When Thanksgiving ended, many Americans became much more serious about the holiday season. With more holidays just around the corner came a myriad of things to-do: locating decorations and preparing to adorn the house or the tree, finding those perfect gifts, preparing large meals, making holiday treats, surviving the shopping mall chaos, interacting with endless relatives and friends, attending yet another holiday party, all while staying on a budget and having time left over to manage daily life and maintain holiday cheer.
How are we to enjoy “the best time of year” when it seems December can seem a whirlwind of demands, expectations and endless commotion? First we must understand stress. According to Alison Buckley, a Professor of Psychology at Woodland Community College, stress is literally energy in the body, and is anything that puts pressure or energy, positive or negative, into the body. While everyone experiences stress differently, how people deal with stress varies with each individual.
Buckley, a licensed Marriage and Family therapist, has a private practice and is a clinical director at New Pathways in Sacramento. She encourages people to relieve stress by finding someone to talk to. “I think reaching out for help is really helpful,” Buckley said. “Stress can take a very profound toll on the body over time. There are so many different demands of the holidays. People need to allow themselves downtime,” she continued. Trying to predict what will cause us stress gives can give us control over the situation, Buckley said. She suggested that individuals analyze themselves by looking at their own histories and see how they have responded to stress in the past. As an example, if shopping malls continually stress you out, simply avoid them. Start early by ordering online and take advantage of free shipping options. Order gifts through catalogues or shop at specialty stores away from the source of shopping mall stress. “It is important to set limits,” Buckley said. “Be realistic, for yourselves and others around you.” According to Buckley, many people set unrealistically high expectations and need to acknowledge that not everything will go as planned. The holidays do not have to be a huge ordeal. For instance, buy a platter of cookies instead of making them from scratch.
Buckley also said that it is crucial to understand that family issues may occur during holiday festivities. Expect a Grinch. Just have a plan and be prepared.