Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Holidays can bring on blues

Learn about the common stressors and how to cope

Stress for Success

December 12, 2012

According to Madison Avenue, Christmas is always 100% happy, loving and generous. Do your holidays live up to these expectations? Do anyone’s? If not, this time of year can be very stressful.

Even if you measure up well, it’s a time of frenetic cleaning, decorating, baking, shopping, wrapping, going to and hosting parties, all potentially leading to exhaustion.

A key to coping is to know that we’re all more vulnerable to stress right now and to keep the increased activity, overindulgences, and unrealistic expectations from overwhelming you.

Here are some of the most common holiday stressors to protect yourself from:
• Relationships: Historically tumultuous ones can be particularly toxic, especially if you’re with your family of origin where reverting back to childhood roles triggers each other’s hot buttons.
• If you’ve lost a loved-one, the holidays may leave you very lonely and depressed.
• Finances: Money stress can occur any time but takes on new dimensions if you overspend on gifts, travel, etc.
• Exhaustion: The vicious cycle of stress-causing fatigue may leave you less likely to exercise and meditate, which increases your stress. Overindulgence of food and liquor can push you overboard.

Here are some holiday stress coping tips:
• Treat yourself kindly; accept your imperfections. Do something you find special. Focus on the importance of Christmas vs. buying stuff. Appreciate the efforts you make to create a positive experience for your loved ones.
• Put your mind into neutral and commit to not letting other’s irritating behaviors upset you. Avoid difficult people, if possible. Save any confrontations for the New Year. If someone else gets easily upset, give him a break; he’s probably over-stressed, too. An excellent holiday mantra is, "This too shall pass."
– Instead of picturing things going wrong, picture them going well. Prepare yourself mentally to positively handle what could go wrong and appreciate the positive.
• Be realistic: Let go of Hallmark expectations that everything must be perfect. If there's a spot on your tablecloth, put something over it vs. fuss about it. Virtually no one cares. And if someone does, don’t invite her next year.
• Stick to your budget: Decide how much you can afford and stick to it. To avoid over-spending leave your credit cards at home and take only the cash you've budgeted. You can’t buy love or friendship. Explain to your kids if you can’t afford something they want. Knowing there are limits is good for them.
• Set appropriate limits: Prioritize invitations, requests and responsibilities. Commit only to what’s realistically achievable.
• Plan ahead: Include your family in making a list of and dividing additional responsibilities. Decide who will do what. (If you do it all yourself you’ll teach them to do nothing.)
• Self-care: Over-eat and -drink on Christmas if you must, but not for the next two weeks. Take daily 15-minute breaks to refresh each day. Get plenty of exercise and drink lots of water to keep up your energy.
• Be grateful: Help those who are less fortunate. Catch your loved ones doing something right. As you prepare everything remember your love for those for whom you’re doing it.

If you still have the holiday blues talk to someone you trust. Keep up your normal routine and know that this too shall pass.

Merry Christmas!

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., of InterAction Associates, is a trainer and a Stress Coach. E-mail her at or call 239-693-8111 for information about her workshops on this and other topics or to invite her to speak to your organization.