Surviving Holiday Stress and Blues
It’s that time of year again: December calendars filled with social events requiring you to engage with those exploding with holiday cheer. Like ornaments on a tree, you are expected have a bright and shiny appearance. Sounds easy enough right? But what if holiday stress makes your demeanor less “Santa” and more “Grinch?”
Past Holiday Stress: Icy Childhood Memories
According to family dynamics expert, John Bradshaw, 96% of all families are somewhat dysfunctional. With this information, one could deduce that many adults would say that their childhood holiday memories are not so warm and fuzzy. This time of year may be triggering—bringing about feelings of obligation, isolation, and disappointment.
More than likely, you were forced to attend family/church events that bored you to tears. Presumably, you received gifts that you did not care for and never did get the ones that were on your wish list. Perhaps your parents divorced during this festive time of year, creating a chaotic shift in family dynamics. No matter the circumstances, you can’t shake the bitter memories.
Romantic Holiday Stress: Frigid Hearts
The holiday season is for lovers—that’s what the entertainment industry tells us. Over the past decades there has been an influx of romantic holiday movies. The plot typically entails a “healthy and happy” couple attending family events. This glaring expectation is true to life as well. But the reality is that many of those couples are doing their best to conceal the argument they just had in the car on the way over!
Let’s not forget to mention the pressure to kiss someone beneath the mistletoe or at the stroke of midnight to ring in the New Year. For this reason alone, it is easy to understand why someone who is single or experiencing a breakup would rather just stay in bed.
Holiday Stress as Wintry Grief
With this time of year being devoted to family and friends, it can be very difficult if you have experienced the loss of a loved one. The holidays can be a reminder of their absence unlike any other time of year. For some, the merriment will never feel the same without them.
Financial Holiday Stress: Dismal Funds
If your current financial situation is already a source of stress in your life, the holidays can exacerbate the issue. Feelings of guilt and shame can rear their ugly head if you do not have the resources to buy gifts for loved ones. This is especially true if there are children on your gift-giving list. Depleted bank accounts would prompt anyone to say, “Bah Humbug!”
Managing Your Holiday Stress
Although there may be plenty of reasons to want to skip the entire monthly celebration, challenge yourself this year! When unhealthy habitual thinking takes over and causes negative feelings, make the choice to BEHAVE differently. Determine what is promoting this “bluesy” feeling and seek to change your circumstances, if possible. Here are some tips to make this occasion more joyous:
- Express your feelings to loved ones so that they are aware to be sensitive to your needs
- Make a list of low-cost to no-cost things that you enjoy and be sure to incorporate one into each day during the holiday season
- Attempt to change your mindset: set positive daily intentions each morning
- Keep a gratitude list and add to it often
- Do something special to honor those you have lost
- Be of service (your time, your ear, your care and concern)
- Focus on being mindful (meditation, positive self-talk)
- Make gifts (cookies, ornaments, handwritten cards, photo albums, etc.)
In doing so, you just may be able to shake the “Scrooge” out of you. Who knows, maybe you’ll end up being the one who is exploding with holiday cheer this year.