Friday, October 31, 2014

Don’t let stressful demands of perfection ruin holidays

11/26/2013

The holiday season of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day are blessings, but they also can be stuffed with stress.

The stress comes from everything it takes to craft the perfect meal, have the perfect home, be the perfect host and hostess, select the perfect gift, say the perfect things ... the list goes on and on. With so many demands, it’s easy to sweat the small stuff and drown in our own stress.

The holiday season of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day are blessings, but they also can be stuffed with stress.

The stress comes from everything it takes to craft the perfect meal, have the perfect home, be the perfect host and hostess, select the perfect gift, say the perfect things ... the list goes on and on. With so many demands, it’s easy to sweat the small stuff and drown in our own stress.

Stress isn’t unique to the holidays since almost everyone experiences it year-round; it just gets amped into overdrive during the holidays with nearly 70 percent of people saying they are stressed by the feeling of not having enough time to accomplish all that perfection, according to the American Psychological Association.

Worrying about getting everything “just right” brings on unhealthful anxiety — and that’s the last thing anyone wants when they want to enjoy the company of loved ones. Instead of seeking perfection, be realistic about expectations and be prepared to adapt and adopt new traditions. New traditions make sense as the size and composition of those gathering changes, so rather than having everyone gather at one family’s home for the holidays, consider learning to celebrate in other ways, perhaps by sharing photos electronically or using an online method to get together. That is one of 10 recommendations from the Mayo Clinic to avoid stress and depression during the holidays.

Other recommendations include the following:

• Acknowledge your feelings — Everyone can’t be happy during the holidays when they are facing their first holiday season without a loved one and still need to grieve;

• Reach out — Lift your spirits by helping others or asking for companionship from the community, church or other social group;

• Set aside differences — Accept people as they are and set grievances aside during festivities;

• Stick to a budget — Don’t try to buy happiness;

• Plan ahead — Planning can help avoid last minute scrambles to cover all the bases;

• Don’t abandon healthy habits during the holidays — Don’t live to regret bad decisions made during the season;

• Take a breather — Everyone needs a little alone time;

• Seek the help of a professional, if needed — Franklin County has numerous mental health professionals to help; and

• Just say no (one of the most difficult).

Saying “no” can be one of the quickest ways to alleviate stress during the holidays. It helps individuals avoid being overcommitted and prevents the inevitable resentment occurring from attempting to do too much. Of course, saying “no” can be done in a kind manner that spares others’ feelings. A simple “I can’t right now” or “I do not want to at this time” can go a long ways toward preventing undue stress from being overcommitted.

Finding healthful ways to alleviate stress can be accomplished by changing how we react to such anxiety. Simply looking for the positive in a situation and focusing on what can be changed rather than what can’t be changed allows people to keep things in perspective. Avoiding the blame game also can avoid unnecessarily hard feelings. So if everyone still can enjoy the stuffing even without the usual oysters in it, then let it go and enjoy the holidays without worrying about those pesky — and ultimately inconsequential — details.

In the end, perfection isn’t required to find happiness or to give thanks.

— Jeanny Sharp,

editor and publisher

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