Dr. Vicki: Holiday Stress Survival Skills

Friday, November 26, 2010

by Victoria Rhoades, ND

Okay, here we are, entering the deep, dark days of winter. We have holidays coming up; no matter what your faith, many of them involve family, friends, and the bringing of light. Why do these holidays turn into stress-fests? Probably because we have multiple expectations of what it “should” be. 

Here are some ways that holidays can be stressful – and how to turn it around.

1. “I can’t figure out the perfect gift for everyone.” Who can’t relate to this?
Answer: get something simple (candles, a gift card, a calendar) and call it good. So it’s not a gold-plated Rolls-Royce. They’ll live (so will your budget).

2. Gift –related stress number two: money
Answer: Make a budget. Stick to it. If you only have enough for cards, cut yourself some slack – a lot of your friends and family are probably in the same boat, and less money spent will help everyone to relax. If you are close enough to be buying something for them, you are close enough to have them over for hot cocoa some weekend afternoon – try that instead. Coupons for things like babysitting for new parents, a half day of housecleaning (especially for folks who have limits on mobility), or for a fresh baked pie or other treat – all these are well received.

3. Mandatory family time
Let’s face it, enforced time with family, can be tiring or even irritating. Whether family is staying at your house, or you at theirs, get away for an afternoon. It doesn’t have to be special –go off to a coffee shop with a good book, or even to a public library. Or go take in a movie. If you are visiting from out of town, perhaps where you grew up, try looking up some old chums. You might be pleasantly surprised to become re-acquainted. And then you can get back to family time, (hopefully) revived and ready!

4. When the holidays re-open grief: 
This one is tough, especially the first holiday season when the loved one is absent. Answer: don’t isolate yourself. Talk to your spiritual teacher (priest, rabbi, pastor or other), family and friends. Consider short-term therapy or a grief counselor, even if you went through therapy “at the time”. Don’t feel alone. Many funeral homes (such as Acacia on Bothell Way, 206-362-5525) have special holiday services for the family of those who have passed on – at Acacia, these services are open to the community on December 5th. Call in advance for details and any special arrangements you might want them to provide, such as photos for display.

5. There is too much to do! 
Answer: learn to say “no”. You don’t have to go to every single event (play, ballet, chorus group, party, etc) that you are invited to. Be selective – go only to the ones you really want to go to, or if they are really important to your direct family. That church known for its fabulous singing? The chorus will still be fabulous in, say, February. Go then. Unless you really want to go hear Christmas music – then go now!

6. Mostly, arrange for “down time”. 
Time when nothing is scheduled, you don’t have to clean or cook or get ready for anything. Just time to sit by the fire and enjoy your immediate loved ones. I’d suggest to you that this should be the bulk of your time, and it makes for a much more relaxed holiday – perhaps more like what you feel it “ought” to be!

Enjoy, relax, and I hope you have a blissful holiday season.

Victoria Rhoades, ND, is a naturopath in Lake Forest Park. She is trying desperately to figure out what to get for her father, and thinking that a calendar would be just dandy.


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