Don’t Let Your Sugar-Plums Turn to Prunes: Beat Holiday Stress

It never fails, about three to five days before “Black Friday,” I hear at least a partial recitation of A Visit from St. Nicholas, a poem written by an American author, Clement Clarke Moore. It is a lovely poem; that helped launch some of our modern views of Santa.

In one of the early lines in the story he mentions, “visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.”

To be fair, a sugar-plum is not fruit in any way fashion or form. Instead, it is a sugar confection shaped to look like a plum. However, for the sake of my illustration allow me to ask the following questions

 Have your sugarplums turned to prunes?

The Holiday season can be a time of joy and dread.  It can be a time of anticipation and a time of some heavy-duty stress.  While the joy of the season is about the celebration of Christ’s birth, too many of us become sidetracked with the pressures of the season and the short days of winter.

In this four part series we are going to look at practical ways to manage holiday stress, build boundaries, and celebrate this very special time of the year.

Holiday stress statistics reported by the American Psychological Association indicate that up to 69% of people are stressed by the feeling of having a “lack of time”, 69% are stressed by perceiving a “lack of money”, and 51% feel stressed out over the “pressure to give or receive gifts”.

Stress is the perception of pressure, tension, worry, fear, dread or anxiety. The way we respond to stress can exacerbate, or even create physical and emotional problems.

Problems such as allergies, muscle tension, GI issues, colds, flu, sinus infections, sleep disorders, high blood pressure, angina, heart disease, and heart attacks. Many individuals can develop unhealthy behaviors to cope with stress: overeating, using alcohol and drugs, and being irritable and angry.

 Rather than being excited about the season, we show the same enthusiasm as being told that you need a root canal.  We feel dread, anxiety, exhaustion and isolation.  If you feel like this, you could be a victim of the Christmas blahs, the Hanukkah malaise, the Kwanza dullness, and for the neo-pagans amongst us, the Solstice slump.

Here is the first installment of some simple suggestions, some humorous, some serious, to keep ” your sugarplums from turning into prunes.”

Remember the reason for the season.  Re-read the Christmas story, go to a worship service, attend a Christmas Play and listen to some uplifting seasonal music.

Keep your expectations in line with reality. One of the reasons things go south in so many relationships, particularly this time of year, is undiscussed and undisclosed expectations are violated. If you dare to expect a perfect holiday, then you are probably setting yourself up for a huge disappointment.  Thursday I will give you five more Holiday Stress Busters.

Next week – tips for family gatherings and practical help for the recently divorced.

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