9 Strategies to Survive the Holidays
A merry manifesto from psychiatrist and Entrepreneur in Residence Dr. Samantha Boardman.
When I was a young doctor I was always happy to work during the holidays. Being in the hospital during Thanksgiving and Christmas wasn’t all that bad. In fact, I kind of liked it. There was something nice about spending time with patients and doing something that felt worthwhile. The hospital was pretty quiet on those days so I had more time than usual to chat with a patient or hang out with a fellow resident. It was fortifying. What amazed me was how many of the residents who were lucky enough to get the day off would return to work depleted and exhausted. Many complained they had eaten too much, partied too hard or gotten in an argument with a family member. The holidays and time off can be stressful and draining. Here are nine strategies to take the edge off and make the season life enhancing.
1. Don’t be a couch potato
Even though your inclination may be to stay in bed and watch Netflix all day, you will be happier if you do stuff. Go for a jog, start a new book, call someone you haven’t spoken to in a while and catch up.
2. Have a time feast
Doing things for others boosts happiness and is linked with greater life satisfaction, decreased stress and a stronger immune system including a greater cardiovascular health and decreased physical pain. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, deliver meals for Citymeals-on-Wheels, write a note to a friend you’ve lost touch with. A nice side effect is that when you do things for others, your sense of time expands and you feel less rushed.
3. Practice prophylactic plâcement
People seated at a round table—as opposed to a rectangular or square one—get along better and are less likely to bicker. Not having a head of the table minimizes confrontation. Also, a bouquet of flowers on the table is not only attractive; it is a natural stress minimizer.
4. Disconnect to connect
Enforce a no cellphone policy. The mere presence of a cellphone can ruin a conversation, negatively impact relationships and is, quite frankly, just rude.
5. Understand that expectations shape reality
Your beliefs about someone can influence behavior. This is known as the Pygmalion Effect (think My Fair Lady). If you think your uncle is going to act up again this Thanksgiving, chances are he will. Hope for the best.
6. Get some fresh air
Spending 20 minutes outside boosts your mood, broadens thinking and improves memory. It also reduces stress and rumination—those nonstop negative thoughts—and puts things in perspective.
7. Remember: everyone knows something you don’t
If you find yourself stuck next to that uninteresting aunt again, instead of dwelling on how dull she is, ask yourself, “What can I learn from this person?”
8. Mollify Aunt Molly
If an argument does flare up, ask the other person to explain their perspective in detail. Better yet, make an obscure reference to neuroscience—it’s a surefire way to win any argument.
9. Don’t just say thanks
Do things that express gratitude. As W.J. Cameron said, “Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action.”
For more from Dr. Samantha Boardman, read her recent articles or visit her online at PositivePrescription.com.