Holidays Lead to Stress. Stress Leads to the Dark Side.

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The holidays invite waves of emotions, oftentimes conflicting. Now, as we emerge through the other side of a global pandemic we find ourselves navigating global shortages and spiking inflation as we prepare to celebrate. With all of this, it’s easy to fall into a trap of darkening emotions and trigger responses.

Influences outside of our control can sometimes elicit feelings of sadness or anger, and before we know it, we might find ourselves unjustifiably acting on those emotions–at the detriment to the experience we’re trying to create for those around us.

As we scramble to provide a happy holiday for loved ones, we’re bound to experience moments like these. For all the bright lights and cheery music, this can be a tormentous time of year. The American Psychological Association determined that many people feel rising stress during the holidays. Their research found that stress might not come from just the aforementioned factors, but also from wanting enough time off work to spend with family.

Wellness author, Jennifer Moss, writing for HBR, recommends that leaders ask their teams what can be done at work to help alleviate such holiday stress. But what can we each do for ourselves no matter the support we receive from others? A tactic called Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy for managing emotions was developed by renowned psychologist Albert Ellis for just this topic. His research notes that events trigger thoughts, thoughts trigger feelings, and feelings trigger actions. Thus, it is crucial for each of us to recognize an influencing event and force ourselves to be conscious of the immediately resulting thought before it sparks an unwanted emotion. This doesn’t mean that we ignore our feelings, but rather that we rephrase thoughts that could leave us feeling negatively and turn them into more constructive notions.

This idea is furthered by Ashley Zahabian in her TED Talk as she discusses using rationalism to increase emotional intelligence and counter negative emotions. Zahabian advocates for identifying our emotions, such as anger or sadness, and then consciously determining the best action we can take for the benefit of ourselves and those around us.

For this holiday season, let’s try to be aware of how ongoing events affect our mood and how our mood could in turn affect those closest to us. Let’s strive to be the coruscanting bulb in the string lights that won’t burn out.

“Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to Hate. Hate leads to Suffering.”
— Master Yoda

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Man with beard resting head on hand, and a woman in the foreground, both looking up at a presentation.

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