By Phyllis Picklesimer
Media/Communications Specialist, U of I ACES News and Public Affairs
URBANA, Ill. — With the anticipation of the holidays, there can also be a feeling of dread. After all, how are you going to get everything done on an already busy schedule?
“For many people, the extensive preparations they engage in to pull off those picture-perfect holidays create so much stress that they can’t even enjoy themselves,” said University of Illinois Extension educator Cheri Burcham.
According to Burcham, trying to make everything “picture-perfect” is where much of the stress comes from. Many of us try to pattern our holiday plans with visions of TV specials, Norman Rockwell prints, and Martha Stewart magazine pictorials in our heads. Forget about perfection and unrealistic expectations, she said.
“Acknowledge that this time of year can get very hectic, and that in real life, things won’t be and don’t have to be perfect,” Burcham said. “Also, set realistic goals for what you can accomplish. This includes saying no to certain projects or activities, delegating tasks or allowing family members to volunteer their help, and reconsidering your holiday schedule to determine which activities or traditions should be continued. If an activity is more hassle than enjoyment, it may not be worth doing.”
According to the Mayo Clinic website, the three issues that most often trigger holiday stress are relationships, finances and physical demands. Physical demands can be dealt with by using the strategies already listed and by continuing to make time for exercise and sleep. Trying not to go overboard with eating is also helpful, she said.
“Overspending during the holidays can create tension that may not hit until after the holidays,” she said. “Setting a budget and sticking to it will go a long way in side-tracking those issues. Strategies to help with keeping expenses manageable include pre-planning your shopping with coupons and sale ads, hand-making gifts, and offering such services as babysitting as gifts.”
As for relationships, it is best to just accept family members and friends as they are and not hold them to high expectations. This is also not the time to bring up major disagreements and criticisms, she said.
“Set those issues aside until there’s a more appropriate time to discuss them and remember more positive times to influence this special time together,” she said. “Making time for your own family fun should be a priority during the season.”
Because no one will probably get through the holidays completely stress-free, it’s important to remember to take care of yourself, both during the season and afterward.
“Take some quiet time out for yourself,” Burcham said. “Take a walk or a long bath, read a good book, or meditate, which helps with relaxation and can really help you to refocus on your priorities. Scheduling some time for yourself after the holidays is also a good strategy to lower stress levels and make them more manageable.”
Finally, she advised, always keep your sense of humor! That will help put a different perspective on the stressful situations that can come up.
For more about holiday budgeting, communication and family relationships, visit the University of Illinois Extension website at www.extension.illinois.edu.
Posted Nov. 27, 2013