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8 Ways to Experience More Peace During the Holidays

Buying gifts,

Making goodies,

Going to parties,

And remember the cards and packages need to be mailed by December 15!

These are not just the “shoulds” but for many of us they are the “musts” of the holiday season. This can be a stressful time. Not to mention the days are getting shorter and colder, prime time for SAD (seasonal affective disorder). So how do we find peace, avoid burnout and maybe even enjoy ourselves this time of year?

Shifting our focus on things we can influence in our life rather than what we can’t change will help us have more peace during the holidays. This is about working on our resilience. Resilience is the set of personal qualities that enable us to thrive in the face of adversity (Connor & Davidson, 2003). It may involve being calm in difficult situations, implementing effective coping mechanisms, and handling criticism well.

Why Is Resilience Important?

Ongoing stress can be hard on our mental and physical health. Personal resilience can buffer us from these effects, shutting down the stress cycle, and enabling us to better fight off illness and other negative outcomes (Gaffey, Bergeman, Clark, & Wirth, 2016). But resilience can mean different things to different people. For example, to someone who is extroverted, resilience may mean spending extra time with friends. To an introvert, resilience may mean spending more time alone. Although each of us may cope with struggles by using different strategies, the key is to know what works for us and in which circumstances.

How to Find More Peace Through Resilience

1. Practice acceptance

During the holiday there may be many things we wish were different in our life. Maybe we wish our relationships with family felt closer. Or we feel discouraged that we can’t buy more gifts for our children or grandchildren. Maybe there is an empty chair at the table this year and we are mourning the loss of a loved one.

There are things in our life we can change, but many things we can’t. Fighting the things we can’t control will bring us more pain. Acceptance doesn’t mean we should push aside the pain and not grieve our losses. But accepting the reality of “what is” in our life can increase our resilience and bring us more peace. Perhaps this is why acceptance is linked to positive well-being (Ranzijn & Luszcz, 1999).

2. Strive for self-knowledge

Self-knowledge is essential to resilience. If we do not know ourselves well enough to cope with stressors in ways that are effective for us, then we are likely to struggle. It’s important to not only think about what we’re doing, but why we’re doing it. For example, maybe we cope by drinking alcohol or overeating when we’re upset. It’s important to not only recognize what we are doing but why we’re doing it. What are the feelings behind the activity and where do they come from. By developing self-knowledge, we can take actions that helps us recover from difficulties more easily.

3. Take care of yourself

When we’re sick, tired, and malnourished, we have a harder time responding to any type of stress, big or small. Our bodies just don’t have the resources. For example, research has found that sugar intake is related to depression (Knüppel et al., 2017). I know, sugar shaming is not something we want to hear during the holidays. However, this knowledge may help us as we make more informed decisions about what we eat at parties and family gatherings. If we focus on being healthier, we are likely to boost our resilience. We can do this by eating more nutritious food, engaging in moderate exercise, and sleeping when we're tired.

4. Prevent burnout

Burnout is a very real phenomenon that includes emotional and physical exhaustion (Maslach & Jackson, 1981). Research has shown that there are several causes of burnout including too much work, not enough control, social issues, and a mismatch in values (Maslach & Leiter, 2016). If we’re burned out, our resilience is at an all-time low. ​This is even more important to recognize during the holidays when we have extra duties, responsibilities, and demands on our time. It’s important to recognize when we are feeling burnt out and take a break. Try to take moments for yourself and do something you enjoy. And remember it’s okay to say “no” to things. Avoiding burnout can help you enjoy the good things during the holiday, rather than just feeling overburdened with responsibilities.

5. Practice self-love

Remember you are enough. Also, the things you are do and what you have to offer is enough. Self-love is a crucial part of what it means to be resilient. Positive self-views are closely linked to positive outcomes like happiness and well-being (Miller Smedema, Catalano, & Ebener, 2010). This may be because if we feel bad about ourselves, it colors every other aspect of our lives. When we pause and value who we are and what we have to offer, especially during the holidays, we can become more resilient. By cultivating self-love, we can hopefully respond to stress in healthier ways.

