15 Dec It’s the holly jolly holidays so why am I so stressed out?
Christmas and New Year’s are just around the corner and Christmas lights are all over the city. People are planing family gatherings, parties and getaways. The spirit of Christmas is supposed to be upon us but, there are a lot of people who are quite stressed out at this time of year and, some people are sad or anxious about the upcoming holidays. So why has Christmas become so stressful? Or, as one of my clients said ” I’m dreading Strissmas.”
Kelly ( not her real name) has been coming to see me for work-related issues she’s been having. A couple of days ago, however, she came in, sat on my couch and sighed heavily. “I’m so stressed out I can’t even begin to tell you,” she said. “We are going to have a nightmare of a Christmas, I just know it,” she exclaimed. I asked her to tell me what has been worrying her and she said she was dreading spending a full week in her parents’ cabin with all her siblings and their families. “You see, Dr. Regev, my father is an alcoholic, and at some point I know he’s going to drink too much and then be mean to my mom. I just can’t stand when that happens, ” Kelly sighed again. “My sister in law is an extremely sensitive person and it’s guaranteed that, at some point, someone will say something that will hurt her feelings. Last year it was my husband, and we ended up fighting because of her. And my aunt, well.. She always makes those subtle critical comments that drive me nuts. Plus, there are 3 new babies in our family and as you know, babies cry and get on everybody’s nerves. Oh, and I also worry about my mom because she tends to overdo it and then she collapses or becomes I’ll. So now, do you understand why I’m so stressed out?”
Kelly is not alone. Many people talk about the stress of writing cards, shopping for gifts, having to make lots of food and dealing with family issues that intensify when everyone spends a lot of time together in the same ( sometimes small) space.
It seems that, because Christmas is a time of family traditions, it might be quite difficult to change things completely. However, you can make it a little bit easier if you follow some or all of my tips.
- Less is more – whether you make a unilateral decision to keep things simple or discuss it beforehand with others in ur family, people who’ve taken that step report less stress than before. You may decide to make less food or a smaller variety of food, spend less money on gifts or avoid them completely and keep gatherings to smaller numbers.
- Adjust you expectations – Christmas and New Years are bound to be imperfect. People are imperfect, the weather may be less than perfect, a dish or two may not come out exactly the way you wanted it to, people sometimes get sick, etc. Rather than expecting a perfect holiday season, expect a good enough holiday season. It is likely to spare you some heartache and make you less anxious or stressed about things.
- Pace yourself – don’t leave everything to the last moment because this is a sure- fire way to get yourself extremely stressed out. Try to make or shop for things ahead of time. Definitely try to avoid shopping for gifts, wrapping them and cooking everything all by yourself or all in the same week!
- Delegate – others can help, you know. What they make or do may not be as perfect as what you do but it’s likely to be fine anyway. Hired help, if you can afford it, can also help as can using some store- bought food. Allow people in your party to serve, clear tables and clean after meals. Most guests would like to help. It may make them feel better, in fact. So as you see, it is a win-win situation.
- Schedule some alone time – many people who stay with family report that, after a few days together, they feel somewhat stifled or even claustrophobic or irritable. Plan to get out by yourself or with your partner, to get away from the hustle and bustle of crowded, noisy homes and rooms. This may also give your hosts a break. If you’re the host, make sure to schedule some down time. Your guests are going to be perfectly fine if you leave them to themselves for an hour or two once in a while.
- Prepare kid friendly activities – kids tend to get bored and misbehave when they don’t have an opportunity to play or get entertained. Plan lots of kid-friendly activities. Going outside every day is a must for everybody’s sanity. Kids also need down time; so plan accordingly as well.
- Decide to Focus on the true spirit of the holidays – that is, the spirit of giving, kindness and togetherness. Christmas doesn’t have to be about presents. New Year’s could be about new beginnings, aspirations and positive changes and not necessarily about flashy appearances and over-indulgence.
Wishing you and yours happy and stress- reduced holiday season!