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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Holiday stress

It's always been ironic to me that the "holidays" can be one of the most stressful times of the year.

From now, until January 1st, there are activities after activities after activites.

I found this article today from the Mayo Clinic that might be of help to all of us - and then I added a few thoughts at the end.

"For some people, the holidays bring unwelcome guests — stress and depression. And it's no wonder. In an effort to pull off a perfect Hallmark holiday, you might find yourself facing a dizzying array of demands — work, parties, shopping, baking, cleaning, caring for kids on school break or elderly parents, and scores of other chores. So much for peace and joy, right?

Actually, with some practical tips, you can minimize the stress and depression that often accompany the holidays. You may even end up enjoying the holidays more than you thought you would.

The trigger points of holiday stress

Holiday stress and depression are often the result of three main trigger points. Understanding these trigger points can help you plan ahead on how to accommodate them.

Here are the three issues that commonly trigger holiday stress or depression:

Relationships. Relationships can cause turmoil, conflict or stress at any time. But tensions are often heightened during the holidays. Family misunderstandings and conflict can intensify — especially if you're all thrust together for several days. Conflicts are bound to arise with so many needs and interests to accommodate. On the other hand, if you're facing the holidays without a loved one, you may find yourself especially lonely or sad.

Finances. Like your relationships, your financial situation can cause stress at any time of the year. Overspending during the holidays on gifts, travel, food and entertainment can increase stress as you try to make ends meet while ensuring that everyone on your shopping list is happy.

Physical demands. The strain of shopping, attending social gatherings and preparing holiday meals can wipe you out. Feeling exhausted can increase your stress, creating a vicious cycle. Exercise and sleep — good antidotes for stress and fatigue — may take a back seat to chores and errands. High demands, stress, lack of exercise, and overindulgence in food and drink — these are the ingredients for holiday illness.

12 pre-emptive strategies for holiday stress.

When stress is at its peak, it's hard to stop and regroup. Take steps to help prevent normal holiday depression from progressing into chronic depression. Try these tips:

Acknowledge your feelings. If a loved one has recently died or you aren't near loved ones, realize that it's normal to feel sadness and grief. It's OK now and then to take time just to cry or express your feelings. You don't have to force yourself to be happy just because it's the holiday season.

Seek support. If you feel isolated or down, seek out family members and friends, or community, religious or social services. They can offer support and companionship. Consider volunteering at a community or religious function. Getting involved and helping others can lift your spirits and broaden your social circle. Also, enlist support for organizing holiday gatherings, as well as meal preparation and cleanup. You don't have to go it alone. Don't be a martyr.

Be realistic. As families change and grow, traditions often change as well. Hold on to those you can, if you want to. But understand that in some cases that may no longer be possible. Perhaps your entire extended family can't gather together at your house. Instead, find new ways to celebrate together from afar, such as sharing pictures, e-mails or videotapes.

Set differences aside. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don't live up to your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. With stress and activity levels high, the holidays might not be conducive to making quality time for relationships. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are, they're feeling the effects of holiday stress, too.

Stick to a budget. Before you go shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend on gifts and other items. Then be sure to stick to your budget. If you don't, you could feel anxious and tense for months afterward as you struggle to pay the bills. Don't try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts. Donate to a charity in someone's name, give homemade gifts or start a family gift exchange.

Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make one big food-shopping trip. That'll help prevent a last-minute scramble to buy forgotten ingredients — and you'll have time to make another pie if the first one's a flop. Allow extra time for travel so that delays won't worsen your stress.

Learn to say no. Believe it or not, people will understand if you can't do certain projects or activities. If you say yes only to what you really want to do, you'll avoid feeling resentful and overwhelmed. If it's really not possible to say no to something — your boss asks you to work overtime — try to remove something from your agenda to make up for the lost time.

Don't abandon healthy habits. Don't let the holidays become a dietary free-for-all. Some indulgence is OK, but overindulgence may add to your stress and guilt. Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don't go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks. Continue to get plenty of sleep and schedule time for physical activity.

Take a breather. While you may not have time every day for a silent night, make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Steal away to a quiet place, even if it's the bathroom, for a few moments of solitude. Take a walk at night and stargaze. Listen to soothing music. Find something that clears your mind, slows your breathing and restores your calm.

Rethink resolutions. Resolutions can set you up for failure if they're unrealistic. Don't resolve to change your whole life to make up for past excess. Instead, try to return to basic, healthy lifestyle routines. Set smaller, more specific goals with a reasonable time frame. Choose resolutions that help you feel valuable and provide more than only fleeting moments of happiness.

