the most cherished moments from holiday  times in  the past — the raucous game of charades or football, the quiet  moment when  everyone was happily entertaining themselves in the living  room while the snow  was falling out the window. What happened before those moments? It  wasn’t that anyone said, “Hey, let’s make memories  here — let’s all sit in the  living room and occupy ourselves  contentedly, okay?” Things just evolved. So as  much as it is great to  have plans and ideas, flexibility, spontaneity and being  open to what  might happen provide the greatest possibilities.

Let the Mistakes Be… New Traditions?

Forgot the cranberry sauce? Maybe a guest has a great idea for how to   innovate an alternative. Miscounted the spaces at the table? A  Christmas picnic  or a lighthearted impromptu game of musical chairs  before sitting for dinner  might be the memory that sticks for people —  and may give birth to a new  tradition.

One holiday bonding experience happened one year when we were hosting   Christmas dinner for friends and discovered that our kitchen had a  mouse. We  called our friends and asked if we could bring food to their  house and cook  there. The last-minute change, the pulling together in a  pinch, solidified our  friendship. Mistakes and glitches are often the  shortest distance between two  people if you have the right spirit about  it.

Pace Yourself and Schedule in Down-Time

Having a week off for the holidays can feel like winning the lottery:  You’re  flush with time and yet, like winning the lottery, when you  start divvying up  the pot of who is going to get what– or, in holiday  break terms, who you’re  going to see when — you may end up feeling  broke, with nothing left for you.  Rather than end winter vacation  feeling like you need a vacation, do what  marathoners do. Pace yourself.  Schedule in some coasting time. Would you like  to sit and read the  paper (or similar) once during the holidays? Put it in your  calendar.  Block out the time and enjoy. Repeat when possible.

Finding Joy: Savoring the Moment

I like to think about the one thing that I want to notice during the   holidays. Yes, I know I’m scripting it ahead, but bear with me — my  ability to  live in a clutch-free or cling-free manner of zen  present-centeredness is still  under construction. For me, it’s noticing  that moment at the holiday table when  everyone is contentedly eating and  conversation is flowing and my only wish is  exactly what I am  experiencing right then. Sometimes that picture doesn’t  happen, and  something else happens that hits that spot. Be on the look out for  that  one moment where you stop worrying about what’s next and you’re   thoroughly savoring what is.

Turn the Focus Outward: Help Others

Anxiety and worry turn the focus inward — the critic in your head  has a  strong bias toward “that’s not good enough.” Unplug that  microphone, get out of  the spotlight and focus on others: Volunteer time  if you’ve got it, contribute  if you don’t. It doesn’t have to be a pot  of gold, donating clothing or canned  goods can make a great difference  to a family in need.

So this year, forego the worry and give yourself more breathing room. In  so  doing, you will give joy, gratitude, and contentedness a wider berth  to find  their way into your life for the holidays and beyond.

Copyright Tamar Chansky, Ph.D., author of Freeing Yourself from Anxiety (DaCapo, 2012).


Daily Motivator for June 21 – Don’t worry


Don’t worry about what you must do. Just get going and get it done.

Don’t worry that there’s not enough time. Just make full, purposeful and effective use of the time you have.


Don’t worry that there’s not enough money. Focus instead on the ever-present opportunities to create value.


Don’t worry about what others might say or think or do. Use your time, energy and resources in accordance with your own highest vision.


Don’t worry about what has already happened or what might occur in the future. Now is the moment in which you can act, and now is where your awareness belongs.


This is your beautiful, precious and amazing life, so don’t contaminate any of it with useless worry. Instead, live it fully, richly, peacefully and confidently as each wondrous day unfolds.

— Ralph Marston

The Daily Motivator 

Daily Horoscopes for Wednesday, July 20th

The air is charged with the potential for sudden change when the Moon pops into spontaneous Aries at 12:25 pm EDT. This shift is our monthly wake-up call to start another journey around the zodiac, yet the Moon’s conjunction with shocking Uranus releases stored tension like a bolt of lightning. Additionally, the Moon’s stressful square to shadowy Pluto reminds us that keeping secrets can backfire, even if there is a strategic reason to do so.


Aries Horoscope
Aries Horoscope (Mar 21 – Apr 19)

There is plenty of excitement today, yet you have no way of knowing what will happen next. Contrary to popular belief, you actually enjoy a bit of stability, but the routine can get to you, prompting you to crave dramatic change. However, you would prefer to be in control, but you might not be in charge now. Accept the challenge by letting go and trusting that someone else will step in and do the right thing.

