- Juanita Weaver-Reiss
What to do about the stress of it all?
It is definitely the holiday season. I can tell because the traffic around the mall is really congested. Of course, people have their holiday decorations on their houses and in their front yards. The Salvation Army person is stationed outside the grocery ringing their bell or playing their musical instrument.
When I look at people's faces as I shop and and as I read posts on Facebook, the other thing that is apparent is that people are feeling stressed. That is one of the other things that happens around this time of year almost as regularly as the coming of the holidays.
I am a person that asks a lot of questions about all kinds of things. I have often wondered what causes this to happen, almost as regular as the coming of the holidays? Why is it that a time of year that should bring joy and happiness because of what it stands for in the hearts of people cause many to become more stressed and have feelings of sadness.
This can happen for a variety of reasons. It can happen when a person has unrealistic expectations of, that no matter what, this is the season that is a happy time, can have feelings of 'being let down' because the season and perhaps people don't meet their expectations.
Some people feel pressured, both from the constant barrage of marketing from stores and from their own self messages, that in order to have Christmas properly, it is necessary to buy excessive gifts for others. This may lead to increased debt as another stress.
Many people feel the demands of social events and the stress of having events with their family and friends. The picture perfect Christmas is one where all families are perfect and happy, and there are no conflicts; this is the television version of Christmas with the family. In real life, a family is not perfect and there potentially can be disharmony or at least some stress from having to try to fit in the gatherings for everyone in a short amount of time.
There can be other reasons for stress and these could include the loss of a loved one, feeling lonely, feeling like you have not achieved your goals that you had setup for yourself, feeling so pushed and pulled in a million different directions could also be reasons a person might feel stressed out.
I would like to suggest a couple of ways to address some of the stresses mentioned above.
1) Unrealistic expectations about the day and the season - I would suggest doing what I call a reframe of thoughts. What this means is changing the thoughts about what the picture perfect Christmas day and season is in the movies and re-doing the day and season for you.
Write down what is important for you and your family to do or have as part of your own Christmas. Perhaps it is commemorated when you decorate your tree or have your special dinner together. Perhaps it is when you turn off the television and gather together in the living room to wrap Christmas presents. But it is you making your own version of what Christmas is and the symbolic meanings.
Find some time to relax. What does that mean? It is different for different people. I like to listen to audio books and fiddle music. Some people like to meditate. I know one person that closes the office door and locks it behind her so she doesn't have any interruptions to her quiet and alone time. One friend of mine gets on the gazelle and gets in some exercise to unwind. So it may mean finding a way to find the quiet in your head in the midst of a busy season.
2) The pressure of buying gifts - Know your spending limit and don't go over that amount. It is better to buy gifts that are within a budget rather than spending the next year to pay down the debt. Decide there are people that you won't be buying a gift for. Perhaps the way to convey meaning may be through a phone call or a written note.
3) Social demands and family events - Learn to say no to the events that cause to much stress. Or you may need to set time limits when the events do occur as a way to decrease stress. Think about alternatives to seeing your family during the holiday season if that is too hectic. Schedule another time to connect after Christmas. Call them on the phone or write an email or letter.
I Skype with my siblings and father every weekend. It helps me stay connected with them and them with me. I keep current on things that are happening and even during the holiday season, there isn't any pressure to 'see' them because I see them every weekend.
4) Other reasons for stresses - Loss of a loved one, feeling lonely, or not having achieved goals. Connect with someone else and talk about your feelings. Feeling the pain of a loss may be higher during the holiday season because it may remind you of that other person. This is normal and to be expected.
Talk about your feelings with someone you trust. Ask that they just listen to you express your inner thoughts. It will help to talk about how you feel.
Ask for help if you are dealing with sadness that doesn't go away. That may be a sign you are dealing with depression. Talk to your family doctor about the issue if that is the case.
Be realistic with the holidays. Be kind to yourself during the holidays. You are a gift and are special and one of a kind.