John's Blog

The Blog of John Gibson, PhD

Holiday stress

Holiday Blues...or Holiday Stress?

pulling hair out

The holidays are just around the corner, and every year about this time I start seeing tips on how to cope with the “Holiday Blues.” But frankly, I’m not convinced it’s about the blues so much as the stress.

And given that the season comes every year, the stressors are predictable. Usually they fall into one of three categories: getting your shopping done (or paid for), spending time with family, and travel.

We all know what the solutions are to shopping-stress. Don’t procrastinate. Don’t overspend. And pace yourself. The trick isn’t knowing what to do, it’s doing it.

Stress from family contact is a bit more complex and emotionally loaded. Of course, some people love spending time with their family over the holidays. If this you, and your family is not dysfunctional, consider yourself blessed. But for the rest us, the trick, I think, to coping with family events is to bring as much grace and humor to the outing as we can muster. Parents are never perfect and some may be quite flawed; siblings will often compete with each other, even they are supposed to be grownups; and old family patterns will mysteriously come out of hiding and cause us to revert back to some earlier, less mature age. How many movies have been made about this very theme?

Well, here’s my tip for coping with family matters: whatever happens, try not to personalize it.

Maybe the best way to cope with holiday stress is to find new meaning in old traditions. Don’t let all the hype and commercialism win. Of course, if you are a christian, the season will have special meaning to you. But even if you are not, the season offers plenty of (new) opportunities to give, connect, and love. Indeed, I don’t know of a single better way to cope with any kind of stress than by connecting with other people.

Happy holidays.

(Top photo credit: BrittanyBush. Bottom photo credit: samikki)