Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Independence Day…holidays can be a great time of year. They give you an opportunity to get an extra day or two off work, spend quality time with family and friends, and even share a special meal in their company.
In theory, holidays should be perfect. However, the real story is quite different. The holidays can easily add a strong dosage of stress to our daily lives resulting in panic, depression, and a tough time during stretches that are supposed to be filled with joy. With the Easter holidays just past us, many of you are probably wondering if there are ways to deal with this stress the next time around. So today we have some important tips for you.
A recent American Psychological Association report shows that one in three Americans is living with extreme stress, while 44% say their stress levels have increased over the past five years. For many, holidays will only add fuel to the fire.
MORE: How to manage stress
Holidays can be stressful because many of us simply feel overwhelmed. You might have your kids and grandkids coming home for the holidays, and suddenly you have to prepare meals for 10 people. Holidays can also place a financial burden on us that can be difficult to handle.
On top of that, there may be travel involved, spending time with an irritating family member, and the pressure to prepare a big meal that no flavor could ever make up for. Finally, for many, the holidays may bring up all kinds of emotions that remind of us of lost times, lost loved ones, and an overall sense of loneliness.
These issues are common, but so are coping mechanisms. Here is a guide to help you get through the holidays:
- Avoiding conflict at the family dinner: There may be a particular person in your family you just don’t like. Perhaps this person seems like they’re out to get you or they make you mad with their general outlook on life. First of all, you need to realize that you’re not alone; every family has one of these! Next, accept the fact that this person is going to bother you, and plan your behavior accordingly. Realize that you’re in control of your reactions to their antics and find ways to limit your negative feelings. Perhaps don’t pay much attention to what they say and don’t spend any one-on-one time with them. If you have to, keep it short, sweet and soft before bringing someone else into the conversation.
- Not spending too much: No matter what the holiday is, you’ll be tempted to spend. The kids need gifts, your home needs to be presentable, the meal needs to be something to remember and, most importantly, you feel the need to impress. All this can take a toll on your bank account—unless you remember you don’t need to blow the bank. Ask family members to contribute to the meal by bringing something with them, relieving the pressure in a variety of ways. Young children don’t know the difference between a $2.00 gift and a $20.00 gift and those who do are old enough to understand that times are tight, so just be honest.
- Finding time: So much holiday stress is caused by unrealistic expectations. Don’t bite off more than you can chew and put some thought into coming up with attainable goals. It’s common for people to heighten aspirations and expectations over the holidays, so avoid falling into this trap. Furthermore, if you can’t make an event, don’t feel guilty about it. It happens. Your family will still love you if miss one get-together. You can also try rescheduling; after all, a date on the calendar is merely a number.
- Acknowledge your feelings: Avoid denying how you feel. If you’re feeling stressed about the holidays, tell someone and take action. Sometimes getting a problem off your chest or even just admitting it to yourself can make a big difference.
Source(s) for Today’s Article:
Johnson, R.E., “Less stress, more living,” HarvardScience March 8, 2013; http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2013/03/less-stress-more-living/.
“Stress by Region,” American Psychological Association, http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2012/region.aspx, last accessed April 2, 2013.