The holiday season is upon us. That means good food, family, bright and merry Christmas decorations, uplifting holiday music — and stress.
A 2006 study found that 38 percent of participants reported an increase in their stress level during the holidays; 8 percent said it decreased, and the rest said it was unchanged.
That means more than one-third of us will experience an uptick in stress during what we call the “happiest season of all.”
And the added stress is largely our own doing.
The three leading causes of stress are lack of time, lack of money and the pressure of gift giving. It’s all stress we manufacture for ourselves. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as guilty — if not more, as a natural worrier — of piling it on myself.
When will I have time to clean the house for the guests? I really want to get her that special gift, but should I put it on a credit card? Why is she so hard to shop for?
Those questions swirl in our heads this time of year.
There is likely no way to completely rid yourself of holiday stress, but there are some ways you can cope with it and prevent some of it.
Here’s some advice from the Mayo Clinic:
1. It’s OK to be sad about that loved one you recently lost or can’t be with this year. “You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season,” the Mayo Clinic says. And don’t be afraid to seek professional help.
2. If you feel lonely, don’t suffer alone. Find comfort in your relationships and at community, religious or social events. Also, think about volunteering. You’ll get an emotional power up from helping others and may make some new friends.
3. Stop setting ridiculous expectations for yourself. Instead of focusing on making sure all the meals and gifts are perfect, look for an opportunity to make holiday gatherings about special traditions, creating memories that will be treasured long after the pie is gone and the electronic gadgets have broken.
4. The holidays, especially Christmas, is a season of love and giving. Remember that when you’re sitting across the table from your liberal uncle or conservative aunt.
5. As previously mentioned, memories will outlast any gift. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with gift-giving but it shouldn’t put you on the Ramen diet for the next six months. Set a budget and stick to it.
6. Perhaps this one should be first — plan ahead. Map out your shopping, baking and visiting and treat it like your time budget.
7. You can’t do everything. It’s OK to say no sometimes, just make sure you do not reject activities because you’re experiencing depression.
8. You don’t have to wait until the new year to start living a healthier life. Eating your vegetables, getting enough sleep and exercise and drinking plenty of water shouldn’t go by the wayside because you’re busy.
9. Finally, while it’s great to spend time with others, make sure you have some “me time,” too. A few minutes in a quiet room by yourself will go a long way to quiet your mind. There are many mindfulness and meditation apps to help you out if you’re not sure what to do with that 15 minutes.
Happy birthday to Erin Alvenrenga of Sherman; Dale Rodgers of Whitesboro; Nellie Coulson of Georgetown; and Raquel Lucas of Anna.