How to relieve holiday stress
As the holidays approach, many of us may come face to face with some very stressful situations. Take for example this person who recently wrote to Miss Manners about a dilemma she will be facing.
She is planning to serve a turkey dinner to some new friends and was quite concerned about the proper way to serve cranberry sauce that comes in a can- the one that, when you remove it, it retains the shape of the can.
The problem that is causing her so much stress is whether to serve it whole and let her dinner guests cut off portions or to slice it before hand and serve it sliced. I mean, really! Does she think it really matter to her guests?
If only the rest of the civilized world has such paltry problems as this one.
Or here’s another person who wrote to another columnist, “Dear Abby.” The writer states that she is a devout Baptist and believes that, when she dies, she will go to heaven.
But her problem is that she also believes that she will be reunited with her parents and other family members. Now you might ask, “What’s the problem?”
Well, she says that the idea of spending eternity with them is more than she can stand!
So she is asking for any thoughts from the “Queen of Advice.”
I don’t know about you but I think that, with an attitude like hers, she’s making a real broad assumption regarding her final place in eternity. Her relatives may have earned a place in heaven for putting up with her, but I think she is destined for a much warmer afterlife.
Or, how much stress would you feel if you were the editor of an article in a recent newspaper who had to be corrected for referring to the Depew-Lancaster Sertoma Club as the Lancaster-Depew Sertoma Club.
Well, EXCU-U-U-U-SE ME!
These problems are petty when it comes to the ones the average person will be facing during the holidays. And there are many practical things we can do to handle them.
In workshops that I conduct on how to reduce stress I generally advise people to do more exercise, especially forms like yoga or Pilates. I also suggest meditation and reading, especially humorous books.
And everyone should know by now that massage therapy helps reduce stress as well.
However, there are some others ways you can accomplish this as well.
I recently read an interesting article entitled “Holiday Stress Management: Biggest Causes of Stress and Anxiety” written by Kathleen Lee, a former editor of Parenting and Working Mother magazines.
Lee lists five common causes of stress in the holiday season.
1.) Less time and more obligations. Many of us face additional events and activities that are added to our busy schedules. You may recognize some of these: holiday shopping, traveling to see family or getting your house ready for family & friends.
2.) Fatigue. With all the running around you are doing, you probably won’t get enough rest. Lack of sleep translates into stress and anxiety.
3.) Financial worries. Holiday gift buying, eating out, traveling, going to special holiday shows cost plenty of money. These expenses add to your anxiety and stress levels.
4.) Family get-togethers. Not being able to see relatives during the holidays can lead to sadness. Spending a lot of time with family, especially with many of them packed together in a small house can also contribute to holiday stress.
5.) Unrealistic expectations. Expecting perfection in holiday activities can lead to disappointments and ultimately, holiday stress as well as to post-holiday let-down. Accepting the fact that things may go wrong can reduce some of that holiday stress.
Lee offers the following advice for handling stress and anxiety. She says that we should first try to identify the specific causes of our holiday stress. Then decide what you can do to address those issues.
In the case of financial stress, try to find free holiday activities or gifts. If the stress is caused by tension with family members, come up with ways you can either resolve or temporarily put aside your differences.
Also, Lee strongly suggests that we let go of perfection. We shouldn’t put so much emphasis on making everything perfect. She says to set more realistic expectations of yourself.
Organizing your holiday activities is another way to solve the stress problem. Make a list of things you would like to accomplish. And Lee emphasizes to be ruthless about whittling it down to things you MUST do.
Decide if hand-made gifts for your child’s teacher or making cookies from scratch to friends are realistic to do while still leaving you with enough time to tackle all of your other activities.
Taking a break from holiday shopping and preparation to call a friend or meet her or him over a cup of coffee or tea. Talking about your feelings with a friend can be important in relieving holiday stress.
Don’t be afraid to ask others for help especially if you feel overwhelmed. If you need to prepare an entire dinner for Christmas, ask for others to either help you prepare dishes or to bring a dish to pass.
If you need help decorating ask a relative who may be good with crafts.
Or, if you can afford it, hire a teenager in your neighborhood to help you clean and decorate.
And, finally, Lee says that we need to recharge whenever possible. Take a few minutes each day to go someplace quiet, like a church or a walk in the park. Or spend time in your room just doing stretches while listening to some soothing music.
The important thing is to take care of yourself in the midst of planning activities. In that way you will be able to enjoy those holiday activities that you have worked so hard to prepare with family and friends.