Year-end! A time for family get-togethers, partying and celebrations! Every year I really look forward to year-end, to time-off from work, to celebrate and relax. Add to this the opportunity to spend time with family and friends, and even going away, and it’s the formula for a glorious time — right?

Well, unfortunately it doesn’t always work out like that for me. Coping with last minute demands at work, choosing gifts, the demands of a family get-together, and probably having unrealistic expectations of the season, can become a real burden. And then I feel guilty about not being happier around my loved ones. Yikes! If that happens, the year-end stress which should be positive becomes negative!

Fortunately, I have found six practical things that really work for me to keep the stress of this time of the year manageable. Have a look and see if they could also work for you:

1.       Choose a main goal for the holidays and then stick to it

You can’t have it all. If the most important thing for you is to connect with family, then focus on that and how to achieve it. If on the other hand, the most important thing for you is rest and recreation, then focus on that and make sure you do things to recuperate. Once I have my main goal in mind, I then tell myself that it’s okay to not achieve other less important goals for the holidays.

2.       Practice being present in the moment

Be aware of when your mind is wandering. If you’re chatting to a seldom-seen Aunt, and your mind starts wandering onto all the presents you still need to buy, grab a piece of paper and write down your thoughts. Then get back to your Aunt and what’s going on around you. I try to remember that I am not 100% in control of my thoughts, and accept that unwelcome thoughts will pop into my mind from time to time. I remind myself that unwelcome thoughts don’t have to stay, and replace them by asking myself: what is a better way of thinking about this or what can I learn from this?

3.       Don’t try to change the unchangeable

There’s a lot in life that you can’t change. As much as you would like to get uncle Bill to stop drinking too much, or stop aunt Matilda from swearing so awfully, you can’t. Only they have control over what they do — not you. They are who they are, and therefore don’t try to improve them or to change their behaviour. I remind myself that there is a lot I am concerned about, but can’t change, for example people, the economy and the weather. So I try to let go of my irritation and concerns, and try to accept what I can’t change.

4.       Be grateful for what you have

Acknowledge your blessings. Being grateful for what you have is guaranteed to enhance your happiness, whereas being envious about what you don’t have, is guaranteed to decrease your happiness. I find it helps to ask myself every day either what I am deeply, deeply grateful for, or alternatively, what three good things have happened to me over the last 24 hours. Appreciating the many blessings I have in life, helps me keep perspective.

5.       Be compassionate

Recognise everyone’s pain. Try to acknowledge people’s pain and do what you can with words and actions to help them. I find the more I help others, the more I feel I help myself, and ultimately the better I feel about myself.

6.       Forgive and let go

Forgiveness is a gift that you give yourself as well as others. Hanging on to anger and pain from the past keeps you stuck in the past. It’s like drinking poison every day and hoping that other person will die. You can only move on once you have forgiven and let go. The year-end is a good time to reflect on whether you need to forgive and let go of something. I find that if I need to forgive and let go, it helps to commit myself to moving on, not forgetting the past, but trying hard to live today without the negativity of the past.

I do hope that these six actions that work for me will also help you keep the stress of the year-end positive!

If you are taking a break, I hope you come back rested and rejuvenated using these six actions. Best wishes to you and your loved ones for the New Year, and I hope 2014 is a stunning year for you.

We at Building Resilience will be taking a break, putting these six actions into practice, and will send you the next Building Resilience Update on 15 January 2014.