to Relieve Holiday Stress
of us approach the winter holidays with such high expectations that
our spirits – which are supposed to be buoyant – quickly become
saddled with stress and disappointment. We cling to idealized visions:
families uniting in friction-free camaraderie; children behaving
like angels; everyone loving the “perfect” gifts we selected; friends
gazing with amazement at the culinary masterpiece before them on
the dinner table.
perfect images are fostered by the media and popular culture, or
by our limited perceptions as reality,” said Thomas Stanger
(Counseling and Consultation Services). “Everyone else
appears to be happy, when in fact we are unlikely to see into others’
private space where they may be feeling sad. Trying to live up to
the promise of the holidays not only saps our energy and resources
– the gap between the ideal and the real may lead to holiday blues
rather than holiday cheer.”
said a combination of factors can increase our vulnerability at
this time of year:
activities on top of normal responsibilities (work and family) can
lead to a major time crunch and related anxiety.
and other costs associated with the holidays increase debt and can
put a significant burden on households that may already be financially
family dynamic is commonly not the ideal picture to fit holiday
activities; realities such as death, separation, divorce and remarriage
and family discord do not go on holiday just because we do. Most
individuals do not live within a so-called traditional family, which
might conflict with traditional holiday-related values.
holiday season coincides with a period of relatively little daylight,
which in and of itself tends to dampen moods. Shorter days also
contribute to decreased physical and other pleasurable activities,
disrupt sleeping and eating patterns, change normal social activities
and other stress-reducing outlets—all of which can affect a person’s
mood negatively. These factors can be exacerbated during the holidays
when coupled with an unspoken expectation that one should be in
reduce stress, Stanger offers the following tips:
realistic. Don’t expect family rifts to magically mend themselves
over the holidays and don’t put up a false front that everything
is rosy when in fact it is not.
reasonable spending limits. Consider less expensive, homemade gifts
instead. Let children know if some items are simply too expensive
and make it clear that they should not expect to receive every wish
on their list.
your time effectively. Shop during non-peak hours and be selective
in terms of which invitations to accept or which activities to partake
in some time for activities that you find to be genuinely fun.
your goals/resolutions. Trying to implement too much change too
quickly can lead to frustration and disappointment.
to discern what you can affect and what you can’t. Stress that you
can use to take action turns into energy; stress that can’t lead
to action turns into worry that drains energy. If you can’t use
it, learn to lose it.
kind to yourself as well as others—each one tends to make the other
out the hype and reflect on the real spirit of the holidays.
you are unable to cope with holiday-induced stress or the “blues,”
Stanger said that making the decision to see a counselor can often
be the best first step to getting out of a rut and feeling better
about yourself quickly.