Taurus Horoscope
Taurus Horoscope (Apr 20 – May 20)

Everyone seems to be acting strangely today as if they want more independence but are afraid to ask for it. You don’t want to prevent others from taking charge of their lives, but your insecurities might get in the way of your reaction. Don’t shy away from exploring your own fears now, for you may have lessons to learn about your irrational feelings. Taking the time to sort through your emotional process can help more than you think.

Gemini Horoscope
Gemini Horoscope (May 21 – Jun 20)

Unconventional ideas about your future can be upsetting to the status quo, yet you cannot stop thinking about them. You might even find that you enjoy the uncertainty as you eagerly plot your next move. However, it’s not beneficial to pick a path too quickly. In the meantime, research all the alternatives so you can make an educated choice. The more options you have now, the better the outcome will be when you’re finally required to choose your direction.

Cancer Horoscope
Cancer Horoscope (June 21 – Jul 22)

You feel a familiar discomfort if you respond impulsively now. Sometimes you miss a wonderful opportunity because you worry about making a wrong decision. Today, however, inaction is not your problem. You are excited and want to get started in a hurry. But if you act too soon, you may find yourself considering the roads not taken. It’s smarter to be cautious before you make your move; there’s not as much of a hurry as you might think.

Leo Horoscope
Leo Horoscope (Jul 23 – Aug 22)

You are apt to lose your temper today if you think that someone is preventing you from doing a job your way. Or, your rash behavior could provoke someone else’s anger. Either way, remember that extreme feelings stem from a deeper imbalance and you won’t solve anything by just suppressing your emotions. A real solution comes from analyzing your assumptions and unraveling your logic so you can deal with the source of your motivation in a calm and reasonable manner.

Virgo Horoscope
Virgo Horoscope (Aug 23 – Sep 22)

Others may seem totally irrational today and their unexpected behavior can be very unsettling. However, the Moon’s entry into confrontational Aries gives you permission to express your concerns, even if it precipitates an argument. But don’t spend too much time questioning yourself and sorting through all your options. Your most reliable strategy now is to act first and ask questions later.

Libra Horoscope
Libra Horoscope (Sep 23 – Oct 22)

Taking a break from your work is a healthy thing to do now, especially if you have something to show for your recent efforts. Instead of focusing on your responsibilities, pay more attention to your personal life. Whether you’re seeking out a new relationship or trying to revitalize an old one, don’t be afraid to express your feelings as directly and succinctly as you can. Your honesty and clarity may be enough to create the fireworks you crave.

Scorpio Horoscope
Scorpio Horoscope (Oct 23 – Nov 21)

You might be in for a surprise today as the fiery Aries Moon-Uranus conjunction zaps your 6th House of Work. You don’t need to look for trouble; it will probably find you. However, any problems that come to the surface now are just revealing something that you’ve been trying to avoid. Don’t worry if things get out of hand for a while; circumstances will become more supportive, even if it takes a day or two for your stress to settle down.

Sagittarius Horoscope
Sagittarius Horoscope (Nov 22 – Dec 21)

You don’t like receiving mixed messages because they make you feel as if you’re unable to respond properly. You enjoy the excitement of riding along on a rapidly moving current that’s carrying you to an unknown destination. However, your swift movement still can meet resistance today, which provokes you to push even harder. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to progress any faster, so avoid the temptation to rush the process. Ultimately, practicing patience is more productive now than forcing the issue.

Capricorn Horoscope
Capricorn Horoscope (Dec 22 – Jan 19)

The hectic pace increases throughout the day, making it difficult for you to find respite today. Although you’re drawn toward the action, you may feel frustrated if you cannot get resolution on an important dilemma now. But don’t turn an insignificant question into one of ultimate concern just to relieve your boredom. You don’t need any more distractions, so just be quiet and listen to the wisdom of your inner voice.

Aquarius Horoscope
Aquarius Horoscope (Jan 20 – Feb 18)

You don’t want to waste your time while waiting around for someone else, but you may also have your own delays to manage today. You know something big is about to happen, yet you don’t seem to be able to push things along. Unfortunately, you can frustrate yourself if you don’t change your perspective. Settling back into your comfort zone for a while won’t be difficult if you remember that the real fun is still on the way.

Pisces Horoscope
Pisces Horoscope (Feb 19 – Mar 20)

Although the Moon leaves your sign midday, you still feel emotionally charged. Your morning moodiness can explode into a barrage of words if you think that your feelings aren’t being respected by your friends or co-workers. But you won’t reach satisfaction through dialogue now; talking about your concerns might only make matters worse. Instead of attempting to force change, focus on adjusting your own attitude. When your outlook improves, so will everything else.