Taking the Stress Out of the Holidays

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In a study done in 2008 by American Psychological Association, it was found that more than eight out of 10 Americans anticipate stress during the holiday season. Money was found to be a particularly big cause of stress, as parents feel demands to purchase gifts, decorations and other items tied to holiday celebrations. Those households with children were more likely to report anticipating stress during the holidays than those without.   About a third of us are  expected to feel stress due to pressure to buy gifts or because feeling that there are too many things to do.

Heightened stress during the holidays can lead to unhealthy stress management behaviors.  These behaviors can come is the forms of overeating or drinking to excess. People tend to reduce their stress in ways we have learned over the course of time.

The American Psychological Association offers the following tips to help parents deal with holiday stress:

  • Set expectations – Talk to your kids about expectations for gifts and holiday activities. Be open with them if money is an issue. Depending on your children’s age, you can use this as an opportunity to teach your kids about the value of money and responsible spending. And be realistic. Take small concrete steps to deal with holiday tasks instead of overwhelming yourself with goals that are too far reaching for a busy time.
  • Keep things in perspective – Try to consider stressful situations in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective. Avoid blowing events out of proportion and teach your kids how to keep things in perspective, including what type and the number of gifts they receive.
  • Make connections – Good relationships with family and friends are important. So, view the holidays as a time to reconnect with people. Additionally, accepting help and support from those who care about you can help alleviate stress. Even volunteering at a local charity with your kids is a good way to connect with others, assist someone in need and teach your kids about the value of helping others.
  • Take care of yourself – Pay attention to your own needs and feelings during the holiday season. Engage in activities that you and your family enjoy and find relaxing. Taking care of yourself helps keep your mind and body healthy and primed to deal with stressful situations. Consider cutting back television viewing for kids and instead, get the family out together for a winter walk. It promotes activity and takes kids away from sedentary time and possible influence from advertisements.

Even though the holidays can be a time of hustle and bustle, they can also be a time for learning. One way to keep the holidays from becoming “holi-daze” is to take time to choose to focus on the true “essence” of the holidays instead of the specifics of the different secular and religious events.   Try to look at the values you can teach at these times. For example, at Thanksgiving they discuss helping others.  The Christmas holidays are an excellent time to encourage sharing, caring, and giving.  While young children want to receive holiday gifts, they also should delight in the pleasure of giving and sharing.  This is a great time to take a moment with your children to think about others in need. Your child is not too young to know that there are people less fortunate in the world.  

In closing, I just want you reiterate that the holidays should not be a time of stress, but a time to enjoy with your family and a time to count all our blessings.  

Psalm 103:2- Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits;