Addressing Holiday Stress

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Holiday time is a time for gathering and celebrating with loved ones, but for many, the joys of the season are not unmixed. Whether hosting or visiting, or a little of both, gatherings at this time of year can bring stress and worry. Add in the heightened expectations, the frantic preparations, and the multiple responsibilities, and it all ends up anything but a storybook celebration. The constant barrage of parties and holiday activity can take a toll on anyone. Despite the joy of the season, tempers often flare as people find themselves with seemingly too much to do and not nearly enough time to do it in or energy to do it with.

For many people, family is a source of stress. Even in happy families, the rush and confusion of holiday preparations can shorten tempers and stretch nerves. On top of that, far flung families—either living in different places or simply people who don’t talk to each other a lot—get together this time of year, and that means logistics of travel, as well as arguments and disagreements that can be suppressed during the year come ti the surface. More complex families have conflict about who’s spending time where. Even friends can have delicate balancing acts to walk this time of year.

So how to deal with this stress? One way is to simplify. There are always traditional dishes, but not everything on the holiday table needs to be made from scratch, and the traditional dishes don’t need to be made by the host. In fact, "have to"s should be kept to a minimum overall, though there will be some. Spread visits to family and friends as much as possible to avoid being overwhelmed, perhaps seeing people the weekend or evening before the holiday, or the day after.

Not every source of tress during the holidays is family. Indeed, for some people, loneliness is the problem. Holiday time is when expectation are highest, and when being alone is perhaps most keenly felt. This may be a time to avoid social media—while people are entitled to their happy holidays, someone who is alone may not want to watch. It’s also a time for self care. Being alone during the holidays means not having to have anyone else’s idea of a proper celebration.

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