It’s that time of year. Presents and parties, shopping and crowds, gift returns and sales, families and travel. Add to that markets that go up and down and politicians that cannot make any decisions, bad news every time you turn on the television, and it all comes down to one thing… STRESS.
I’m not sure when the holidays got so out of control. Was it when we started seeing Christmas decorations in stores in October before we even celebrated Halloween? When “Black Friday” suddenly became Black Thursday evening as stores started to open before you can even finish your turkey dinner? Or was it when we put additional focus and pressure on the holiday spending season with hopes that a positive shopping season will pull our economy out this slump?
Holiday marketing is at what feels like an all-time high! I know I get 15 – 20 emails with the “best ever sale” offer from companies each day. I can tell you that from the limited television that I do watch I know I can’t get the Lexus jingle out of my head…every time I hear it I think I should look outside to see if there is a new car in my driveway (not likely!) Like it or not, the holiday marketing blitz is here – which can only add more stress to these already tense days.
Did you know that there is an actual disorder associated with this time of year? According to an article I read on Google, it’s called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) (nice acronym, huh?) It is described as, “As daylight diminishes and the weather causes many of us to spend more time indoors, many people are affected to some degree by a type of depression known as seasonal affective disorder. It’s a subtle, but very real condition that can cast a pall over the whole season and be a source of stress and unhappiness during a time that people expect to feel just the opposite.”
So with all this negative energy around us what can we do? Here are a couple ideas to help minimize the holiday stress:
- Set realistic expectations: If on a typical day your family does not look like a scene from a Norman Rockwell painting, don’t expect that they will all magically transform at the holidays.
- Set your priorities: Before agreeing to do everything that is offered to you, determine what is most important and what you enjoy the most. There may be items you “need” to do, but make sure you balance those out with things you “want” to do. And don’t forget that it is okay to say no every now and again.
- Change your expectations for togetherness: Family and friends can be a big stress especially at the holidays. Try to limit the number of parties your throw or attend. If possible, limit the time you spend with visiting family or traveling to see family. Understand if your family is coming to see you, that they may have other commitments as they are trying to juggle schedules to spend time with as many people as possible, just as you may be too!
- Holiday Eating: The average American can put on 5 – 10 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Don’t eliminate your favorite treats from the season, but try to take them in moderation. Do you really need that 5th sugar cookie?
- Exercise: If you are a person who exercises regularly… keep it up! If you aren’t then this may not be the time to try to run a marathon. But every bit of activity can help. When you are shopping, look for a parking space at the very back of the lot. You won’t have to fight the people for the close spots and you’ll burn extra calories walking to and from the car (carrying packages can be great weight training!)
- Money Matters & Politics: Just take a break from both of these areas. Do not watch the market every day, do not log on to your account every morning, and do not allow every political decision (or lack of) to cause you to lose sleep or make your blood boil. If you have someone managing your money… trust that they are doing their job. I know we at HMC Partners don’t stop working just because it is the holidays. We spend each day looking at all the details in your accounts so you don’t have to.
- No News: My final recommendation would be to turn off the news. If you must watch TV, gather your loved ones and watch some of your favorite holiday movies together. There are now so many great ones to choose from including: ‘Miracle on 34th Street’, ‘Christmas Vacation’, ‘Love Actually’, ‘The Polar Express’, ‘Elf’, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, or even the 24 hour a day replay of ‘A Christmas Story’.
So I pass on my final holiday advice to you. With all the craziness of the holidays, and the stress that goes along with them; don’t forget to sit back and take a minute to acknowledge and appreciate what is the true meaning of the season. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, or even Festivus (for the rest of us), the important thing to remember this time of year is be thankful for the many blessings you have and for the loved ones in your life.
Wishing you all a very safe, happy and stress-free holiday season!
Source: Managing The Seemingly Inevitable Holiday Season Stress. Holiday Stress Relief is On The Way! By Elizabeth Scott, M.S., About.com Guide Updated December 12, 2011