6. Build social connections

One of the best things about the holidays is that we get to spend time with family and friends. No matter what we're doing, we feel better when we're doing it with others. That makes social connections a crucial component of resilience. In fact, one of the most reliable ways to boost well-being is by developing high-quality social relationships and by feeling socially connected to the people in your life (Holt-Lunstad, Robles, & Sbarra, 2017). And if you don’t have people to gather with during the holiday and you wish you did, be proactive. Invite people to your house. Rather than waiting for others to call you, call them first. Sometimes if we feel we don’t have the perfect relationships it’s easy to dismiss the ones we have. So, think about the people you do have in your life. Call them, send a card, or setup a video chat. These are all ways to connect.

7. Take a step back

Sometimes when we're so overwhelmed with business and responsibilities during the holidays, we become so immersed in it that we can't see straight. Our negative emotions overwhelm us and our perspectives narrow. That's why resilience often means being able to take a step back to look at our situation from outside ourselves. More specifically, if we look at our situation as if we were a “fly on the wall” or a “passerby on the street", we can get some much-needed objectivity that can help decrease our negative emotions. This strategy is known as emotional distancing, and it can help us feel better during difficult times (Ayduk, & Kross, 2010).

8. Practice Gratitude

Being grateful is something we hear over and over again, but there is good reason for this. Gratitude is one of the best ways to build resilience. Being grateful for what we have rather than feeling sad over what we don’t have can change how we see the world. It changes our perspective not just in the short term but in the long term as well. During this time of year when things feel crazy try to pause, emotionally step back, and look at what is happening around you. Then put your hand over your heart, close your eyes and breath deeply. Ask yourself what are you grateful for in this moment? Try and do this as often as you can when you are with others and when you are by yourself.

Closing thoughts

Resilience is a powerful tool for well-being. But it is also a complex, multifaceted concept. I hope these suggestions help you as you navigate this time of year.


● Ayduk, Ö., and E. Kross. 2010. “From a Distance: Implications of Spontaneous Self-Distancing for Adaptive Self-Reflection.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 98 (5): 809–829.

● Connor, K. M., & Davidson, J. R. (2003). Development of a new resilience scale: The Connor‐Davidson resilience scale (CD‐RISC). Depression and anxiety, 18(2), 76-82.

● Gaffey, A. E., Bergeman, C. S., Clark, L. A., & Wirth, M. M. (2016). Aging and the HPA axis: Stress and resilience in older adults. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 68, 928-945.

● Holt-Lunstad, J., Robles, T. F., & Sbarra, D. A. (2017). Advancing social connection as a public health priority in the United States. American Psychologist, 72(6), 517.

Knüppel, A., Shipley, M. J., Llewellyn, C. H., & Brunner, E. J. (2017). Sugar intake from sweet food and beverages, common mental disorder and depression: prospective findings from the Whitehall II study. Scientific reports, 7(1), 1-10.

● Maslach, C., & Jackson, S. E. (1981). The measurement of experienced burnout. Journal of organizational behavior, 2(2), 99-113.

● Maslach, C., & Leiter, M. P. (2016). Burnout. In Stress: Concepts, cognition, emotion, and behavior (pp. 351-357). Academic Press.

● Miller Smedema, S., Catalano, D., & Ebener, D. J. (2010). The relationship of coping, self-worth, and subjective well-being: A structural equation model. Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin, 53(3), 131-142.

● Park, C. L. (2008). Testing the meaning making model of coping with loss. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 27(9), 970-994.​

● Ranzijn, R., & Luszcz, M. (1999). Acceptance: A key to wellbeing in older adults? Australian Psychologist, 34(2), 94-98.

[TW1]Do you mean “on” or “to” here?

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