November 23, 2009
Count 1, 2, 3 to Deal With Holiday Stress
Augusta, GA—In a perfectly imagined world, the holidays are cast in a rosy glow where all children are sweet, you whisk off a spotless apron to serve the bronzed turkey on a perfectly garnished platter, and everyone gathers fireside to sing songs as snow gently falls.
So when the kids are screaming, the turkey’s burning and no one is in the mood for the annual holiday sing-a-long, it’s no wonder that for the 100th time you think to yourself, “Why can’t the holidays be what they used to be?”
“The reality is, your memories are often better than what actually happened,” said Dr. Jeremy Hertza, Director of Behavioral Medicine at Walton Rehabilitation Health System. “And movies and television definitely hype up the idea of the ideal holiday celebration. But actually, anytime you have changes from your everyday routine, yes, it’s fun, but it can also be emotionally stressful.”
According to Dr. Hertza, stress and anxiety during the holidays isn’t uncommon. Not only do people place stress on themselves to live up to past holiday memories, but they also must socialize with family and friends they aren’t used to being with, they revisit memories of lost loved ones, and after all the hype, sometimes there are feelings of being left out or let down after the holidays are over.
So what’s the best way to handle the holidays when stress threatens to overwhelm? Take a deep breath and count to three, keeping in mind these three tips from Dr. Hertza to help keep you and the holidays from having a meltdown.
Tip No. 1: Have realistic expectations. Many times we struggle and overstress ourselves trying to make every detail of the holidays perfect. Remember that the holidays aren’t about having everything be perfect, it’s about connecting with family. “Keep your priorities in place,” advises Dr. Hertza. “If you want help, ask for it so you can enjoy the celebration too. Spread out responsibilities, and when it comes to gift-giving, make it less about the amount of money you spend and more about fun and family.” For example, set a dollar limit per gift or draw names to eliminate the pressure of purchasing multiple gifts for family members.
Tip No. 2: Prepare yourself. If you know that every year certain family members will get into an argument or that your in-laws will cause added stress, develop a strategy to handle it. “If you find yourself getting stressed out, take a breather by stepping outside for a moment, or make sure to sit by someone relaxing,” said Dr. Hertza. If like many people, you must undergo a multi-family celebration during the holidays, prepare for it in a healthy manner by setting a time limit of how long you’ll stay at one location. Most importantly, as you gear yourself up for the holidays, stay positive. Dreading the annual arguments will only create stress ahead of time.
Tip No. 3: Take control of the things you can, and don’t worry about those you can’t. “People always worry about things they can’t control,” said Dr. Hertza, “but there’s no point in doing that. Instead, focus on enjoying the day, and those things you can control: what you’re going to bring, how you’re going to handle the situation and how long you’re going to stay.” By letting go, you can eliminate stress, and instead laugh at situations like the time you burnt the turkey, which often become the best holiday memories of all.
Media Contact: Danielle Wong Moores, Public Relations Specialist, 706-434-0150
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