ASK A PSYCHOTHERAPIST
Bergen County, NJ Psychologist
Stress… and the Holidays (What Happened to “Happy” and “Joyous”?)
Aren’t we entitled to be happy and joyous during the holiday season? It IS supposed to be a magical time when dreams come true and our wishes are granted. Indeed, the “holidays” are predetermined to be a rapturous reflection of our ideal holiday moments. We tend to depend upon these memories (selective as though they may be) to sustain us when things get tough as we enter the holiday season.
However, it seems that many times stress during the holidays takes over our minds and bodies. Life can become overwhelming just stretching to handle the many extra activities that are added to our days. Each time a stress reaction occurs, it drains us of our energy. In other words, thoughts such as “I MUST make the perfect turkey”, or “What does Aunt Sally really want as a gift?”, or “How can I possibly fit in another party?” can be disastrous to you as a person. It can fiercely impact you as a spouse, as a partner, as a parent, and as an employee.
If you find yourself suffering some of the physical symptoms of stress (such as headaches, nausea, indigestion, sleeping problems, fatigue, etc.), here are some tips to help you manage your stress (it cannot be eliminated…just managed).
1. Organize yourself in order to control what’s going on in your life. For example, make lists and then check the chores off as you complete them.
2. Use a calendar to plan out your days and weeks. For example, Nov. 18 – buy spices for your holiday dinner, Dec. 3 – bring decorations out of the attic.
3. Prioritize the demands made upon your time (not everything has equal importance).
4. Say “NO” before you exceed your energy level. (There’s just so much you can do!). You don’t have to comply with every request made by family and friends. Don’t wait until you are frazzled…you’re entitled to say “NO”!
5. Make certain that your expectations are realistic (how many hours do we have in a day?).
6. Take frequent breaks when involved in holiday preparation, It helps you to gain perspective if you walk around the block, read a magazine and so forth.
7. Don’t neglect to eat properly…you’ll feel better and much more in control of yourself.
8. Remember…taking good care of yourself is your FIRST priority (or you will be unable to take care of anyone else). For example, a hungry wait-staff person cannot have the patience or stamina needed to be a competent server; she/he has to feel comfortably full before serving.
9. Tackle one job at a time, one day at a time. If everything doesn’t get done, it isn’t the “end of the world”. Your need for perfection only leads to more stress.
10. Most importantly, accept yourself for who you are…a person with a heart full of love to give yourself (and others) a truly meaningful, though perhaps imperfect, holiday gift… a STRESSLESS you!