With an increase in suicide rates and calls to helplines in December, there is no denying that a lot of people struggle at this time of year. So, why is the holiday season so stressful for people and what can we do about it?
It Feels So Final.
For me personally, it has a lot to do with the end of the year looming and judging what I have and haven’t achieved in the past 12 months. It has a sense of finality about it. Things are wrapping up, businesses are closing, holidays are starting, school’s out. Everything feels like it’s ending or pausing. It’s hard not to be reflective at this time. I find myself thinking about what I wanted to achieve and what I actually did. Is there a big gap between those two things? Did I set my goals too high? Were they unachievable? It’s not nice feeling like a failure.
Where’s the routine?
It’s inevitable that during the holiday season, routines are thrown off. Whether it’s due to work or school schedules, travel, or having visitors, things are different at this time of year. We thrive on routine; it’s human nature. When you can’t rely on the fact that you will have your cup of coffee at 9.25 and be starting dinner by 5.30 and the kids won’t be home until 4, it naturally throws you off balance. Everything feels more stressful because it’s more unpredictable in the absence of routine. Your whole system is on alert because it doesn’t know what’s coming next.
Family – can’t live with ‘em…
For some people, spending time with family is a blessing; for others it’s incredibly stressful. The pressure of spending time with family, some of whom you may not get along with, is not pleasant. We all have that one uncle that makes inappropriate jokes, right? Where is the line between pulling him up on his blatant racism and just letting it slide as a joke in the interest of keeping the xmas peace? It can be a difficult balance to maintain.
Wanna go to the mall?
Then there’s the nightmare of hopping in December. Whether you’re out to get groceries – and we all have to do that from time to time – or if you’re out to get presents, the malls and shops at this time of year are simply mental. Everyone shoving and jostling, everyone in a rush, having your parking spot stolen by someone who is probably just as stressed as you are, plus the anxiety of buying gifts and not knowing if people will like them. It can be such a high pressure situation..
What to do about it.
When we have a better understanding of why this time of year can be stressful, we can be better equipped to deal with them.
If you’re stressing about the end of the year looming and feeling like you haven’t achieved enough, give yourself a break! Sit down and write a list of all the things you have done this year – all the little wins, big changes and special moments spent with loved ones. Concentrate on the positives.
If you’re struggling with lack of routine just remember to breathe (set an alarm on your phone to remind you if it helps!).and take comfort in the fact that this is not permanent and you can get back to your regular scheduling in just a few weeks.
If it’s your loved ones causing you to pull your hair out, and you feel that speaking up about it will fall on deaf ears, limit your time with them. Don’t feel obligated to spend your whole holiday season in misery around people who stress you out. It’s OK to put yourself first.
And if it’s the mania of the mall that’s pushing you over the edge then all i can say is this: the early bird gets the worm… and the best parking spot and can do their grocery shopping in peace. Plan ahead, go early if you can, and allow extra time for the crowds.