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“Festive Burnout” A Different Perspective

Written by: Dr. Christine Sopa, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


We have heard our whole lives that this time of year is the “happiest time of year,” but in reality, many find the holidays the most stressful time of year. Thirty five percent of people experience stress even before the holidays begin! This stress is made up of shopping (65%), crowds (63%), wrapping presents (51%) …not to mention the havoc that being around extended family may cause.

frustrated woman wrapping Christmas gift boxes.

Dealing with stress during normal times of the year is challenging enough on its own. I have clients all over the world and my biggest request is to help with managing stress on a day-to-day basis, no matter where they live or how old they may be. There are numerous articles and resources out there on how to manage stress, so much so that it is stressful to read it all! Many people have no idea where to even begin to feel better. We just “power through it” and think that it will miraculously disappear or better yet, we will just forget about it. Over the holidays we tend to think that the “festive spirit” will make the stress vanish…but it never does. The problem with this mentality is that stress wreaks havoc on our physical bodies over time. In my 30’s, I suffered a severe illness due to stress that almost killed me (on many levels!) so managing stress has become a priority in my life. When God wants to get your attention, he hits you physically…what better way to finally get you to respond.

How you deal with stress is a habit and habits are hard to break. It takes awareness and a willingness to change. Until the pain of staying the same is greater than your fear of changing, you will stay the same…and so will the circumstances that cause you stress.

Here are some starting points on how to deal with stress a little differently:

Know how you define stress

We all have our own definition of stress. Just the word “stress” equates with something that is bad. Bad stress is referred to as “distress.” But there is good stress as well. Good stress is called “eustress” and we experience good stress all the time. Weddings, a birth of a baby, a move to a new home, a new job…these are all examples of good stress.

The actual definition of stress is “an interaction of a thinking person and an event.” How you perceive the events you define as stressful is the key. Perception is reality and at the end of the day, our perceptions dictate the decisions we make…what we do, what we say, what we think. Understanding that we each perceive experiences differently is the first step to understanding how stress works.

Be aware of your triggers

What stresses you out? Who stresses you out? Knowing what triggers stress for you is key. You cannot change something without first being aware of it. Begin with becoming very aware of your triggers. You know you are triggered when your feelings suddenly change, usually in the negative direction. I refer to this as “losing power.”

Speaking of awareness, also be aware of how you behave when you are stressed. When we are stressed, our needs are not being met in some form so we usually respond very differently than normal. What are your stress behaviors? Do you withdraw? Raise your voice? Become impatient? When you are able to identify how you behave when you are stressed, you can catch yourself earlier in the stress response and do your best to consciously change your behaviors before it is too late.

Stay in the “control zone”

Over 80% of the things we stress and worry about are out of our control. Control is a funny thing because most of the time when we are trying to control a situation, we fear something about it. Many times, when we think we are in control of a situation, in reality we are not. Trying to control everything and everyone is one of the main causes of stress I have seen over the years. I am a recovering control-freak so I speak from authority on this one!

On the flip side, understanding what you can and cannot control has power. When you find yourself stressed, try to identify what is going through your mind at that moment. Is your focus on something that you can control or is it out of your control? If your focus is on something you cannot control, immediately ask yourself, “what CAN I control in this situation?” Shift your focus to what you CAN control. Many things are in your control…your attitude, what comes out of your mouth, what you think, how you behave, how you perceive a situation, whether or not you can walk away or stay, etc. This is the most powerful practice you can master.

What would I rather…?

Your mind is more powerful than you can imagine. What we think is what we manifest in our lives. It all comes down to attention. Your subconscious mind works in a very mysterious way. It has no filter like your conscious mind so whatever it is you are paying attention to translates in the subconscious as “what you must want.” Your subconscious does not have the ability to discern what you like or don’t like, what is good or bad, what you want or don’t want…it only can read the focus of your attention.

Every thought breeds a feeling and every feeling breeds an action. Self-awareness holds a great power. It holds the power of change. Next time you feel stressed ask yourself the following questions:

  • What am I feeling in this moment?

  • What am I thinking in this moment?

  • What am I doing in this moment?

  • Once you have the answers to these questions, then ask yourself:

  • What would I rather feel?

  • What would I rather think?

  • What would I rather do?

This is called reframing. Your brain does not work in a vacuum. If you identify something (a thought, feeling, action) that no longer serves you, you must gently replace it with something else or your powerful mind will fall right back into its old habits of behavior.

Life has a way of distracting us from what is truly important. These last two years have hopefully taught us that some things just aren’t worth our energy. Spend this holiday season focusing on those things that are most important to you rather than the stress scenarios that play in your head that distract you from this precious present moment.

Wishing you peace of mind, heart, and body this holiday season.

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Dr. Christine Sopa, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Dr. Christine Sopa is an Industrial Organizational Psychologist and leader in self-awareness, shifting mindset, and leadership development. A life threatening illness inspired her to use her own life experiences to help transform the lives of others. She uses the idea of tapping into the whole person (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual) to help people overcome seemingly impossible obstacles, personal and professional life changes, and loss of power (self-worth). She is the CEO of The Wayfarer Group, LLC, an international consulting and executive coaching firm she has ran for 20 years. Her mission: Live the life you were born to live.



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