According to the American Psychology Association, 69 percent of Americans are stressed by a perceived lack of time during the holidays, 69 percent are stressed by a perceived lack of money, and 51 percent of are stressed by the pressure to give or get gifts. 22 percent report an extreme level of stress.
Society has conditioned us to believe that we need to go absolutely crazy, spend all of our money, and try to juggle a ridiculous amount of stuff during a five-week period that encompasses Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s.
Some people were actually camped out for Black Friday sales last week. Are they celebrating Thanksgiving in their tents, or are they skipping the holiday in favor of leading a stampede and saving $100 on a new TV?
Just because society says we must shop on Black Friday and our heads should spin for the next five weeks, that doesn’t make it the rule. I’d go so far as to say it’s borderline idiotic.
One person has the final say over how stressful the holidays are. That’s you.
Open a calendar. How much can you cram into it? How much do you want to cram into it?
By the time January 1 rolls around, we’re less healthy than we were on Thanksgiving. The damage we do to our physical, nutritional and psychological components of the Triad of Health is very serious.
Perhaps the biggest part of the problem is that our society takes stress too lightly. Stress isn’t the punch line on a Facebook post, and it’s not cute. Stress is life-threatening.
Stress is a primary precursor to our decline as human beings. It alters our body’s biochemistry and affects how our brain functions. It makes us tired and can cause us to gain weight.
And yes, stress hurts. Headaches, back pain, joint pain and other types of physical pain are all directly related to stress.
Like Linus said, is that what Christmas is all about?
I’ve always believed that we should live the same lifestyle all year long. We need to have a better sense of our Triad, and set realistic goals about what we can accomplish and how much money we’re capable of spending. This will help us keep our stress levels under control and take back our health.
Not every party we host will be perfect. Not every gift we give will be loved. There are worse things in life.
The financial burden we put on ourselves is crazy. We spend beyond our means because society says we should, and the ensuing stress spills well into the New Year as we struggle to pay off our debt.
Because a new gift basket or cookie tray shows up at the office each day, we fall into the trap of being a glutton on a daily basis. We don’t have to dive in every day just because the junk food is there every day.
We have to clearly state what our goals are and decide for ourselves what we want Christmas or whatever holiday you celebrate to mean. Personally, my goal is to not only spend time with my family, but to enjoy time spent with my family. I understand – and want my kids to understand – that the nonsense of the season is exactly that.
We need to recognize that there are people who could use our support and companionship. Maybe they just want someone to talk to. Come alongside someone who might be struggling or stressed. When you come alongside someone and help them during the Christmas season, even in the smallest of ways, you discover what the holidays are all about. The last time I checked, Hanukkah and Christmas have something to do with God. Let’s not forget that.
This is the year of the family, and this is the season of the family. Before you get sucked in by the negative end-of-year insanity that dominates the headlines, empower yourself to set the rules. Try to live the same lifestyle that you live all year long, set realistic expectations and avoid stressful situations. Relax, have fun, enjoy quality time with family and spend time with God. That’s what Christmas is all about.
What are you doing to make the holidays more fun and less stressful.