Lessons from Hanukkah: How to survive the holidays

The holidays are here again! We have worked hard the whole year and now we get to enjoy celebrating with our families together. Or at least, that is what we expect to happen.

As Hanukkah approached, many of us anticipated enjoying the fruits of our labor by spending time with loved ones and perhaps showing off to others the family and friends (and gifts) that we have acquired. But at the close of the holiday, many (or dare I say,most?) or us can say that our celebrations did not end up that way.

How we celebrate Hanukkah has a lot to teach us about how to survive the holiday season.

Why do we dread annual holiday parties?

Everyone knows that we often may feel as if all the hard work and investment that went into the holiday season was unjustified (at best) as a result of the bickering, tension, family feuds, and plain old petty fighting that seems to collude and infect our holiday gatherings.

I will shock you, though, with the following statistics: Though December has the lowest rate of divorce of all the months of the year, in the USA, January has the highest rate of divorce. It has been speculated that this is do to many families who want to give their children “one last happy holiday season together” before they split up, and as soon as the the holidays are over (and the Lawyers return to their offices, namely during the second week of January) the divorce filings skyrocket. This is just one example of the terrible stress that we encounter at the end of December every year.

What does Hanukkah have to teach us about surviving the holiday season?

  • “They’re coming for the Hanukkah party this year again?"
  • “Our expenses soar during this season!”
  • “The weather is cold, the house is messy, I have a headache and the last thing I need is…”

Sound familiar? In a conversation with a barber I had recently, he told me that he sees the most Jews in the month of December, as they take nice haircuts to prepare for Hanukkah parties with friends, family, and coworkers. Remembering to get that extra haircut is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to holiday stress!

How do we enjoy this season and not just “live through it”?

The simple answer to easing yourself through the holiday seasons is to stop the stress! I know what you’re thinking,

“I’ve tried breathing, yoga, psychotherapy, communication, and more. Guess what!? Once you’re angry (past the point of annoyance or frustration), often this stuff does not help.”

And you are right. The trick I would like you to adopt is to halt stress the moment you notice it affecting you. By stopping a stressful situation before it can deteriorate, you can make a world of a difference.

Please try practicing one or two of these stress stoppers so that they are ready in your holiday-coping arsenal:

Out-of-the-box stress stoppers

1: The cuddly pose

Adopt a body pose that mimics the motions we make when we are winning a marathon. Stand up, straighten your back and stretch the upper front of your chest.

This movement “convinces” the brain that is in a state of confidence and ownership. It quickly increases self-assurance and the feeling of safety that stand in opposition to the undesirable alternative of the fight or flight body response which invariably leads to regrettable reactions.

2: Take a pen (with a cap on) and put it inside your mouth to the point where it forces you to smile

When you smile, even unnaturally, it sends messages to your brain to release the positive mood developing chemicals that have a calming effect on the body.

3: Remove your shoes

I am not kidding! I do not know why this works, but it does induce calm. Please, try it.

4: Release oxytocin.

Call a friend and have a personal chat. If this isn’t your thing, try watering a plant, fixing a gadget, feeding your pet dog, or holding a baby. The action that helps you best will vary depending on your gender, personality, and situation. These specific oxytocin-releasing exercises can be incredibly powerful.

5: Don’t take a walk

If you need to escape a stressful situation, then by all means, walk out the door. But a common misconception is that taking a walk can help with anger. This doesn’t work if you are the type to spend the entire walk brooding. Know yourself, and pick an out-of-the-box stress stopper that works for you.

Are you ready for the holiday season?

Put on your fuzziest, most ugly sweater and try these Hanukkah-tested ideas on for size.

Let these stress stoppers work for you this holiday season. If you like them, please let me know at Melech@stressiety.com.

Contact me if you are having a stressful time, and we’ll get you some help, ASAP. Happy holidays!

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10 Dec 2018

By Melech Mann

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