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Common Holiday Stressors and How to Cope

The holidays are a time of year that is often joyful. However, this season can also bring on stress from the added pressure of the holiday expectations. So, what are the common holiday stressors and how can you cope with them? 

 

The highs and lows of the holiday season will depend on the individual and the traditions and customs that they follow. For individuals who have a larger focus on the materialistic aspect of this season, there will most likely be a higher number of stressors present related to gift-giving, shopping, and social gatherings.   These stressors tend to stem from societal pressure and unattainable expectations that others and we ourselves place on them. 

The season further tends to be a time of year with family, in the form of multiple gatherings that typically continue for longer periods. Despite the good intentions of these gatherings, they can also be stressful, as expectations may vary.  It may help to take time to reflect on when you like to be together and when you need some time to yourself. Once you figure this out, you can limit the number of social gatherings, or the time you spend at each, to help reduce the potential of the events causing stress.

 

Expectations that we and others have for the holidays can be another source of stress.

These expectations can include: the gifts you give, the gifts you receive, the number of parties you attend or host, financial spending, the tasks that you should complete (i.e. baking holiday treats, sending holiday cards), and how the holiday should look and play out. As previously mentioned, these expectations can stem from a place of good intentions. However, if not approached from a realistic perspective, they can easily lead to disappointment.  How can you cope with these stressors? Start with trying to reduce the likelihood that they will occur. For example, re-assess your expectations to see if they are reasonable and if they consider your limits. Reflect on the amount of financial spending you can afford to participate in and how much you are willing to spend. Also: be prepared and efficient. The holiday season is supposed to be a season of happiness and togetherness, not a time that puts you into debt. For holiday festivities that you want to take part in, such as baking holiday goodies or sending holiday cards, you can complete these on a smaller scale by finding shortcuts. For example, only sending holiday cards to those you are actively in regular communication with, or creating a generic message in the cards to make the process more efficient. 

 

Another possible stressor is the challenge of maintaining routines such as sleep, eating and exercise habits, and alone time. If you need it. This drift from one’s routines can impact one’s productivity, energy levels, and overall sense of well-being.  To help manage this, it is important to set your priorities. Assess the things that you need to accomplish or participate in and evaluate which ones are more urgent or important. Once this is completed, you can set a schedule to help ensure that you are meeting your task requirements without neglecting your routines or things that are important to you and your well-being. 

Despite these potential stressors, the holiday season can also help combat loneliness and improve one’s well-being if they are included and participate in holiday festivities.  For those who do feel lonely, invite friends over for a ‘friends holiday season’ or if those close to you are busy, consider volunteering. Volunteering allows for socializing opportunities with the added bonus of feeling fulfilled by giving back to those in need. 

 

The holiday season is meant to be a time of joy and it can be, as long as you take time to reflect on what you can take on, in addition to your day-to-day life. Be sure to check in with yourself and evaluate if your expectations for the holiday season are realistic. 

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