If anyone knows how stressful the holiday season can be, it’s Santa Claus. I've often wondered how he's able to keep his cool when things are heating up at the North Pole. I recently interviewed Santa and asked him how he handles holiday stress. Here's what he had to say.
KEN: Santa, how do you stay so jolly during the holiday season?
SANTA: Mainly I think about all of the things I have to be grateful for. Just last week my doctor told me that I'm too fat and need to lose weight. I told him that being fat is my image. He put me on a diet and an exercise plan and told me to stick a pillow under my suit when I get skinny. Instead of stressing out, I gave him a big hug and thanked him. Then I decided to focus my thoughts on gratitude. Any expert on happiness will tell you that to be happy you must be grateful.
KEN: So you made a conscious effort to focus on gratitude.
SANTA: Yes. You have to take the time to identify what you have to be grateful for. I choose things that I often take for granted, like Mrs. Claus' cookies, Rudolph's nose, and any day I’m not attacked by a Polar Bear.
KEN: Do you also make a conscious effort to reduce your stress?
SANTA: Yes. There are many things you can do to help alleviate stress and keep calm. I like to take walks in the snow, play fetch with the reindeer, and I listen to one relaxation exercise every day.
KEN: But what if you’re feeling down and don’t feel like doing anything?
SANTA: Sometimes we have to push ourselves to do things we aren’t motivated to do. Once we start we usually feel better and then the motivation kicks in. Don’t wait until you feel motivated. If I did that no one would ever get any Christmas gifts.
KEN: What other holiday stress reduction secrets do you have to share, Santa?
SANTA: Remember to have fun. With all of the hustle and bustle, many people forget to enjoy all of the special things we do during the holidays. Whether you’re trimming the tree, decorating the house, wrapping presents or baking cookies, take a deep breath and savor the moment. Give yourself permission to forget about all those tasks still left on your to-do list and just enjoy the here and now.
KEN: I’ve noticed a lot of my patients worry about having everything “just right.” What do you have to say about that?
SANTA: I say embrace imperfection and enjoy life with all of its warts. I see too many people ruin their holidays by insisting on making everything perfect. Is the house tidy enough? Did I buy the right gift? What if dinner doesn't turn out just right? You’re only causing yourself unnecessary stress. A lopsided tree or a burned brisket won’t ruin your holiday. It will create a family memory.
KEN: You’re right. It’s usually the things that go wrong that we fondly remember and even laugh about years later.
SANTA: It’s also important to take some time for yourself during the holiday season. I often sneak away to take a walk through our Christmas Tree forest. Mrs. Claus likes to visit the spa. The reindeer have their games and the elves like to go sledding.
KEN: Any last words before you head off back to the North Pole?
SANTA: Yes. You create your own holiday experience. Whether or not you have a happy holiday is entirely up to you. It’s your choice. If you feel like a Scrooge this year, you can change that. Push yourself to decorate. Watch It’s a Wonderful Life. Volunteer to help the needy. Serving food to the homeless or visiting nursing homes are great ways to get into the true spirit of the holidays. Giving of yourself to the less fortunate is what the holidays should be all about. Do it. You’ll feel better for it. And your own troubles will seem small by comparison. Trust me, if anyone can attest to the joy of giving it’s me.
KEN: Thank you Santa for all of your wisdom.
About the Author:
Ken Goodman, LCSW, treats anxiety and OCD in Los Angeles. He is the author of The Anxiety Solution Series, a step-by-step audio program, and Break Free from Anxiety, a coloring, self-help book for anxiety sufferers. Ken Goodman is an ADAA Clinical Fellow.
Ken is the producer of The Anxiety Solution Series: Your Guide to Overcoming Panic, Worry, Compulsions and Fear, a step-by-step self-help audio program. Visit Ken's website.