Holiday Stress

Christmas is supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year,” as Andy Williams famously sang, and the “hap-happiest season of all.”  But for many, the Christmas holiday is also the most stressed-out time of the year.  So what can we do to reduce, and even eliminate, holiday stress from our lives this Christmas?

I think the first step is to identify what holiday stress is, and where it comes from. And for each person, it’s different.

What are the causes of holiday stress?

Work – For some, holiday stress comes from their job, especially if they work in a business that gets a lot busier during the holidays.  The hectic pace, and harried customers, can cause them to lose some of the joy and meaning of the season.  Some feel stress because they can’t get time off during the holidays to get together with family and friends, while others volunteer for stress because they want to work as many extra hours as they can so they’ll have more money to spend on Christmas gifts. Others are terrified at the thought of getting together with co-workers for a company Christmas party.  They can’t stand their co-workers or boss in the 9-5, so why would they want to hang out with them for a holiday party?

Busyness – If it is not their business that adds stress and pressure in their lives, it could be the busyness of their schedule.  All the special school, social club and church events and parties can fill our calendars fairly quickly.  And sometimes, more than one event is scheduled for the same day or time, forcing us to choose one over the other, or add more stress by trying to attend them both.

Family relationships – It’s bad enough that some families suffer from strained relationships, but those problems are often magnified during holiday get-togethers. Disagreements, hurts and wrongs from the past can still impacts us today, especially if they haven’t been dealt with properly.  That’s why many dread getting together with family during the holidays.

Travel – Airports and highways are busier during the holidays, which can give us feelings of anxiety or worry, especially if we’re delayed.  And with the new full body scans and pat-downs at most airports in the U.S., a lot of people just got a whole lot more stressed about flying anywhere for Christmas.

Christmas shopping & gift giving – The good news, when it comes to holiday shopping and gift giving, is that we have more choices than ever.  The bad news, is that we have more choices than ever, causing many people to fret over picking the “perfect” gift to give someone.  Still others hate the idea of having to venture out to the mall and to shops that are filled with throngs of people. So Christmas shopping and gift giving can definitely add stress to our lives.

Food & Drink – Have I mentioned the worries over holiday weight gain yet?  It seems like the month of December is an endless time of feasting and feeding, with food that people bring to the workplace, gifts you receive from others, and your own holiday baking and cooking.  Some people worry about eating too much and gaining weight.  Others worry about drinking too much and making a fool of themselves at holiday parties.

Expectations – Some people feel stress during the holidays because of unmet expectations.  Maybe they didn’t receive the gift they had hoped for, didn’t do the thing or go to the place they’d hoped for, or didn’t receive a card, call, gift or visit from someone they cared about. Or the kids have a wish list that’s a mile long and there’s no way to meet their expectations, which could cause stress for both them and the parent.

Money – When it comes to holiday stress, we definitely have to talk about money.  Some worry about the fact that they couldn’t spend what they had wanted to on Christmas gifts for family.  Others fret about the fact that they have spent too much on Christmas.  Then there are those who don’t even think about what they are spending now, but their holiday stress comes after the holidays, when they receive their credit card statement in January.

So what are the secrets to coping with holiday stress, or even eliminating it?  I’ll share 7 tips for a stress-free holiday in my next post.

In the meantime, have I missed any of the common causes of holiday stress?  What would you add to the list?

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