Managing Christmas Stress

Christmas gift suggestions: To your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect."   Oren Arnold, Journalist

Managing Christmas Stress
Despite the appearance of joyous enthusiasm this time of year, the reality for many women is an enormous rush of increased stress. The demands of the festive season can make it difficult to implement or maintain regular healthy coping techniques. The extra time to get the shopping done bites into our usual exercise regime. Tempting goodies and drinks override our healthy eating routine. Our budget goes sideways as we overuse the credit card in a desperate attempt to buy all the right gifts. Relationship issues, unresolved conflicts, and the loneliness that is part of the season for many, can seem overwhelming.

When a stressful event happens to us, we automatically evaluate the situation mentally. In other words how we perceive the event affects the level of stress we experience. Responding rather than reacting to circumstancs is most effective for reducing the stress we perceive. Learning to respond, however, requires that we slow down and carefully examine the situation and all of the implications.

Consider the following tips for managing stress this holiday season:

1. How much time do you spend trying to find just the right gifts? (Research estimates women spend up to 100 hours buying gifts, however, the materialistic aspects of festive celebrations in fact undermines well-being, while family and spiritual activities are what increase satisfaction). Try asking for a wish list from each person. Or consider other ways to give, i.e. a contribution of your time to someone, or a donation to a special charity in someone's name.

2. As you make your to do list and check it twice, what could you delegate, drop completely or do differently? What else might help, i.e. consider pot luck meals,or check out the wonderful prepared foods that can be purchased.

3. How realistic are the expectations you hold for yourself and your loved ones at this time of year? Families change and grow. Rituals and traditions can be adjusted accordingly. Choose the ones you want to hold on to and be open to creating new ones. If your grown children can't come to your home this year, how else could you celebrate with them, or who else might share this time with you?

4. Does your increased stress show up in irritable behavior and impatience with others? Consider putting petty grievances aside and accepting people as they are. They may be feeling the effects of holiday stress too.

5. Does the Christmas season represent a time of grief and loss for you? Reaching out to help others can bring consolation. Consider helping a social service agency deliver services to the less fortunate. Being with others who have also experienced loss can help alleviate feelings of isolation. Attending a grief support group or contacting someone whose support has been meaningful to you can also be helpful. We need each other - reaching out is healing.

My Christmas wish for you is that support is bountiful, love is overflowing, and serenity is enduring.

Christmas Blessings,