To build resilience this holiday season, use these tips to help you bounce back from stressful situations and rediscover the season's original values — thankfulness, family and laughter.
Tip #1: Grow in Gratitude
The holidays are the perfect time for parents and children alike to take inventory of all the things they are thankful for.
Rather than wishing for a new golf club or handbag, the greatest and purest gratitude we can develop is when we learn to appreciate the small things in life: hugging a significant other, eating a wholesome meal, watching your child smile. Learning to covet and cherish what we already have helps us derive strength and happiness from our everyday surroundings.
Exercise: Ask yourself today, what am I thankful for? How much stronger is my family when I'm thankful, positive, and in a good mood? Write down all the things you are thankful for during this time of year and place it by your bedside. For a more ambitious project, gather the family and work together to assemble a "gratitude book" that includes photos and descriptions of the different things everyone is grateful for.
Tip #2: Ask for Help
Chances are, since the early days of our youth each of us in one form or another has learned to avoid asking for help, viewing it as a sign of weakness and codependence. Asking for help is not only intimidating, but can seemingly flag us as an individual who relies on the guidance and resources of those around him or her for survival. This is simply not true.
On the contrary, asking for help shows strength in that you are a person unafraid of taking risks and experiencing failure. When we ask someone else for something out of our power – be it an opinion from a friend, clarification from a colleague or assistance from a neighbor – we open ourselves to new opportunities and experiences. We show to the world that we are dedicated to achieving a goal by all means necessary.
Exercise: Focus on the things that cause particular stress around the holidays and assign one task to a friend or family member. Ask them directly and explain why their help is valuable.
Tip #3: Laugh Out Loud
While many of us fail to associate giggling and goofing around with toughness, laughter is a surprising source of resilience. Not only is laughter good for us on a physiological level, laughter helps us alleviate stress and elevate our sense of wellbeing – giving us more peace of mind and complacency. And when we are in good spirits, we are more willing to tackle the obstacles in our way.
In fact, studies show that laughter not only generates endorphins and creates mild euphoria; it has also been shown to raise one's resistance to pain. Talk about resilience!
Exercise: Cuddle up with a loved one and watch a holiday comedy. Round up a group of friends for a night of seasonal fun.
Tip #4: Listen Deeply
We'd all like to think we are good listeners. Unfortunately, listening with our undivided attention is something done by very few of us; in reality, the average person listens at only 25% efficiency.
With all the technological gifts and distractions awaiting families this holiday season, it seems as if society is bent on isolating our loved ones instead of bringing them together. That's why it's more important than ever to ensure families stay connected through open and balanced dialogue.
When we listen deeply, it increases our chances of forming meaningful, long-lasting relationships. In turn, these relationships are likely to give us new resources, support systems and sources of strength.
Exercise: Collect in a bin all the electronics in your household and put them away. For the next two to three hours, share the past week's stories over hot chocolate or a home cooked meal.
Tip #5: Make Time for a Hobby
With the holidays around the corner, many of us are working harder than ever to satisfy clients or customers and our bosses to close out the year. Home demands also rise with holiday preparation and planning. Unfortunately, this means less time to get out and accomplish the things that fuel our personal passions.
When we invest time and energy into something we love, we feel a sense of pride and confidence in our self-worth. Rather than succumbing to the notion that our work defines us, making time for a hobby reinforces our individualism and helps us distinguish ourselves from being just another face in the workforce crowd.
Exercise: Dedicate a day on your calendar to learning a new skill or honing an existing one. Try attending a holiday crafts class to create and display homemade decorations around the house.
Tip #6: Practice Self-Calming Techniques
Braving hordes of eager holiday shoppers is no easy task; neither is navigating highly trafficked roads or coordinating a holiday dinner for fussy guests.
It seems as if stress comes with the territory when dealing with the holidays; people are always striving to make every aspect of their Christmas or New Year's party perfect at the expense of sanity and personal freedom. However, in the midst of all this scrambling, it is crucial to remember to slow down and find time to decompress.
People often overlook the importance of mental health and its countless effects on relationships, attitude and productivity. When we are relaxed and emotionally centered, we gain control of our circumstances. By practicing self-calming techniques, we develop an acute resilience to challenges that would normally come across as overwhelming.
Exercise: Listen to some soothing holiday classical music or pick up a light read. Pinpoint your stress triggers and practice deep breathing techniques during these moments. Couple tip #5 with tip #3 and take a class in laughter yoga!
Tip #7: Rest
Depending on your geography, your mornings can either consist of sunny commutes or merciless wind chills. If you're living in the latter, sometimes getting out of a nice warm bed is the single most difficult task of the day.
Thankfully, research shows that getting plenty of rest helps us mentally and physically. When we sleep, our body works ten times as hard to remove impurities from the central nervous system. Therefore, the more rest we get, the more energized and renewed we are – and a fresh take on things can often be paramount in day-to-day resilience.
Exercise: Balance out your schedule to ensure a proper eight hours of rest at night – and do it every day. Bundle up in a toasty blanket on your favorite couch and sip some warm tea to calm your mind and body before going to bed.
Nefertiti Bruce is an Early Childhood Specialist and National Trainer at the Devereux Center for Resilient Children. The Devereux Center for Resilient Children is a component of Devereux's national Institute of Clinical and Professional Training and Research, which brings together clinical and educational expertise in order to study issues relating to the social and emotional health of children, particularly focusing on prevention, early intervention and resilience.