There’s always a sense of excitement at the holidays, but there are also feelings of pressure, fatigue, and anxiety. There is so much to do and so many expectations to fulfill, that we don’t usually enjoy the season as much as we should. Then we throw in the family dynamics, as loved ones spend extended periods of time together, and it’s no wonder that a study by researchers at the University of California, San Diego and Tufts University has reported that heart-related deaths increase by close to 5% during the holidays. (1)
Stress at the Holidays
People warn of the risk of heart attacks at Christmas, but there is also the risk for increased blood pressure, depression, drug abuse, and alcohol abuse. For many people, the stress, the long to do list, and the extra shoppers at the store are the cause of holiday stress. For others, it is getting together with a dysfunctional family that heats us up. While movies and tv shows are able to laugh about the Griswold-type families, it might not always be so easy to blow the annoying habits of family off. Still other people feel sad at this time of year because they are lonely and their loved ones have passed away or live far away.
Managing Holiday Stress
The reasons for stress at the holidays are many, and the results of the stress are varied also. People self-medicate with emotional eating, they suffer alone with depression, and they abuse drugs and alcohol. The alcohol industry makes a quarter of its profit between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, and too many people’s holidays have been ruined by a drunken father or relative.
So, is it all worth it? Can we just do away with the holidays? Of course, the answer is no, because the holidays, stressful though they are, offer us a much needed break from the monotony of the regular work week. Many people look forward all year to the Christmas break. Then there is the real meaning of Christmas and the spiritual stirring that occurs among those who take time to appreciate it. Finally, the holidays are the time each year we stop and think about our families and loved ones, and how much they mean to us.
We make the holidays stressful ourselves. There are ways to make them more peaceful, but they involve forgetting about the expectations of others, and focusing on healthy ways to celebrate. First of all, we don’t need to break the bank with all our shopping. Get simple gifts for people, or just a card, or use other ways to show you care. Secondly, limit the time spent with family that drive you crazy. Stay away from the alcohol and drugs. While it might take the pain away for the moment, substance abuse will never help us in the long run, so don’t even start self-medicating. By focusing on healthy ways to get through, we can help make the holidays a little more peaceful.