'Tis the Season...To Be Stressed Out?
What causes holiday stress? Shouldn’t this be the happiest time of year, what with friends and family coming to call, the giving and receiving of gifts and just general jocularity? Those are the very things that cause stress, says Sandy Bailey, family and human development specialist at Montana State University Extension Service.
"The hustle and bustle of getting ready for family and friends can cause us to feel rushed and overwhelmed," she says. Unrealistic expectations, extra chores, money woes and changes in schedules can create holiday anxiety.
Bailey defines stress as “the pressure from the outside that makes us tense on the inside. It is the response to real or perceived demands placed on us, even in so-called positive situations like the holidays.”
According to Morton C. Orman, M.D., author of the bestselling The 14-Day Stress Cure, the top causes of holiday stress are:
l Social and personal expectations. We’re all expected to be happy and merry during the holidays whether we feel that way or not. Not only do others expect this of us, we expect it of ourselves and feel there’s something wrong with us when we aren’t in the “holiday spirit.”
l Too many responsibilities. Shopping, wrapping, cooking, decorating, traveling, entertaining, attending holiday events of all kinds – these are all things that are to be done in addition to all the things we already do every day
l Trying to change or control people
l Unpleasant memories
l Unpleasant emotions and other body reactions
l Blaming yourself or others when things go wrong
l Failing to anticipate likely problems and delays
l Using food, drugs, or alcohol to cope with stress
l Expecting things to go well
l Expecting others to behave as you prefer
l Being single, divorced, widowed or separated
l Financial stress
So what, you say? Tell me something I don’t know, or better yet, something I can use. What follows are some suggestions on how to defuse your holiday stress and give you the chance to have your best holiday season ever (no pressure, though.)
l Be realistic: Put the holiday in perspective and avoid trying to please everyone.
l Visualize: Think about how you might handle unpleasant family interactions more positively. Sitting cousin Andrew next to aunt Sue at the dinner table when they don t talk to one another, might not be the best idea.
l Exercise: Keep up a regular routine of exercise or start one if you don t already exercise. Even walking around the block or taking the stairs at work can help.
l Use moderation: Don't go overboard on holiday spending and entertaining. Overspending during the holidays can lead to added post holiday stress.
l Have a sense of humor: Avoid taking the small things seriously. A burnt holiday pie doesn't mean the dinner is ruined.
l Help others: Take time to do something for someone else. The holidays are a time for giving and doing so can put your own stresses into perspective.
l Take time for yourself: Find time in your schedule to slow down and enjoy family and friends, and yourself.
l Manage the holiday "hype." If you are feeling overwhelmed by the holiday season, avoid watching holiday programs on television or listening to holiday music.
l Cut back on presents. Presents cost money and shopping takes time, online or retail locations. Consider making a family rule of only a few presents per person; it will save your children from overstimulation and your house from still more clutter. You might opt for a lottery system, in which each family member gives a gift to only one other person.
l Do less, not more. It may seem sacrilegious to actually relax and enjoy the holidays, but it can make the whole month a lot more fun. And the best way to relax is to cut back on activities. Consider just attending the ones that you'll really enjoy--a gathering at the home of a cherished friend, perhaps, or your child's winter pageant.
l Remember your own favorite things. It's hard to get in touch with the deeper meaning of the holidays when you're pulled in 20 directions at once. This season, in addition to all the wonderful things you do for and with your family, try to work in a little time for yourself.
l Be flexible. Tradition doesn’t have to mean rigidity.
l Look for creative solutions to problems.