Although we’re not yet through with Halloween, it’s not too soon to consider what we can do to make the difference between a holiday season we’ll recall with warmth and satisfaction and one of which we might say, “I’m glad that’s over.”

The paradox itself – these two looming possibilities – is the source of much holiday stress. On one hand, the coming season conjures images of love and togetherness and traditions, and generations of memories that nourish our lives even more than the celebrated holiday fare. On the other, our holidays seem to bring demands that are hard to meet, and easy to regret when we feel we may have fallen short.

Experts Weigh In

The tendency for the holiday season to bring stress with it is not a small or isolated matter. It’s not just you (or your aunt, or your grandpa, or your mother-in-law). It might be a radical choice of words, but holiday stress is so widespread and distinct that it has all the markings of a threat to health and well-being.

In fact, two of our most respected healthcare authorities each have published advice and guidelines for managing stress through the holiday season.  The Mayo Clinic assembled 10 tips for coping with holiday stress. They begin with recognizing your own feelings. Living up to memories is impossible, because people die, people move, relationships change, and when the holidays are seen as a marker of what’s missing, that can represent a new chapter in grief or adjustment. Accepting this life as it is today plays a big role – a beginning role – in the advice we get from Mayo Clinic.

The celebrated Cleveland Clinic inadvertently offers a kind of inventory of questions to consider, along with their answers to, “What are the holiday blues?” Rather than reading their bullet-points as answers, we might ask ourselves, “Am I experiencing this?” Going further, Cleveland Clinic offers suggestions for management and treatment – yes, they use the word treatment – for holiday stress. An interesting beginning is their suggestion to “try something new.” Traditions have more than enough support during the holiday season, and doing something that’s not rooted in the past might be just the break you need. Another set of authoritative suggestions is from Stanford University. Expectations are at the core of their proposals for “surviving the family holiday.”

Five years ago, Psychology Today traced hidden sources of holiday stress, and the sources all boiled down to expectations. One of the more unusual insights in their findings was the feeling of being seen-through – they referred to it as “transparency,” but not in the positive sense this time. The observation was that, no matter how hard one has worked to grow and develop, they may feel they are seen the way they were in the old days when they gather back with the family for the holidays. Being seen “the way you were,” expected to relive certain sentiments, and to live up to certain standards set long ago in simpler times – it’s a formidable prospect that many of us face as the year draws to a close.

As a family medical practice our lives are dedicated to helping you get the most out of your life, at the holidays and all through the year. Just call us at 843-815-6468.