Sights, smells and festive tastes of the holidays have approached us; did I mention the oh so delightful Christmas music we redundantly hear on KOSI 101.1? For some, these sensations ring in the holiday spirit and create a sense of warmth and joy. However, for others, holidays are merely an annual reminder of loss, grief, and loneliness. I have found that for most of us, the holidays are a mixed bag of emotions. While this time of year appears to be the “perfect time” for family, sharing and celebrating, many of us also associate the holidays with financial burdens, family obligations, and general stress and fatigue.
If you are nodding in agreement, you are certainly not alone. A study in 2019/pre-COVID-19 surveyed 2,000 adults and found that 88% of respondents felt more stressed and burnt out during the holiday season than any other time of the year. In regard to the most common stressors, 56% reported additional stress due to financial strain brought on by the holidays, 48% attributed stress to finding gifts for everyone, 43% reported their schedules become jampacked during the holiday season, 35% said stressful family events and 29% indicated putting up decorations was causing them to feel stressed out (Anderer, 2019). Fast-forward to mid-pandemic, I think it’s safe to presume shortages in the workforce, safety/health concerns and other pandemic related factors may have also sprinkled our holiday cheer with even more holiday stress.
So before we go full-blown Scrooge, let’s just put this all in perspective: stress is normal and while it’s uncomfortable, stress can even be helpful at times in creating urgency, improving responsiveness and in some studies, short-lived, moderate stress was found to boost memory, improve alertness and increase cognitive performance (Jaret, 2015). The idea here isn’t to eliminate stress, rather, to manage and regulate it!
So, here are some important things to remember during this holiday season:
- You are the most important gift to those around you. Nothing you buy compares to your presence, so be cognizant of who is getting the best version of you this holiday season.
- While we should strive to smile at strangers in stores and speak kindly to cashiers, don’t forget to do the same for the people you love. It’s common to take our stress out on the ones closest to us because “it’s safe” but remember, realigning your energy and making sure the ones that matter the most, also deserve the “best version of you;” in fact, they deserve it the most.
- When in a stress response state, we produce a stress hormone called cortisol. Oxytocin, a peptide hormone, neutralizes/counteracts cortisol, so make sure you intentionally boost happy chemical production ie. google “natural ways to boost my oxytocin” and do these things EVERY DAY. Here are some ideas:
- Hugging/physical touch (animals count!)
- Taking a hot bath
- Tapping into your creative zone ie. crafting, painting, dancing, building etc.
- Don’t forget to use your PTO to rest and relax!!! Lack of sleep also produces cortisol, which can make it hard to lose weight after all those Christmas cookies!
- If you are struggling to regulate/cope, you are not alone. Please utilize your resources for therapy and community support. It takes a village! Here are some great resources:
- Judi’s House: Offers free groups for all ages dealing with grief and loss.
- For individual therapy, call the phone number on your insurance card to access in-network therapists.
- Self-help tools can also be found online at various websites including: net/resources/self-help and therapistaid.com
- Kenzi’s Causes is hosting its 15th Annual Toy Drive in Denver, providing assistance to 3,500 children from birth to age 18. The plan is to provide each child with a big toy or small toy. Registration is required and it opens at 9:00 a.m. on December 1, 2021. Please visit orgor call 303-353-8191 for more information.
- Operation Santa Claus is a charity that provides food and toys to local Denver families in need at Christmas time. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
- comlists Colorado resources, including Christmas support.
As you carefully hang your decorations and tie each bow, don’t forget to also put the glimmer and lights back into your spirit by taking care of what’s most important: you!