Reduce Your Holiday Stress

Holidays are delightful times of celebration, family gatherings with loved ones, sharing great food and relishing the companionship of family and friends. For many, it is the “season to be jolly” and re-connect with those about whom we care but may rarely see. The reunion of several generations of family members from near and far is delightful, invigorating, bonding and empowering. However, both hosts and their guests often feel encumbered with practical challenges in their efforts to unite, be generous, considerate, cordial and grateful.

The hosting family may fret about planning, organizing, setting up, shopping and cooking to accommodate their guests, while the visitors may be encumbered by driving or flying to reunite with their extended family members. Though both groups may enjoy the Holidays, they often admit that they may have been anxious, stressed and emotionally drained prior to and sometimes during the Holiday celebration. How can we maintain the anticipatory delight and curb the stress and anxiety we feel?

Much of the holiday stress is associated with our intent to please others and create the best time for all. What we need to do is use our positive self-talk. Say to yourself, “I did my best to select the right gifts. I was helpful, friendly and cordial to everyone and praised them when it was appropriate.” If you accomplished this, you should be very proud of yourself. Any criticism, disapproval or judgement you may receive should be taken lightly and responded to with graciousness. Being able to affirm others, even when they may not be very kind, will help you feel good about yourself and reduce your stress.

Realize that pleasing everyone is unrealistic. An easygoing manner and generosity of heart means much more than any success with gift selection, the receiver’s delight or lack thereof.

Leon Seltzer, Ph.D. traced people pleasing needs to their childhood parent pleasing behaviors. He states, “Rather than capitulating to another for fear of rejection, remind yourself that your needs are as important as anyone else’s, and that you should avoid going along with someone else’s agenda simply because it’s always been your ‘line of least resistance’.”

Dr. Jay Earley, who specialized in helping people-pleasers transform their compliance into autonomy, stated, “As you practice being autonomous, your inner ‘People Pleaser’ part may fear that you are being unpleasant or unnecessarily aggressive because it isn’t used to this. Reassure yourself that you are just taking care of yourself, and that’s OK.”

In “The Disease to Please”, Dr. Harriet B. Braiker points out that “approval-seeking behaviors that were helpful in childhood are no longer useful in adulthood since they compromise your true self and hinder healthy, authentic relationships.”

Reduce your Holiday stress:

  • Accept that pleasing everyone is an unachievable goal.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated.
  • Dismiss unkind comments by saying, “Holidays are intended for good words and cheer.”
  • Be kind, friendly and affirming of others. It will simultaneously please them and you as well.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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