Archive for Wednesday, December 19, 2001

Stress common around holidays

December 19, 2001

It seems to start sometime after Thanksgiving.

The number of holiday parties increase, the amount of food that needs to be cooked and baked goes up and the malls and stores become more and more packed with people the closer it gets to Dec. 25.

As the holiday activities and the hustle and bustle increase, it's not unusual to see the stress level rise along with them, said Pat Roach Smith, community development director at Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center.

"It's very common," Smith said about stress increasing around the holidays. "We have more than the usual and ordinary things to do. We often have enough trouble during the year just trying to get everything done."

She said often people agree to participate in or attend a number of holiday events and activities, on top of the regular, everyday duties.

"We tend to over-commit," she said.

Expectations for the holiday seasons are usually high as well, Smith said.

"We often carry with us expectations for how the holidays need to go," she said. "A lot of it's the hype the American culture puts on Christmas. These are times everyone's supposed to be happy."

But happiness isn't always achieved when there's more stress, she said.

"When we feel stress, we're more tense, and then we snap at people," she said. "Then we're disappointed because we have these high expectations of how we're going to behave."

Smith said there are ways to cut down on the stress and enjoy the holiday season a little more.

"Be clear what you really want to accomplish this year," she said. "Be clear and don't over-commit."

Setting a holiday budget will also help, she said.

"Don't overspend. Christmas isn't about spending anyway," Smith said. "Stick to a budget."

The increase of foods and holiday goodies could be a stress factor as well, she said.

"Eat and drink in moderation," she said. "And exercise. Don't let that go by the wayside. The weather's great, take advantage of it."

Large family dinners or gatherings could also increase the stress and tension in a household, Smith said, because there are people staying that aren't usually there.

"But on the flip side of that, you're gathering together with people you love," she said. "That is one of the most wonderful things."

Smith said it's important to remember the holiday stress and tension won't last forever.

"This time will pass," she said. "On Jan. 1 it will be all over."

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