For advertising executive Poteet Gimenez, the holiday season’s a stressful time. “On holiday get-togethers, everyone is festive except you—because you have to worry about the food, the headcount, a clean house, the clean up and gifts to give everyone. It’s not happy because you’re too tired to worry about anything else.” People deal with full parking lots, long queues at cashiers, and hungry kids wailing and waiting on the sidelines while you try to get your shopping done for their teachers, classmates, exchange gift partners, school bus driver, the family of the bus operator—the list goes on.
For Jocelyn, a housewife and mom to two young children, Christmas is also nerve-racking because of the expectations of her in-laws. “For the past 12 years they would always insist that I bring a certain dish to our Christmas lunch party,” she says. “Come Christmas when I would bring a different and unexpected dish, I would never hear the end of it—it stresses me out that they can’t be open to surprises.”
The stressed-out body
Stress becomes negative when the challenges keep coming. That’s when the body becomes overworked and tension starts to build. This may lead to physical symptoms like headaches, upset stomach, high blood pressure, chest pains, sleep problems, and many other illnesses.
According to a study conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner in 2006, people are more prone to behave in sedentary ways during the holidays. That means they watch more TV, eat more and drink more in order to manage their stress.
Stress may also interfere with one’s ability to perform daily tasks. “You might feel fatigued, unable to concentrate or irritable for no good reason,” states the research firm’s study. When you’re stressed out and there is much to do, you could end up bungling the job instead of finishing it efficiently.
And as Gimenez mentioned above, the stressed-out individual gets the least amount of fun. When you’re tired, you can’t enjoy anything. You’d rather just sit in a corner and pass out from sheer exhaustion. If you let it, stress could steal away the real meaning of the holidays—which is to spend quality time with people you care about.
Holiday stress statistics
The 2006 Greenberg Quinlan Rosner study discovered that professionals worry that they might not be able to finish their work soon enough to put more time into preparing for the celebrations. It also points out that holiday stress affects women more because they take charge of the celebrations: cooking, decorating, shopping, etc. As a result, “they are more likely to fall into bad habits to manage their stress, like comfort eating.”
The study also revealed that holiday stress impacts lower middle income individuals more in terms of work, the rush to get things done on time, and money related to the commercialism prevalent during the season. In other words, people are stressed because there’s pressure to spend too much.
De-stress your holidays
Rina Angela Corpus, a volunteer meditation teacher and student of the Brahma Kumaris, shares, “It’s always good to focus on the meaning behind the occasion. Christmas is a time for joy, gift giving and being with loved ones.”
To avoid the Christmas rush, Corpus recommends giving gifts you made yourself, like bookmarks or cookies. She adds, “The spirit of giving is really coming from a place of generosity and joy.” If making gifts isn't possible, or if there’s no time to do so, then simply add a special note of appreciation for the receiver. “This will add more meaning to your giving,” Corpus explains.