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Countless minefields lie ahead in the next few days. The holidays can lead you to  pressure yourself to be joyful, spend time with family, buy the perfect presents, and have a memorable celebration.  There’s food to cook (the meal must be special, right?) and concern about who might drop off freshly baked goodies when you can’t reciprocate. For the emotionally sensitive person, these challenges are aggravated by perfectionism, worry about people getting along, fear of hurting feelings, and fear of not being good enough. No wonder there’s so much stress. You may have a strong desire to go to bed with the covers over your head. It’s enough to take all the joy out of your holidays.

Cope Ahead is a skill to help you manage the stress so you can enjoy your holidays. Cope ahead means to plan a way to cope with what’s coming and picture yourself doing it. There are several areas to consider.

1 Do you have beliefs that are interfering with your enjoying the holidays? For example, believing that you are responsible for creating a joyful celebration for everyone is a joy zapper. How others feel is beyond your control so it sets you up to do the impossible. This holiday remember that each participant is responsible for their own emotions.

2.  Where are you focusing your attention?  It’s easy to worry about how the gifts are wrapped, whether you gave presents that others liked, how the table looks, or whether dinner is ready on time. Those thoughts increase your tension and wind you up. Being mindful of conversations and being present with friends and family will make a more relaxed holiday. If there is sadness, remember you can be sad and also enjoy moments of the holiday.

3. Act according to your values. Doing what you believe is more likely to result in a satisfying holiday. What actions are consistent with your values?

4.  Do less. Drop comparisons and ignore those self-judgments about what is good enough and what isn’t. Showing up is enough. Remember that what you view in the moment as an important misstep may not even be on your radar in two weeks or a month. What doesn’t work out often leads to the fondest memories.

5.  Practice gratitude for what works out. 

6. Be prepared for difficult people. Decide ahead of time how you will handle them instead of hoping they’ll be different this year. I’m guessing you don’t want to think about it but being prepared will make the interaction go more smoothly.

What’s difficult for you at the holidays?  What’s your plan to cope ahead? Remember to practice through imagery.

Happy Holidays!

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