Stress Around The Holidays

November 21, 2007 by  
Filed under STRESS

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During the holiday season – Christmas, Hanukkah and others – people will often experience elevated levels of stress. But it need not be so.

There are, indeed, many pressures unique to the holiday season.

In many places, the weather makes it more difficult to get around and people are sometimes more physically uncomfortable. Those are minor in themselves, but when they persist over time they become elements in encouraging stress.

The desire and expectation of buying presents, sometimes for individuals you may not be very fond of but feel obligated to buy for, can add to the pressure. This is especially true for people on a tight budget, as many are. Crowded stores, clogged streets and a lack of parking spaces contribute as well.

These facts all bear marked similarities to more common factors in producing stress. Work responsibilities, for example, often bring deadlines that are difficult to meet and a lack of resources to meet them. Physical factors, such as health problems, commonly constitute a large percentage of stressors. Money worries are near the top of a lot of lists for those who experience stress.

Since the holiday factors are similar, they are subject to the same kind of ‘treatment’. Stress results from a perceived, unresolvable conflict between “I must” and “I can’t”. So, tackle these two factors head on during the holidays.

Ask yourself if you really ‘must’. Many families, for example, have a kind of raffle system in which one family member buys for another. That way, no one has the burden of buying multiple presents. Fewer obligations to meet means less chance for stress. Less money you have to spend means less to worry about.

Now tackle the “I can’t”.

Some people start gift buying and decorating earlier in the season. Others find it difficult to ‘get into the spirit’ long before the event. For the latter, try shopping online or going to more out of the way places. The trip may take a little longer, or require a little more searching, but the lower incidence of stress more than compensates.

Even if you don’t want to start shopping for the holidays in June, you can still do some planning that will help lower the occasion for stress. If your budget is small, start saving well ahead. Put a cap on what you are willing to spend and don’t let unnecessary guilt make you spend more or feel bad about spending less. Gifts should be voluntary, not obligatory.

Having more to do at a particular time of the year, when it may be more difficult to get it done, can represent a challenge. But a challenge only leads to stress when you place yourself in impossible dilemmas. Toss aside those dilemmas and declare your independence from stress.

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