It’s the Most Wonderful…Wait…Really? Putting the Holidays into Perspective


Does the hustle and bustle of this time of year bring on warm, nostalgic feelings?

Or are we overloaded with expectations and riddled with stress?

I wish the former for anyone, but unfortunately many of us are dealing with the latter.

Most Feel Increased Stress During The Holidays

And most often women bear more of the brunt of this stress. Sorry guys, but it’s true.  According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, 61% of people report often feeling stress during the holidays and 44% of women report feeling an increase in stress this time of year as opposed to 31% of men feeling an increase.

holiday-stress circle graphOur lists of things to do, to buy, gatherings to go to are so long, there’s very little time to settle into what the holidays are supposed to be all about.

And what is that, by the way?  Many believe this time of year is supposed to be about connection and generosity.  Instead though, we are burdened with lack of time, lots of money spent and the overwhelming commercial hype making us strive to make the holidays the best for our families…no pressure!

Coping With Holiday Stress

How Much Extra Stress Do You Feel This Holiday?
1 – No more than usual
2 – A little, but it’s ok
3 – It’s an extra burden
4 – I’m having trouble coping
5 – Overwhelmed with stress

Poll Maker

Going through this time of year in ‘deer in the headlights’ mode is not warm and nostalgic at all, but in fact quite stressful.  As a matter of fact, we know that when this stress response is activated, we’re actually in fight-or-flight mode on some level as though it’s a life or death matter to get those holiday cards sent or bake the perfect pie for the party.  It’s no wonder we turn to food or that extra glass of wine to calm down.

It’s important, however, to learn to control how we cope with stress – no matter the time of year – by learning how to respond rather than react in the moment.

If we can notice that we’re experiencing stress and are in high alert, we’re already pausing and reactivating our rational, thinking mind.

Putting The Holidays Into Perspective

If you have paused and noticed, consider asking yourself these questions to put things in perspective:

  • What are the holidays all about for you?
  • Are you doing each of the things on our list because you want to?  Or feel you have to?
  • Are you trying to measure up to someone else’s expectations?
  • Do you have to go to every gathering?  Or can you say no thank you to some invitations?
  • Are you volunteering to help others at your own expense?
  • What about customs?  Are there any that you don’t truly subscribe to, that don’t really suit your family values or your life?
  • Does everyone in your life need to have a gift?  Or would a kind gesture of appreciation be enough for some?
  • Are there any corners you can cut, like buying prepared food for a gathering instead of cooking from scratch?

Read This Related Article:
Stop Obsessing: Keeping the Peace through the Holiday and Beyond

Perhaps answering these questions has allowed you to cross a couple of things off the list, so why not consider a truly silent night and add the gift of some much needed self-care instead?

I know…now we’re adding to the list again, but by adding the antidote of peace and calm, we’re genuinely combating stress. We’re actually activating the parts of our brain that experience pleasure.  Don’t we deserve this gift?  Wouldn’t our loved ones want that for us?

Give Yourself A Gift This Holiday

Here are some ideas:

  • Sit and have a cup of tea
  • Take a bath
  • Meditate
  • Look at the beautifully decorated tree
  • Enjoy watching the candles on the menorah
  • Do a craft
  • Play music
  • Watch a funny movie alone or with loved ones

As you consider these options, I’ll leave you with a couple of holiday watch list suggestions that may shed new light on your lists:

For those who celebrate Christmas, the History Channel’s documentary The History of Christmas goes over the many Christmas traditions and customs and how they came to be.  For my family it was liberating, we realized we really could pick-our-own.

Watch Video: The History of Christmas (Part One) 45 Minutes

Watch Video: The History of Christmas (Part Two) 45 Minutes

Also, an eco-minded short documentary, The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute look at production and consumption that makes us think about buying stuff in a different light:

No matter how you choose to celebrate this holiday season, may your season be sprinkled with peace and joy!

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About the Author

Shiri Macri, MA, LCMHC

Since 2004, Shiri’s approach as a therapist for treating binge and emotional eating is holistic, focusing not only on the presented issue at hand but also considering overall health. Working in this way often includes mindfulness-based approaches. Now as a trained MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) teacher, Shiri’s love of mindfulness and meditation practices are at the forefront of her blog writings and recordings. Shiri is the Clinical Director at the Women's Center for Binge & Emotional Eating, affiliated with Green Mountain at Fox Run.

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