Holiday Stress: Controlling What You Can

By CareerSmart Learning Contributor, November 28, 2016, as published by Healthcare Hot Spot


The holiday season signifies different things to everyone.  Some people may imagine sitting by a fire, sipping hot cocoa and reading a book, while others might imagine a huge dinner with half the town in attendance. Magazines and websites this time of year all tout their suggestions for managing holiday stress, like shopping early, setting a budget, getting organized, and being realistic. While these are all fantastic ideas, sadly, many of them are inherently flawed. 

Shopping early sounds great on paper and in theory, but that suggestion ignores many of the reasons why people are left shopping at the last minute, like the fact that life is constantly busy- in addition to not knowing what to buy someone in the first place. 

The most helpful suggestion is also the simplest one: be realistic. While many magazine articles encourage readers to be realistic about their time and money, understanding “be realistic” in a different way can be transformational. Be realistic about your priorities. There is often a definitive difference between an ideal version of the holidays and the one that truly offers the most joy. Is baking eight pies truly as important as spending quality time with family?  For some people, baking eight pies is what dreams are made of, and for others, spending time talking and playing games with family is their idea of perfection. There is no right or wrong answer, but knowing what truly gives you joy during the holidays is key.

Understanding your priorities isn’t easy today with everyone being inundated with pictures of glistening turkeys, mountains of impeccably wrapped presents, and feeling the pressure to deliver a perfect holiday. Instead, make the holidays your version of perfect. The result might not be worthy of a magazine cover, but if it brings you happiness, then that’s all that really matters.

Stress oftentimes comes during the holidays, whether it’s due to lack of time, disagreements with family, or money. These are real and major stressors that affect a lot of people throughout the year already, but the holiday season seems to magnify them all. 

  1. Lack of time. Want to cook a huge dinner and also spend ample time with family, all between working full-time and taking care of children and the house? Being realistic might mean choosing which priority is more important. Would it be more important to carve out more time with family by eliminating appetizers and cooking one or two less side dishes for dinner or delegating certain things so that responsibilities and time are shared?
  1. Disagreements with family. If time with family tends to end in an argument, be realistic about those relationships. People and their temperaments don’t change simply because it’s the holiday season. Don’t create undue pressure and expectations that this holiday will be different than the previous ten. Realistic advice is that you can’t change someone, you can only try to change your reaction- something often easier said than done.
  1. Money. Budgeting is always the best way to stay ahead of money woes. One idea to stay within budget is to pool funds with friends and/or family to buy that one special gift for a person. Instead of someone receiving five small gifts that they don’t really need, they can receive that one gift they really desired. To really save the budget, pick names from a hat so that each person only buys a gift for one person. Another suggestion is to start a new tradition in lieu of gifts.

The holidays can rack up the stress levels in almost everyone, so remember to do things that you enjoy as well. In the end, the only thing you can really control is your reaction, so take some slow, deep breaths and carry on. 

Happy Holidays!

November 30, 2016

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