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Learning to build resilience during the holidays

The holidays are a special time of year. And while December can be filled with excitement, it also can be hectic for families who juggle the demands of work, family and holiday preparation.  

Devereux Center for Resilient Children Early Childhood Specialist and National Trainer Nefertiti B. Poyner, Ed.D. offers several tips to help build resilience during the holiday season. She says focusing on simple areas such as thankfulness, family, rest and laughter can help boost your resilience – ensuring that you’re able to manage stress and experience the joy of the holiday season.   

Tip #1: Grow in Gratitude

The holidays are the perfect time to take inventory of all the things we are thankful for in our lives. 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: a hug from a significant other, eating a meal with family, watching our children smile. Learning to cherish what we already have helps create strength and happiness from our everyday surroundings. 

Exercise: Ask yourself: What am I thankful for? How much stronger is my family when I’m thankful, positive and in a good mood? Write down everything you are thankful for and place it by your bedside. 

Tip #2: Ask for Help

Asking for help shows that we are not afraid 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 areas that cause particular stress around the holidays and assign one or two tasks to a friend or family member. Ask that person directly and explain why his or her help is valuable. 

Tip #3: Laugh Out Loud

Laughter is a surprising source of resilience. Not only is laughter good for us on a physiological level, but it helps alleviate stress and elevate our sense of wellbeing – providing peace of mind. When we are in good spirits, we are more willing to tackle obstacles that lie ahead. In fact, studies show laughter not only generates endorphins and creates mild euphoria; it has also been shown to raise one’s resistance to pain (New York Times).

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

With all the technological gifts and distractions awaiting families this holiday season, it can be easy for families to become isolated from one another. 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 provide us with new support systems and sources of strength. 

Exercise: Collect 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: 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 guests. However, in the midst of all this scrambling, it is important 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 music or pick up a book. Pinpoint your stress triggers and practice deep breathing techniques during these moments. Take a class in yoga or meditation. 

Tip #6: Rest

Depending on your geography, mornings can either consist of sunny commutes or merciless wind chills. No matter the weather, getting out of bed can be the most difficult task of the day. Thankfully, research shows getting plenty of rest helps us, both mentally and physically. When we sleep, our body works 10 times as hard to remove impurities from the central nervous system (Forbes). Therefore, the more rest we get, the more energized and renewed we are – and a fresh take on things can be paramount in day-to-day resilience. 

Exercise: Balance out your schedule to ensure you achieve at least eight hours of rest at night – and do it every day. Bundle up in a blanket on your couch or drink warm tea to calm your mind and body before going to bed. 

As you get ready to enjoy the holiday season with family and friends, make building your resilience a part of your preparation. Improving your resilience will ensure that you’re able to manage stress and experience joy for the holiday season and beyond!    


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