Set priorities to avoid end-of-the-year stress
CARBONDALE, ILBarbara G. Elam, stress management coordinator at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, talks the talk and walks the walk. She has some advice for beating end-of-year stress.
Elam has 25 years as a licensed counselor, including 21 years at the Wellness Center.
Holiday stress comes from too high expectations, according to Elam. It comes from wanting to be everything to everybody, to make it the best Christmas ever, to give the best gifts ever, she said. But its just not like a Hallmark card. There are arguments and disappointments. You cant find the best gifts; you feel like youve never made enough, that you should have made those cookies. It always seems that theres more that could have been done.
Her remedy: Simplify. But Elam acknowledges thats easier said than done, particularly in trying to satisfy childrens expectations at Christmas.
That might be an area to prioritize, she said. Whats most important? Maybe children are, or a spouse. On top of that, you dont necessarily have to have a gift for everyone you work with or for everyone in the family. Find ways to compromise on other areas after you decide on one top priority.
Planning and communicating now whats possible and whats not can reduce stress levels, too.
Talk now about what youre going to do during the holidays, Elam said. Are we taking the same trip we always take, or can we use that money some other way? Are we going to have a Christmas party? Get some consensus on what everybody wants to do. Talk about cutting back. Take a vote on what we can give up. Ask for help.
She said the techniques you hear about all the time for dealing with stress remain true, regardless of the season.
Take a break, talk a walk, have a hot bath, do a little stretching, even just taking time out to laugh, maybe watch a funny movie, Elam said. Dont overindulge in alcohol, dont use that as an excuse to not think about your problems.
If youre already stressed out and you get sick, youll be even more miserable, Elam warned. Keep your immune system in top shape. Wash your hands. I know it sounds strange, but itll pay off in the long run.