It is not unusual to be frazzled or stressed during the last months of the year and so many celebrations crammed into 2 months time. With family parties, school parties, gift buying, gift giving, delivery deadlines, finding time for traditions, decorating, baking, sending out cards and making everything absolutely PERFECT for your children so that they’ll always remember the magic of the season, it’s obviously a cause for elevated stress level. And then you check your Instagram only to see that everyone else seems to be doing it better than you with beautiful smiles and stylish holiday decor.
But before I give you permission to complain about all that and more, here’s why complaining will actually make your holidays worse.
Complaining rewires your brain.
Complaining is totally normal and we’re all prone to do it. It feels as if it’s helping because for the moment, you’re blowing off steam. With all the pressures and the to-do’s during the holidays, it can breed negativity if you let it. The more frequently you complain, your brain will make it easier to complain in the future – basically, your brain will rewire itself. So, over time, that negativity will become second nature. If you’re turning to negative thoughts more frequently, it will be more difficult for you to break that habit. Do you know one of those people that is constantly negative? They likely didn’t get there overnight. Practice makes perfect.
Complaining is bad for your health.
So what’s the harm in complaining, even if it does rewire your brain to make it second nature to complain more? Complaining can actually harm your health. We all know how stressful the holidays are already, you won’t want to compound that stress. Dr. Travis Bradberry wrote, “When you complain, your body releases the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol shifts you into fight-or-flight mode, directing oxygen, blood, and energy away from everything but the systems that are essential to immediate survival. One effect of cortisol, for example, is to raise your blood pressure and blood sugar so that you’ll be prepared to either escape or defend yourself.
All the extra cortisol released by frequent complaining impairs your immune system and makes you more susceptible to high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. It even makes the brain more vulnerable to strokes.”
Joining the pity party.
You know that saying that misery loves company? Same goes for complainers. You seek validation for your complaints and then it just becomes a time for those who commiserate to join in the complaining. The negativity grows and you don’t want your most memorable party during the holidays to be a pity party. The holidays are a time for you to enjoy being with family and friends and being in a complaining cycle is not where you want to wallow.
Here are some ways to dial down the stress.
Make your complaint have a purpose.
Complaining in and of itself is not necessarily a problem. It’s the constant complaining that breeds negativity that can be a problem. If you have a complaint – something that you require a solution or a resolution to, take a step back and evaluate. What the problem is and how you can solve it? If you get angry every year because a member of your extended family forgets about your child’s very serious food allergy, address it before it becomes a problem when you are in a good place instead of testing them to see if they’ll remember and then complaining when they don’t. If you can identify the things you are most likely to complain about, you may be able to prevent it in the first place. And if you can’t, make sure that when you do have a complaint, you can use it constructively. Evaluate if it is worth addressing and if you can find a solution.
Stay positive and turn things around.
Just as complaining can become a problem, doing the opposite can bring more joy to the holidays. Yes, this means focusing on the good things, perhaps altering your attitude but the results will be worth it. If something about the holidays drives you crazy, do you really need to be doing it? If those neighbor gifts are becoming more of a burden than an expression of friendship, it’s time for you to ask what your goal is and if what you are doing is achieving that goal. Would a short, handwritten note suffice rather than an elaborate gift suffice?
Each year, a friend of mine would ask me if I was sending Christmas cards. For some reason this stressed me out and began to irritate me because it made me focus on my short-comings. I’m more of an every-other year lady in that department and having someone ask me about it was making me anxious. A few years ago, I got the e-mail again asking if I was sending cards and asking me for one and I realized that it was super important to her. It dawned on me that I could just send her one card without needing to send cards to everyone on our list. I turned something that was driving me crazy into something that I love doing now because I changed my perspective and realized something that required hardly anything from me was something very big for her.
Let it go.
When all else fails, let it go. A friend of mine years ago told me to pretend I was a sea otter and let it all just roll off of my back like water. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used that trick. Sometimes you can’t change a person or a situation but you can change yourself. You can choose to let it go. I don’t get hung up on the fact that I really wanted to make gingerbread houses and I just couldn’t find the time this year. Instead of venting about how I’m letting my family down by not finding that precious gingerbread house building time, I check myself and ask myself if it is worth giving that negativity a voice. No, I’m not perfect and neither are my holidays. But I’m going to do my very best to enjoy every bit and let go of all the rest.