You might remember the day Santa Claus brought you your first bicycle. It had pink handlebars and seemed to shine under the Christmas tree lights. It was hard to believe that the present of your dreams had actually arrived. You knew you’d always remember it as the best Christmas ever.
Fast forward a few years. It’s Christmas week, and you’re a basket case. You don’t think you’ll ever be able to finish all the shopping, the wrapping, and the decorating in time for the big day. You also have visits to make, cards to send, and donations to mail out. You are dealing with full-fledged Christmas stress, and it shows no signs of abating.
The stress of the holiday season can be trying in the best of circumstances. But if you’re dealing with other major stressors, such as the recent death of a loved one, holiday stress can seem unbearable. You might be so tense that you cannot enjoy any holiday- related activities. You might snap at your children or your spouse, and you might find yourself unable to focus at work.
There are many causes of holiday stress. To begin with, you might be striving to fulfill unrealistic expectations. You might have a perfect postcard view of the holidays— a vision that no human being could expect to realize. Your impressions of holidays might have been formed by the movies, where families gather around a tree and sing Christmas carols in perfect harmony.
Another common cause of holiday stress is having too many people on your Christmas list. You might expect yourself to buy for not only members of your immediate family, but also for teachers, friends, distant relatives, and co-workers. You don’t want to leave anyone out, so you create a list that even Santa Claus would find difficult to fill.
You might also be suffering from the stressed-out host syndrome. You might have been elected to hold Christmas festivities at your house, and you’re panicked. You’re striving to decorate the house, trim the tree, grocery shop, bake cookies, and prepare fudge. You don’t know when you’ll have time to string the lights in front of your house, or to mount the Christmas cards on the window blinds.
Family members might be contributing to your stress. Your children might be demanding the latest video games, even though you’re budget will never accommodate them. Your mate might be demanding that you increase your share of the holiday chores. Your parents might be demanding to stay a week or more at your house, creating further tension for your household.
The fact is, you can enjoy the holidays while reducing your stress level considerably. This begins with engaging in some pre-holiday planning. Write a list of your goals for the holidays. What do you really want to accomplish this year? What can you realistically do on your own, and what will you need help with? Putting your aims in writing can help to give you some peace of mind.
It’s also important that you set your own agenda for the holidays. Don’t let other people dictate the agenda for you. In this way, you can ensure that your needs are met, before you attempt to fulfill the needs of others. Chances are, your goals are not to buy presents for everyone you’ve ever met or to get out every decoration you’ve ever owned. Rather, your goal is probably to have a safe, festive holiday where you, your family and friends can enjoy the festivities. Realizing what your true goal is, and mapping out a way to get there, can help to reduce your stress.
There is no denying that holidays make additional demands on your time. However, through appropriate time-management techniques, you can work to ensure that you are not overwhelmed by responsibilities. If you have a difficult task to face, consider enlisting the aid of family and friends. Sharing the load can reduce your stress level remarkably. Also, you have to strike the idea that you must have the perfect holiday. Instead, strive to create a holiday that’s good enough…good enough to make you smile…good enough to bring joy to your loved ones. Also, spend at least part of your holiday preparations doing some good for someone in need. You’ll find the experience rewarding—and it should help you to better cope with holiday demands.