When I start hearing Christmas music playing everywhere I go, I get pumped. Admittedly, I’m one of those that will sneak the occasional Christmas album or movie in the summer time. There’s just something about the holiday mood that makes me feel like maybe my worries aren’t so bad.
That said, the reality of the holidays can also include a lot of built in stress and anxiety. The holidays can be a time with stressful expectations, over packed schedules, and uncomfortable family interactions. This post is to help you face those negative realities that are on their way.
Stress is often talked about in a negative light, but the truth is we need a healthy level of it to get out of bed in the morning and accomplish our goals. In that way stress is on our side. In 2013 Dr. Kelly McGonigal gave a TED talk entitled How to Make Stress Your Friend. She talks about how the way we view stress matters for our mental and physical health. And so I’m sharing this talk with you, to hopefully help you as you head into this holiday season.
The rest of my blog post highlights her insightful points managing stress and even making it your friend.
Is stress good or bad?
The answer is, surprisingly, that how we view stress (good or bad) has a bigger impact on how stress will effect us mentally and physically, rather than if stress is present or not. Ultimately, it is harmful to believe that stress is bad for you, and if you don’t view stress as harmful it will not effect you negatively.
How to view stress as your friend
Start by thinking of your stress response as helpful. Reframe stress in your mind from something uncomfortable that is happening to you, to your body purposefully responding as it should to give you strength to meet a challenge.
Things to say to yourself –
- My stress response is helpful
- My pounding heart is preparing me for action
- Breathing faster is a way to get more oxygen to my brain to help me think clearer
- This is my body helping me rise to this challenge
- My body is awesome!
How we think about stress matters. When we view stress as our friend our bodies believe us and stressful experiences can actually feel more like courage and joy.
Stress makes you social
Experiencing stress releases oxytocin. Oxytocin primes you to do things that strengthen your relationships. It makes you crave physical contact, enhances your empathy for others, and makes you more willing to help and support others. Oxytocin is a stress hormone and is released when you experience stress. When life is difficult your stress response naturally wants you to reach out to others and feel socially connected.
Caring for others creates resilience. How you think and act can transform your experience with stress. Viewing your stress response as helpful creates courage. And connecting with others creates resilience.
During this holiday season, as you make your way through the mine filled landscape of responsibilities and family, and your stress levels rise, remind yourself that stress is your friend. When your family or in-laws point out how you’re not quite living up to their standards, or, heaven forbid, someone brings up the election and their political views, and your heart starts to race or you find yourself breathing a little quicker, remind yourself that your body is on your side. Your body is responding exactly as it should to a stressful situation. When your stress pushes you to reach out to others and connect, do it! And as you do you will feel your stress transform into courage and joy.
I wish you the happiest of holiday seasons!