How many times do we hear during the holiday season about how stressful the holidays are. “Christmas just drives me crazy.” This all comes from our distorted belief that “stress” is somehow “out there” in the world and not a result of our thinking processes. Stress has gone from a physiological state to this nebulous force out there in the world. We are “under stress” and “coping with stress” and dealing with “stressful jobs” and “stressful holidays.”
Stress isn’t out there. All that is out there are situations. They might be situations we like or don’t like, but whether we have this adverse “stressful” physiological reaction happening in us depends on how we think about those situations. Now I know you’ve heard this before. There are a lot of writers and speakers who sort of talk the talk – that we must be responsible for our lives etc. But when push comes to shove they still talk the talk of victims. “How did that make you feel?” is a favorite question of parents and counselors. They think they are really doing a good job of getting to your feelings. The only problem is that the question implies that the event totally controlled your reaction. Wrong. Or here’s one, “Stress is part of life.
The only people who don’t have stress are dead people.” The first time I heard that 30 plus years ago I thought, “There’s a hell of a choice. Stress or dead.” It’s a stupid statement.
I have worked with people in all types of tragic circumstances including people who have had their children murdered. Some people stay angry and hateful and bitter, and others choose not to go in that direction. One person told me and a group of survivors I was talking to that it finally dawned on him after waking up every day for ten years and hating the person who killed his daughter that she deserved better than that from him. He said that she hadn’t lived all those years just for him to hate someone.
Power is about choices. If you don’t see the choices you don’t see the power.
If you are going crazy around the holidays, the odds are you are trying to meet some type of expectations either from others or from yourself. But don’t get me wrong. If you start defying those expectations you will get some flack. Count on it. However if you don’t make changes you will eventually be a reflection of B.B. King’s song, “The Thrill Is Gone.”
I guarantee you though, that if you keep blaming the holidays or your boss or your car as stressful you will be stuck until you die. However if you start to accept some responsibility for your inner life, you will begin to see that the way you think is triggering most of your stress response.
I realize that changing the way you think is very difficult. When I speak about this I sometimes have people say, “Easier said than done.” Well, duh! But difficult is not impossible. It’s just difficult.
If you are tired of your holidays being a mess, make different choices. Just because you’re screwed up don’t blame Christmas. Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t Dr. Phil just saying “Get over it.” This is hard to do. The first time you do this your holiday or your marriage or your life in general still might not be great, but you will start to feel a certain sense of power coming back. Take back your holidays. Take back your life.