7 Ways to Handle Holiday Stress


Rather than joy and anticipation the holiday season often brings stress, frustration and tension as we deal with the hustle and bustle. To help you cope, snap out of it, or at least feel a sense of balance I am sharing with you seven easy tips and tricks to lift your spirits and restore a sense of balance.

1. Forgive yourself and everyone around you: Holding grudges and blaming yourself drains you of energy and makes you no fun. Disagreements will happen during the holidays because everyone is on edge; consider the stress factor and don’t take it personal.

2. Be of Service: Doing for others is a sure fire way to help you both. Don’t do it because you should, do it because it is a great thing to do. Make it personal or join a group for a community service project. Volunteering for the good of others benefits everyone!

3. Be Realistic: Just because your mother made killer cinnamon rolls for the neighborhood and your father won the house decorating contest each year doesn’t mean you should. Scale it down and create new traditions that your own children will have trouble living up to when they are adults!

4. Keep Your Exercise Schedule: The holidays are no time to abandon your exercise routine. If you are bored, vary it a bit but do not quit. The time you save by not exercising won’t make up for the positive results lost. I have dodged a lot of pounds over the years by exercising through December.

5. Choose Wisely: Three dinners and one open house on the same day? No way! Make wise choices, without guilt, about what events you will attend in the month ahead.

6. Get Enough Sleep: Instead of staying up to wrap presents or staying another hour at a party you really didn’t want to attend anyway, go to bed! Sleepy people are testy, grumpy, make a mountain out of a mole hill people and that is one thing to avoid this time of year.

7. Be Still and Breathe: This works 365 days a year. Throughout the day stop what you are doing, sit back, close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Ten ‘in through the nose out through the mouth’ breaths will bring relaxation and clarity to your world.


At Your Service

As part of my Attitude Matters presentation I stress being of service and how each of us should consider ourselves in the service industry no matter what our job title.  It is easy to be of service to others from November through December, when the media and local causes focus on helping others, but I challenged a recent audience of college students to come up with ideas that make a difference to others year round.  After giving them a few suggestions, I asked for their ideas of what can be done, no matter what our income level, to be of service to others each day.

Their response was amazing and included:

-Smile at someone today, it costs nothing but makes a big difference.

-Give anonymous gifts throughout the year that help others as you see need.

-Have a positive attitude when dealing with others improves their day too.

-Donate clothing and items throughout the year to shelters/clothes closets.

-Participate in service projects through organizations they belong to.

-Give of your time not just money; everyone has time even if they are broke.

-Send someone an encouraging note or thank you card.

I was impressed with their answers for two reasons; they understood that the little things we do each day can make a big difference and that income level has nothing to do with the difference you can make in another person’s life.

I have expanded on their train of thought with my ‘Little Things Mean aLot” list. Look through this list and pick several to incorporate into your daily life and watch the world change.

Little Things Mean a Lot

1. Smile at everyone you meet today.

2. Send someone an encouraging note or thank you card each week.

3. Ask someone how they are and wait to listen without interrupting or telling your woes.

4. Open a door for someone who needs help.

5. Let the person with fewer items get in front of you in the checkout line.

6. When you take a coffee break, offer to fill up someone else’s cup.

7. On your daily walk or run, move someone’s morning paper from the street to the front door.

8. When you buy groceries or supplies, buy at least one item extra each time and donate to someone or a cause such as homeless or women’s shelters, local food pantry, etc.

9. Find out what your local schools are in need of and donate something each month. This could be as simple as boxes of Kleenex, paper, pencils or office equipment when you upgrade.

10. Contact a local nursing home and see if your talents or time could be of use.

11. Save your change for a month and donate to a local cause of your choice.

12. Make it a point to ask a family member or colleague, “What can I do to help you?”  It might throw them off at first but they will be pleased!

13. Clean out a closet, a storage box, your basement or attic and find places to donate items you no longer need.

14. When you are out for a walk or just walking across a parking lot, pick up trash you see along the way and dispose of it. I carry extra plastic bags in my car just in case there is no waste container in sight.

15. Call someone you haven’t talked to for a long time and listen more than you talk.

This is only a beginning.  How can you help? Send your ideas of “Little Things” to darla@darlaarni.com and I’ll create a master list to share.  Maybe it’s not that we don’t have the time or money, maybe it’s that we just don’t an idea of what to do.


Blame Game

I see a terrible trend developing, the lack of personal responsibility and how it impacts those around us. Whether it is a national crisis or a fingernail breaks, we are quick to blame someone else. And it’s not limited to adults or politicians, if you have the opportunity to spend some time around children, especially in a group, you will frequently hear the excuse, “It’s not my fault.” While admittedly there are times when something truly isn’t our fault, more often than not there was an element of choice involved in the incident and we made it.

Blame doesn’t solve the problem or offer valuable insight; it just gets the spotlight off of us for a while and shines it on someone else. Passing along the blame to someone else doesn’t even make you feel good; it just makes more people feel bad.

Maybe our problem is comprehending the difference between blame and responsibility. Being responsible is being accountable, reliable, distinguishing right from wrong. Blame on the other hand involves putting the responsibility on someone else, accusing and (I love this part), failing to find sympathy or understand.

Here is a perfect example. At one time I needed to move my mother’s phone service from one room to another within a nursing home facility. Because my mother has severe dementia and I wanted to be able to check in with her without interruption of service, I called several days ahead to schedule the change and was assured there would be no problem.  My mother was moved down the hall and no phone service. OK, I can be reasonable, so I check the next day, no service. After three days of no service, meaning I cannot check on my mother and she cannot call me, I called the phone company. I was told there was a problem with the initial order, and it would be another week before the phone was connected.

At this point I was still calm so I asked what the problem was and was told they really couldn’t say, but it was internal, nothing I did. I asked to talk to a supervisor, they gave me the same story, no one could tell me why but it would be, at the earliest, a week. I explained I was anxious about it taking so long because of my mothers dementia.  I also pointed out that the move is down the hall in the same facility in a town of 2,000 people.  How hard can this be? (Perhaps by now I am getting testy.) She can’t tell me anymore than that, would I like to talk to her district manager?  Of course I would! After going relating my story and getting the same response I began to plead, “Can you understand why I am upset and concerned? This is a safety issue, my mother has severe dementia.” The very curt reply was, “Well my mother is dead.”

At that point I realized I was getting nothing from this exchange. Did I want to find out why it happened? Maybe a little, but more important to me was I wanted someone to understand, I wanted someone to say, ” I don’t know why this happened but I am so sorry and I will do what I can to fix it as soon as possible.” It wasn’t just that it was taking longer than expected; it was that with every call to the phone company all I heard was blame passing with no hint of empathy and understanding, no personal responsibility. I knew I couldn’t change the outcome, but I would have been satisfied to have someone treat me like a human being.

We all want the human touch. We all want to feel the incidents of life, big or small, matter. Every encounter with another human being gives us a chance to practice personal responsibility instead of passing blame. Sometimes it just requires being quiet and not adding to the whininess of the world.