Yes, you can cut holiday stress – he has some advice

“Finding your happiness is always an inside job,” says Roger Housden.
“Finding your happiness is always an inside job,” says Roger Housden.

As momentum gathers toward the holiday season, our thoughts turn to comforts and joys – family gatherings, feasts of plenty, the satisfaction of gift-giving. Yet we’re dreading the Grinch-like stressors that are the not-so-fun part of the annual happy dance – crowds of shoppers, crushing traffic, the pressures of preparing perfect meals in keeping with family traditions. Is screaming in frustration socially acceptable?

Enter the acclaimed teacher-writer-inspirational speaker Roger Housden with wise counsel on how to cope. He’s the calming voice of reason and introspection.

“The underlying processes that happen in our minds often cause us more trouble than (the physical things) that are causing trouble outside ourselves,” Housden said. “Finding your happiness is always an inside job.”

In a special holiday edition of the Sacramento Bee Book Club, Housden will guide us through the maze of stressors and show us the best ways to enjoy the pleasures the holidays offer. After all, nobody likes a holiday grouch.

Housden is the best-selling author of 22 books, including “Dropping the Struggle: Seven Ways To Love the Life You Have” (New World Library, $20, 176 pages), the Sacramento Bee Book Club’s choice for November. Visit him at

These questions and answers are excerpts from a longer story that appeared in a special section of The Bee Oct. 10:

Q: What’s the first step in preparing ourselves for the stressful situations to come?

A: Realizing that no matter how much we plan, we don’t have ultimate control over the way the world works out. Something will always happen that we don’t expect. What’s important is we acknowledge we cannot control that.

Q: We can’t dictate the way the world works, true, but how best to accept it and move on?

A: It’s a question of attitude, of letting go of our expectations for things to turn out exactly as we would want them. That fundamental shift is really important, because the quality of our experience in any situation is determined not so much by what is going on outside ourselves, but by what is going on inside our minds. We have a choice of the way we respond, which takes attentiveness and awareness.

Q: OK, say Uncle Ted drops a gooey dessert on your just-polished hardwood floor. What is the most effective reaction?

A: We have three choices of how to respond. We can have a “closed mind,” where we essentially try to ignore what is happening, except that it did.

Or we can have a “lost mind,” in which we climb into finding fault and making judgment, with the feeling of, “Uncle Ted, you idiot!” We’re riding on the wave of our own feelings, which is simply a reaction. When we’re lost in reaction, we’re likely heaping more trouble on the trouble that is already there. Ideally, we need to look to ourselves rather than to the circumstance.

Then there is the “open mind,” which is all about being present to ourselves. Can we be present enough to experience the thought or feeling we’re having, but without judgment and anger? Fault is a narrative imposed on reality and not actually the truth. Something happens outside of us that we don’t like, and we tend to make it personal and get angry. What is happening is simply happening – Uncle Ted drops his plate – and the rest we make up in our own minds. The open mind is aware of that.

Allen Pierleoni: 916-321-1128, @apierleonisacbe

Bee Book Club

Roger Housden will appear for a special holiday edition of the Sacramento Bee Book Club at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 10, in The Hive at The Sacramento Bee, 2100 Q St., Sacramento.

Tickets to the event are $20 for seven-day-a-week subscribers, $30 for general admission. Buy tickets online at Please bring your tickets to the event for entrance. Doors open at 5:15 p.m. Parking is free.

All proceeds benefit The Bee’s News In Education program, bringing news and information to more than 20,000 students in the region.

Teacher-writer-inspirational speaker Housden will answer audience questions on how to navigate the emotional challenges and stressful situations that commonly mark the holiday season.

Barnes & Noble will be on site, selling “Dropping the Struggle” for 30 percent off the list price (New World Library, $20, 176 pages).

“Dropping the Struggle” also will be offered for a 30 percent discount through Nov. 10 at these bookstores: in the Sacramento area at the four Barnes & Nobles, Avid Reader at the Tower, Underground Books, Time Tested Books and Sac State’s Hornet Bookstore; in Davis at Avid Reader and UC Davis Bookstore; in El Dorado Hills at Face in a Book; and in Grass Valley at The Bookseller.

Information:, 916-321-1128