Forget about perfection. Holiday TV specials are filled with happy endings. But in real life, people don't usually resolve problems within an hour or two. Something always comes up. You may get stuck late at the office and miss your daughter's school play, your sister may dredge up an old argument, you may forget to put nuts in the cake, and your mother may criticize how you and your partner are raising the kids. All in the same day. Expect and accept imperfections.

Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for several weeks, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional. You may have depression.

Have it both ways

Remember, one key to minimizing holiday stress and depression is knowing that the holidays can trigger stress and depression. Accept that things aren't always going to go as planned. Then take active steps to manage stress and depression during the holidays. You may actually enjoy the holidays this year more than you thought you could."

Now then, let me add one more. Spend time with Jesus. Bask in his presence. Have a conversation with God - on a daily basis. Jesus is the reason for the season!


Jon said...

I try to use stress in a positive way, to remain focused and move forward with projects that I would ordinarily procrastinate about. I find that I must do one of two things with my stress: Work it out or Read it out...I love the latter but it doesn't always work depending on what the stressors in my life are at the moment. If it's a gajillion (that's a lot for those of you not into makespeak) of people coming to my house, then I must work it off with trying to get everything done...within reason. At a certain point, I just look at it and say, "It's done as well as I'm doing it today. People live here!" If it's stress that puts strain on my physical being, I find it much easier to work it out...chop wood, get on the glider, take a walk, etc. If it's mental stress, then I have an easier time reading it out as I choose to get lost in an alternate reality or compelling tale told by a master storyteller.

Ultimately, too much stress in your life is a bad leads to too many health issues even if you are dealing with it well. The total and complete stress reliever cannot be found in an exercise routine, in a modern novel, or in a little pink pill...He can, however, be found in the greatest Book of all time. Even simpler, He can be found just by asking...asking Him into your life and into your heart, asking Him to help carry your load and to be with you every step of your journey.

God will do that for you; He's shown you the path through His Son, Jesus Christ, and will send you His Helper in the Holy Spirit. That's true love, folks, true love. Not only does He accept us when we ask, He sent/sends us a guide and a helper to assist us in making it through. Find me someone else who will do that for you...for the rest of your life. Yes, you might find someone to do it for a while, but eventually they will falter and leave you...God never will. He is eternal, all knowing, and powerful enough to change your life! Let Him do that for you; let Him show you the joy of being His child again!! If you'd like to do that, please pray this prayer: God, I know that you exist and that you sent your Son to earth to die for my sins. Please forgive me for all that I've done and come live in my heart today. I love you.

Now, if you've done that, welcome to God. Find a Bible and start reading in the New Testament, in the book of John (or Mark, your choice on which writer you can understand the best) and learn about the life of Jesus Christ. Find a church in your area that is open and loving (that's pretty much all of them) and seek guidance from mature Christians who will help you to understand your new life. God bless you and keep you. Welcome home!


Teresa O. said...

Reading all the possible holiday stresses is stressful – ha! I do not like making people feel obligated nor do I like feeling obligated. When I am - I am more prone to turn the other way. I want them to join us through the holidays because they want to. If people would just be open and honest of what they really want to do around the holidays, it would make things simpler. Quit the humming and hawing – just say it. After I got married, my parents always said to us, "do what you can do." Meaning - if you can make it on Christmas, great, if not, just let us know when. By them doing that we wanted to accommodate their schedules as much as possible. People are willing to go the distance when expectations are not placed on them. I try not to place my expectations on others and if I did, I guess I just assume they told me. It makes future planning much easier and less stressful.

It is a lot to juggle a calendar and the holidays when you are driving from a distance and all family is around the same area. We’ve been doing it for over 20 years. In time, we learned to be a bit selfish and do what we can do and not put more upon ourselves that simply was impossible (like getting up at 4am to make it to both parents’ homes). You can only see so many people in two days.

I invite friends and family around the holidays and my goal is to help them enjoy the holidays with no expectations on our end. If they can’t make it, I just assume they be honest. Why is it people feel they have to “tip toe” around the holidays. Everyone knows everyone is busier this time of year. I hope I can do the same as my parents did when my children are married and grown. Despite all the craziness through the holiday’s, there is a Spirit, which we know is Christ, that is felt everywhere. And, more importantly, it is worth the time and effort to share it with those we love. In the end, giving is what it’s all about. It’s not about me…it’s about others. We need to stay focused on Christ and sharing His love through the holidays.