In Touch with You Blog: Details
Holiday Stress is as common as a Christmas Party
It’s baaacccck – ridiculous wish lists from the kids, invitations to parties and open houses, cookies and candies to bake, outdoor lights to be strung for the neighborhood competition, gingerbread houses to make with the Boy Scouts, demanding in-laws for holiday menus, out-of-town guests, organizing the holiday party for work, commitments made to help with decorating the church, on and on and on. And they call this the most wonderful time of the year?
According to the American Psychological Association, with statistics from Aurora Health indicate that “up to 69% of people are stressed by the feeling of having a lack of time, 69% are stressed by perceiving a lack of money, and 51% feel stressed out over the pressured to give or get gifts.” Women are especially prone to holiday stress simply because they are traditionally the family planners, shoppers, nurturers, and caretakers on behalf of their families.
So what’s to be done?
According to Jill Trojanowski, social work supervisor at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center, “Holiday stress is a set of expectations. We think of the Hallmark Christmas – décor is what you see with Martha Stewart and Norman Rockwell, families set aside differences and that co-workers, even strangers, will be courteous. When expectations are not met you feel the sensation of stress - either physical or emotional or both. You get angry, frustrated, and disappointed or physical symptoms can appear such as headaches, back pain or overindulging in food or alcohol. Try and aim for realistic expectations to minimize stress.”
Some practical solutions to the stresses of the season can include:
- Learn to say “no.” This can be saying no to the Boy Scouts gingerbread house-making (you’ve done it for two years already; it’s someone else’s turn!) “No” might be letting the in-laws know that you’re not good at making creamed pearl onions and perhaps they could do it or your sister-in-law can. The holiday party at work? You probably can’t tell the boss “no” but lobby for someone to officially be your co-planner for the event.
- Keep up your normal, healthy routines. Eat breakfast every day even if it’s just a protein smoothie, a string cheese and an apple, or a bowl of oatmeal topped with strawberries. Also, make sure you get plenty of sleep. It’s easier said than done this time of year but you’ll be in a better mood, have more energy and be in better shape to tackle what’s really important during the holidays.
- Forget perfection! It doesn’t exist anyway. Does anyone really care if your eight-year daughter’s attempt at cookies for the neighbors looks like globs of frosting obscuring the sugar cookie underneath it all? The neighbors will smile and wonder how your daughter has grown up enough to even try making cookies!
- Fit in exercise! Whether it’s a power walk through the neighborhood, a full workout at the gym or shooting baskets with your son – do it! Perhaps you should take the kids or grandkids to the park and push them on the swings, chase them around the baseball diamond, or jog the track at the local high school. You’ll get the exercise you need, the kids will burn off some energy and you’ll all get out of the house.
- Solicit help. Ask for what you need. No one can read your mind so tell your spouse, your kids, parents and in-laws you need their help. Your husband can make the emergency run for batteries, your mother-in-law can tie ribbons and bows onto packages, and the kids can earn some holiday money for gifts by sweeping the front porch, dusting the furniture and various other chores. And remember to forget perfection.
- Don’t overschedule. Learn to say “no” to various invitations when attending them just causes more stress. That invitation to the formal, swanky dinner party possibly means new clothes, a baby-sitter, and people you really don’t care about that much. Thank the host/hostess profusely and simply say you already have plans. You don’t need to go into the details of your other plans. Your other plans may simply be to wrap gifts that night!
- Laugh! Do whatever it takes to laugh throughout the season. Laughing reduces stress hormones which helps immune cells function better.
Some other practical stress relieving suggestions – think positive (mind over matter); up your mood with some sunlight;, walk away from it all by getting out of the house for an hour; set a holiday budget, after careful consideration, and stick to it; listen to some favorite music whether it’s holiday favorites, a sound track from a beloved musical, a Bon Jovi CD, or the oldies from the 60s and 70s; sit quietly in a darkened room where you can’t be interrupted by technology – no phones, TV, radio, cell phone, computer, nothing but the quiet to surround you.
Bottom line – take charge of your holiday season. It belongs to no one but you. After careful consideration, and saying “no” to certain things you can make this holiday season something wonderful!
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