Holiday Stress and How to Avoid It
December 24, 2017
The holidays are an emotional time. However, there aren’t many specifics about what emotions they cause. Holiday emotions can be all over the place with love in the air and stress in the wallet. It’s a joyous and merry time of year, but it can have it’s lows. Learning the nature of the beast and how to cope with holiday stress can help you get through to the New Year.
Holiday stress and the American Psychological Association
In December of 2006, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research published a report titled “Holiday Stress” through the American Psychological Association that sheds some light on holiday stress. This study reveals a few key characteristics of holiday stress. At their worst these are fun facts, and at best these are some things to keep in mind when the holidays feel like too much.
Emotions of all kinds run high during the holidays. The same people who report feelings of extreme stress also report feelings of love and high spirits. However, stress levels increase across the entire US. Underneath all of these happier feelings is a rising tension.
Women are more likely to be stressed out during the holidays than men. In many households, women are the people behind all of the holiday celebrations. Whether it’s Christmas shopping, putting up decorations, or making arrangements for travelling, it’s likely to be heavy on the woman in the house. Women are twice as likely to report doing the work behind festivities than men. Women also have a harder time relaxing during the holidays, and are thus more susceptible to developing unhealthy coping mechanisms.
For both men and women, holiday stress looks different from normal stress. Despite generally having time off work, workplace stress does not disappear during the holidays. On top of this year-round stress, adults are struck with a feeling of extra duty and responsibility, normally feeling as though they have some expectation from their family they may not meet.
Holiday stress is, perhaps unsurprisingly, more common amongst poorer families. The need to go Christmas shopping can exacerbate stress that was already there. Meanwhile, families who can afford the cost are less likely to worry about it.
Due to the holidays lining up with winter, people are more likely to report sedentary behavior during the holiday season. While their hobbie’s may have included activity and going out prior to the holidays, people become more likely to stay indoors and watch TV during the holiday season. The need to save money also contributes to people going out less.
Conscious or otherwise, one of the most universal methods of destressing is contemplating the new year. For almost everyone, the new year represents the ability to make positive changes and improve the self, which can help avoid stress internalization.
Coping with holiday stress
The Mayo Clinic offers a thorough guide to handling holiday stress, which anyone dealing with it should read. The first step is absolutely the most important, however, as the rest of the guide will fall on deaf ears if you can’t get past that. The cornerstone behind coping with stress of any kind is to understand and acknowledge your feelings. It’s easy to deny the stress we feel during the holidays, or to not see that the stress is a symptom of something bigger.
Once you’ve recognized your stress, you should go a level deeper and look for the cause of the stress. For most people, this will be one or both of these two things: Christmas shopping and family.
If the cause of your stress is the former, the best thing you can do to handle stress is to plan ahead for it and learning how to budget. Being aware of what you need to buy and when, as well as when you’ll have the money to do so, can help you to avoid holiday stress entirely.
If interacting with your family is the issue, you should consider learning quick meditation tactics. Learning how to set differences aside will help you avoid stress, while small things like counting backwards from ten can help to get the stress out of your system before it even has time to settle in.
Most importantly, don’t forget to keep doing whatever gets the stress out when it’s not the holiday season. While the holidays can eat up a lot of time, it’s imperative that you make the time to play a game or get coffee with a friend. Doing so can keep you from pulling your hair out this Christmas.