By: Hannah Heitz
Stress is typically higher than usual during the holidays and research shows that being aware of our stress can help us cope. This sounds counterintuitive, but low-level stress often puts us into a bad mood without an awareness of why. On the other hand, with somewhat higher stress, we are aware of the added stress and can adequately compensate for its negative effects. We are generally able to self-correct for the effects of a bad mood when reminded of the added stress and its effects.
Expectations of the holiday season are important. Low expectations can result in a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, expecting to have a fight with our cousin might influence a negative attitude, which might in turn promote negative discussion leading to a fight. As Dr. Goodman notes, expectations that are too high can lead to disappointment. Bearing this in mind, expectations that are moderately positive are often harbingers of happiness during the holidays. A helpful mantra to keep in mind during the coming weeks comes from a text used in Alcoholics Anonymous and quoted by psychologists alike: The Serenity Prayer. The original version (included below) has a religious introduction, however an adapted version that allows secular and religious interprestion is:
“May my practice grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can
And wisdom to know the difference.”
Original version of The Serenity Prayer:
"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference."
1: Tesser, A., & Beach, S. R. (1998). Life events, relationship quality, and depression: an investigation of judgment discontinuity in vivo. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74(1), 36.
2: Kennedy, Q., Mather, M., & Carstensen, L. L. (2004). The role of motivation in the age-related positivity effect in autobiographical memory. Psychological Science, 15(3), 208-214.
3: Niebuhr, R. (1950). The serenity prayer. The Alcoholics Anonymous Grapevine.