Mental Health

Using Gratitude to Minimize Holiday Stress

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Gratitude has helped me get through many situations, from daily and seasonal stresses to trauma that I would have struggled with for longer and may not have escaped.

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⚠️Trigger Warning: anxiety, COVID-19

There I was, standing in a long line of frantic looking people, consumed with holiday stress, waiting to purchase piles of presents for loved ones, that frankly, no one needed. I started staring into space, dazed.

I just needed to zone out of this bizarre scenario filled with hectic people wearing masks, which frighteningly reminded me of a scene from one of the dystopian science fiction novels my father read to me as a child.

A sense of overwhelm rose into my chest, building to panic. What am I doing here? What is going on?

I repeated to myself: Breathe, center, be grateful.

The panicky feeling subsided.

As I breathed in deeply through my nose, expanding my belly to engage my diaphragm, then slowly out through my mouth, I thought about all the things I am grateful for.

I don’t care if I look a little weird when I do this; no one pays attention anyway. Everyone around me always stays in their own little bubble of stress or daydreaming anyway.

Related: Gratitude Practices for Anxiety and Depression

At this moment of holiday stress, I was grateful for:

  1. Being in a position to buy presents for my loved ones
  2. Being healthy
  3. Having family and friends who love me
  4. Loving my family and friends
  5. Taking extra time to connect with my loved ones, even if it couldn’t be in person
  6. Cuddles with my cat
  7. All the delicious food that would be coming my way over the next few months
  8. Watching that silly holiday movie with my boyfriend last night
  9. The vision of seeing my friends and family smile when they would see the gifts I got them
  10. Knowing how to connect with my breath and gratitude to calm me in times of stress

“Okay,” I thought, “this madness is worth it.”

The sea of unsmiling masks started to feel bearable.

I could feel the stressed energy in the room trying to penetrate me, but my gratitude borders were up, and nothing was getting through.

The holidays are a weird combination of joy and stress.

Holiday stress is bad enough under normal circumstances, so for me, it’s more important than ever to find stress-management tools I can grab out of my toolbox at a moment’s notice.

Related: Journal Prompts for the Holidays

Gratitude is like a superpower!

Gratitude is one of my most valued resiliency tools.

Typically I practice gratitude daily by writing three things I’m grateful for in my journal.

This short but simple practice makes it easy to conjure up and repeat gratitudes in times of stress.

It’s such a basic yet powerful exercise that I’m so grateful is in my life (no pun intended).

The funny thing about a gratitude practice is that in the beginning, I almost struggled to write three unique things that I was grateful for every day. The more I practiced, though, the more revelations came to me.

Most of the revelations have been things I take for granted on a day-to-day basis, like having fresh drinkable tap water in my house, rather than grand ideas (talk about privilege!), but it’s the little things in life that matter most.

For example, yellow roses always smell the best.

The more I took time to appreciate these little things genuinely, the more wonder I found in my world.

One of the most potent effects of practicing gratitude I’ve experienced is the ability to find the silver lining in even the most stressful situations.

When I got the hang of it, gratitude became a superpower!

This superpower has helped me get through many situations, from daily and seasonal stresses to trauma that I would have struggled with for longer and may not have escaped.

Here are a few key things I’ve learned to get the most out of my gratitude practice:

1. Be persistent; this is the key.

Tiny changes accumulate over time. Writing a few that only take a couple of minutes every day rather than writing a long list once a month is more beneficial and easy to keep up.

2. I no longer put pressure on myself to find new things I’m grateful for every day.

Instead, I just write. If I have to write “I am grateful for my cat, my family, and clean drinking water” twenty days in a row because I can’t think of anything else, I’m not worried because I know they will come eventually.

3. If I get out of the habit, I just get back up.

Punishing myself for it is not helpful. When studying to be a Yoga teacher, my teacher drilled into us that compassion is essential in anything we do. Compassion has been, and still is often, one of the most challenging but most crucial life lessons I’ve had to learn.

4. Reflect on the “why.”

Adding why I am grateful makes the exercise even more powerful.

Now for one last gratitude:

I am so grateful for this messy holiday season because it gives my loved ones and me moments of joy, connection, and laughter.

I am also eternally grateful for being a part of the Libero writers team and getting the chance to share my story with you in a safe space because the more we share, the more we connect with others, and isn’t that the key to life? Genuine connection?

Happy holidays, everyone!

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Adrianne Elizabeth is a writer focused on self-awareness and the founder of Your Happiness Quest, a wellness company that draws on the biological sciences, psychology, and Yogic philosophy to help women uncover their best lives. Visit her website for practical mind-body-spirit tips to help you shift from feeling overwhelmed and cluttered to happy and connected.


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