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The holidays are supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. Unfortunately for many Alabamians, the holiday season often turns out to be the most stressful time of year.
Why is the holiday season such a disappointment for so many people? It's because people have such high expectations about how families should act and feel, says Dr. Ellen Abell, an Extension family and child development specialist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. These high expectations are reinforced by the large numbers of cards, movies and songs we're exposed to during the season.
People also have to make a lot of choices at Christmas time. Abell says. Although these choices are often what make the holidays fun, coming to terms with them can create more stress.
Then there's the issue of family. Sometimes holidays are the only chance during the year for many large families to gather under one roof. Bringing too many people into close quarters often invites trouble and creates more stress, Abell says.
How do you deal with this stress? Stress is a part of everyday life. There will always be pressures that can create stress. What makes these pressures stressful are not the events themselves but the way people deal with them, says Abell.
When stress builds, we often argue with those we love or expect too much of ourselves, Abell adds. Sometimes, little problems are blown up into big crises. We lose sleep and energy, and we find ourselves not enjoying the holidays.
Abell adds we can minimize stress by first realizing that we are the cause of most our stress. Find out if you're holding unrealistic expectations about the holidays. Maybe you're stressed because someone close to you isn't acting the way you expected.
Get to the root of the problem. For example, you may be stressed because you've made too many commitments or because events are not turning out the way you expected.
How do you cope with stressful family relationships? Highlight the positive. If there's a relative you don't get along with, try focusing on a positive trait. For example, if this person likes cards, get him or her involved in a card game.
If you can't work things out with the relative, find a productive activity to occupy your time such as going for a walk.
Remember you often can't control the situation, but you can control the way you react to it.
Source: Dr. Ellen Abell (334) 844-4480, Extension Family and Child Development Specialist, Alabama Cooperative Extension System.
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