Do you know that holiday season is one of the most stressful times for many people? I know, it may sound counter-intuitive. After all, don’t we all wait and enjoy the holidays? Time off from work, travel, quality time with family, right? Well, it’s all wonderful and exciting; however, statistically speaking, the holiday season often brings a lot of unwelcome “guests” such as stress, anxiety, even depression!
Most of us go through an endless “to do list” – shopping, cleaning, cooking, baking, organizing parties, attending parties, calling/emailing friends and family members, traveling, driving, flying, waiting…. Although most people look forward to family celebrations, many experience times of intense disappointment and conflict. Before you know it, the holidays have passed you by but you were too busy or upset to enjoy them!..
The usual “suspects” that trigger or cause holiday “un-ease” are: high expectations, ineffective communication, financial pressures, and physical demands.
High expectations, in general, don’t lead to satisfaction and happiness, because life is not perfect, people are not perfect and s-t happens. However, high expectations don’t allow much room for “oops”.
With images of the “perfect” holidays we have in mind from TV commercials, magazine ads, and all the anticipation that gets built up, our expectations fly so high that it is next to impossible to fulfill them. Those of you who are perfectionists or “recovering perfectionists” know what I am talking about. As you also may know, when you have high expectations, something always happens to spoil things….
Ineffective Communication is one of the top causes of conflict in any relationship. In contrast, Effective Communication is one of the most important aspects of family dynamics at any time, especially during the holidays when family members are packed together for an extended period of time. Alcohol, lack of personal space or lack of sleep often contribute to agitation and frustration.
Old hurts, lack of attention or inconsiderate remarks can trigger an emotional cord and, before you know it, the festivity is spoiled and the holiday spirit is ruined. Somehow, when we gather together for the holidays, we often forget how important it is to be kind and considerate to one other, especially with family members. On the flip side, there are many people who spend the holidays alone. This can lead to some serious stress-related health complications like depression, fear, and anxiety
Money issues always add unwanted pressure to our lives. In our society, we often value “things” by price tags, while overlooking the value of intention and effort. Although the holiday time is an opportunity to exchange presents, for many it’s an excuse to overspend and overextend beyond your budget, assuming that you have one.
Don’t get me wrong, I love presents and am not suggesting to stop offering them. I simply think that living within your means at all times, including during holidays, is a common sense, practical and financially healthy habit to have. Moreover, presents are tokens of attention, while spending quality time together is a gift of experience when you offer your time, attention and love. This is priceless.
Physical demands of the holidays are so high that we often feel the need for vacation after the holidays! All the shopping, cleaning, planning, cooking, entertaining, let alone conflict resolutions, leave us feeling exhausted. With all the physical and psychological demands that we have to deal with during this high pressure time it’s no wonder that many feel stressed out and worn out! In turn, this leads to a weakening of the immune system and susceptibility to illness.
But wait, enough said about the causes of disturbances – now let’s see what can be done about them! I suggest you start with taking the time and assessing your attitude toward potential stressors. Below are my suggestions that will help you address possible concerns and keep joy and your health intact during the Holidays.
- Recognize high expectations and let go of them. Remind yourself that the easiest path to contentment is removing expectations. Be willing to accept ”what is” and see things as they are, not as they should/could have been. Perfectionism is self-inflicted discontent!
- Acknowledge your feelings and reach out. Accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until the more appropriate time to discuss them; or, if you must, acknowledge your unease around certain matters and communicate authentically how they make you feel, with respect and composure. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek companionship (in person or online) – reach out to your friends, acquaintances, colleagues, neighbors, social or religious communities. Offer to contribute your talents and/or time – helping others will uplift your spirit.
- Stick to a reasonable budget. Decide how much you can afford to spend on presents and groceries, make a list of what you have to buy (a shopping list helps you stay focused and organized) and stick with it. Holidays are about attention, appreciation, love and joyful time together, not the competition of expensive presents.
- Make some time for yourself and learn to say No. Don’t get burned out and stressed out. Allow yourself to spend some alone time to reflect and re-group. Listen to your favorite music, go for a walk, do yoga, breathing and relaxation exercises and/or meditate. Say No to suggestions or activities that you don’t want to follow or be a part of – honoring your own priorities and your health will support your self-confidence and prevent you from feeling resentful.
- Be mindful of what and how much you eat/drink. It is too easy to overindulge during the holidays only to feel more guilty, stressed out and, possibly, sick later. Try to keep your healthy habits – drink clean water, eat plenty of greens and vegetables, get restful sleep and move your body!
Happy Holidays and Best Wishes to you and your loved ones!
To your Health, Wealth, and Happiness,
P.S. Share your own insights for having most joyful holiday experience – I would love to see your comments!