UnCharted Path Productions - Let's Talk About... Holiday Stress
Updated: Dec 28, 2022
UPP's Weekly Mental Digest
by Shari Wilson, Psy. M.
December 23, 2022
Hey, Hey, Hey your virtual psychologist here....
You know what time it is, right? It's the time where we talk about all things mental health. This week we definitely have something to chat about.
Here we are approaching the culmination of one of the biggest holidays of the year. It's time to buy gifts for family, friends, coworkers, and who knows who else, hopefully using money you've set aside or perhaps robbing Peter to pay Paul. You know that invisible weight that we place on ourselves during this time of the year to make sure that everyone is happy? The whole objective is to give to those you love (and if possible the less fortunate), but it feels more like you could be stretching yourself thin trying to be and/or give to EVERYONE. This type of stress tends to take away from the “Reason for the Season”.
Some examples include:
Possibly seeing friends, family members, or siblings fighting over gifts because THEY wanted to give the best gift to mom, dad, or each other. Or even more disturbing, the rapid increase in the amount of theft during this time of the year as well, even with cameras fixed on the porches.
You have that family time where you get so wrapped up in the thought of the holidays that you create an unstable emotional environment, because “everything must be flawless."
There are so many reasons created and present that can cause what many call “Holiday Stress”.
What is holiday stress?
"Many associate the stress of the holidays with social gatherings, rituals, and making momentous memories. Expectations leading up to the BIG day can lead to many layers of different types of stress.” There are a lot of expectations around the holidays. Holiday stress can affect anyone, even children. THIS is why I’m fighting to be genuinely happy when I’m stressed with all these expectations ON TOP OF my normal day-to-day life.
We already know what causes holiday stress. It's trying to be perfect in all aspects for different people whether friends, colleagues, or family members. This could include being the ideal host of the annual family Christmas gathering, although you realize it is more than you need on your plate. It could include trying to make sure that EVERY meal that you make looks like it was aired on a prestigious cooking show. You got family coming in and you are hosting EVERYONE and doing EVERYTHING. Uh uh that's too much!
Those are just a few possible situations that could lead to that raggedy holiday stress. Why do we do this to ourselves? It is almost as if running ourselves into the ground gives us some type of satisfaction. We, as humans, know that we are not looking for stress, but rather simple enjoyable moments that we can cherish. The moment cannot be cherished if your plate is overflowing and you are trying to be everything to everyone. Instead, you are just being present and doing your civil holiday duty.
I would like to emphasize that when we tend to take on more than we should, living up to our own expectations and others' expectations during this time of year --- particularly when we don't need to --- the stress that gets dumped on us comes with an unpleasant set of symptoms. Stress is known to cause headaches, stomach aches, and other types of negative responses in your body. And let's not forget the anxiety that likes to stop us in our tracks from time to time. We do not have time for that most days, and these symptoms of unwanted stress literally defeat the reason why we give above and beyond during the holidays. Holiday stress gives us something -- but it is most definitely the wrong type of gift giving. Here we are at a point where we either get a hold of these unrealistic expectations and make memories with those that we love OR continue to miss these moments.
Let's choose to make memories!
This doesn't mean that you’re about to be Scrooge or the Grinch, and not have a festive environment BUT what if you split responsibilities? A lot of families enjoy the bonding that comes with cooking, decorating, and shopping with each other. Imagine if you could split the load and have more time to do the things you normally wouldn't get to do. Choosing not to stress yourself out is a gift that you deserve to give yourself. One of the wisest and most influential women that I have been OH SO blessed to have in my life spoke on the matter of not taking time for yourself.
“When you intentionally overlook self-care for the sake of others, it's like taking a vow of poverty on your emotions, thinking you're doing something noble, but in the end, you're damaged.” (C. Swann, 2022) ----> My big sister!!!
She literally stopped me DEAD in my tracks with that entire statement. This is because you're over here trying to reach for expectations that may become too overwhelming, when in actuality, you are potentially setting yourself up to be unsuccessful. Now don't get it twisted, I am not suggesting that carrying more than your normal load is just unacceptable. However, what I AM saying is that at a time when it is not necessary, I say NO THANK YOU.
Ask yourself these questions:
Why add more when the load can be shared without having to beg and plead for assistance?
Why stress yourself out when you do NOT have to? It’s like creating a quicksand type of outcome.
Ain’t nobody got time for that!
Stress on purpose? Why?
Many people assume that overindulging themselves during the holidays will eventually balance itself out. Yea, that's a NO. After the holidays have come and gone, and you stressed yourself out trying to do it all, who is there to fill in for you? Or to fill you back up? Not to say that you are going to need saving, but you missed the giggle sessions, the deep conversations, the bonding over a good movie. You also missed the random dance battles, just being in the moment. By holding on to expectations and baggage, you deprive yourself of memories and moments. If you take time, by planning out what you’re doing, delegating what others can help you with and not emptying your accounts just to buy gifts, you’ll get the best of both worlds! We want to enjoy this time of year as well. Now, you are creating memories and partaking in the traditions of the holidays instead of having to choose.
Remember when you start to feel overwhelmed, step back and look at what is irritating you; then ask yourself:
Do I need this to be in the moment?
Whatever it may be, if it is not something you absolutely need for the holidays, it shouldn't cause you stress.
For Example: Even if all your dishes come out just right, there are always possibilities for mishaps, especially when making meals on a larger scale than normal. And even with a possible mishap, special moments and memories can be created without a Master Chef display of food.
Is this something that I can control?
Having control is like trying to create a situation that you think you know all the ins and outs of. This is so you can try to avoid an outcome that you wouldn't like.
How realistic is being able to do all that without completely stressing yourself out?
Being in that realm of control will quickly show you that you aren't in control of anything other than the amount of unnecessary stress you are creating for yourself. Now having a plan and trying to follow it, while knowing that nothing is perfect; THAT'S OK. Just don't sabotage yourself and remember why this season is so meaningful to you and those you care for.
Something to strive for is being 'kind' and 'making every moment count'. The holidays can come off as a daunting task if we let them. In this case, let's make the most of it and look for the good even when things don't go as planned. And don't forget, after all of this planning and execution - Self care is a gift that you can give at any time, so don't forget about yourself while you are considering others.
Lastly, to the "strong": some may think self care is a sign of weakness, but to the wise it is a sign of strength.
Happy Holidays Y'all!!!!!!
Know that I am here for you and I believe in you. Chat with you next week!
About the writer:
Shari Wilson has a genuine heart to listen to anyone who shares their experiences, traumas, or just life in general. She studied at Purdue Global University, earning her Bachelor’s degree in Applied Behavioral Analysis and Addiction Psychology in 2016. On the path to furthering her studies, she received her Master of Psychology in 2018 from Purdue Global University. Since then she has been enamored with the ability to use her education to help others through difficult times.
She is a Consulting Psychologist for UnCharted Path Productions, working on the upcoming psychological thriller series titled “Hidden District”. She is a mom of 3, a wife, and an amazing friend to those around her. If you would like to get in contact with her regarding a counseling session, please email her at: email@example.com or follow her on Instagram.
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