Let’s be honest. Life is hard. Although a gracious journey filled with important lessons and warm memories, life is still hard. Externally we are bombarded with tough decisions, losses, betrayals and unexpected failures. Internally we fight against the our own childhood damage and lingering trauma. Our stress levels elevate as we try to navigate all the challenges presented to us as human beings. As if all of that weren’t enough to contend with, we get thrown an annual curveball that can send our sanity spiraling into a tailspin of overwhelm and anxiety: The Holidays.
Statistical analysis in the U.S. has reported that nearly a quarter of their population experience “extreme stress” during the November and December months while prepping for Christmas day, Hanukkah, Kwanza or whatever year-end festivity is observed. There is also the pressure of New Year’s which influences the self-imposed directive of doing more, being better and miraculously overcoming life-long bad habits in the course of one champagne soaked night.
There is the ever daunting social politics of the family holiday gathering where passive aggressive energies can evolve into full-blown fights over how to cut a Christmas ham. Let’s not forget about the steep financial demands requiring us to spend money on gifts, on food, on events, on outfits for said events, plane tickets, and bottles of wine because lord forbid you embarrass yourself by showing up to the potluck empty handed.
Our healthy coping mechanisms are thrown to the wayside as the gym sees us less and less but pints of Haagen Dazs sees us more and more. We sleep less, we work more and our time gets even more constrained by a long list of social obligations demanding our attendance all in the name of December. It is no wonder that when The American Psychological Association completed a survey on holiday stress they found that 69% of people have found themselves stressed by the lack of time, 69% are stressed by the lack of money and 51% are stressed by the pressure to give gifts. If you have found yourself experiencing some combination of headaches, sleep disturbances, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, short temper, upset stomach, low job satisfaction, low morale, aching muscles, loss of appetite, over eating, behavior changes, and a decline in productivity then color yourself stressed out. However, fear not. This wouldn’t be a Goalmachine article if we did not offer you simple solutions to re-gain control of your life:
1) Do not fear being disliked. The majority of this added stress stems from social pressure. We buy the gifts, spend the money and eat the unhealthy food because a part of us wants to fit in. Everybody is riding the holiday wave and getting into a frenzied panic in part because everyone else is doing it. Take a moment to assess your own needs and prioritize them. Too tired to go to the party? Cancel. Can’t afford a big gift this year? Don’t buy it. Don’t disrupt the quality of your own life in order to appease others.
2) Commit to your healthy habits. It’s so easy to stop eating right, exercising and under sleeping in the name of the holidays as if there’s this invisible force compelling you stay up late at a party stuffing your face with tarts and guavaberry. But there is no force. There is just you and your choices. Don’t let this time of year derail you from taking care of yourself.
3) Stop and smell the poinsettias. The holidays can be tough but it can also be an extremely enjoyable time that can fill you with nostalgia and good vibes. It’s great excuse to connect with those you’ve fallen out of touch with, spend time with the people you love the most and honor all that you’ve accomplished in the past year. In the midst of the chaos, take time to be present and truly appreciate all that the holidays were actually meant for.