Stress and Anxiety: What Did the Holiday Season Teach Us?

Broken Christmas ornamentSo here we are, wrapping up another holiday season. Are you enjoying the time of year? I am. Yet I notice a pattern that comes up way too often. I am very busy at work. Certainly, this has some advantages. I mean, it is nice to be liked, depended on, to feel successful, and so forth, yet it can be taxing as well, especially if we do not make enough time for ourselves. It can be too easy to take on all the additional responsibilities at work because it is the right thing to do, because it feels good, because we think no one else will do it—or whatever we tell ourselves.

The holidays bring with them a number of other things as well. From parties to school performances for the kiddies, neighborhood events, get-togethers with old friends, shopping for gifts, cooking, and so forth, the season can offer so many neat things. I love these things, yet we can only do so much. If you have too much going on, the season may feel too stressful. If you have a lot of people to shop for, for example, the time involved and the financial cost could leave you taxed in many ways.

Yes, these things can help us “feel good.” We are pleasing others—and ourselves—in the fun of the moment and wonder the holidays bring. We want others to feel excited and happy, and can even gain joy in seeing this in others. It can be a beautiful thing. Feeling liked seems to be so important, and believing that someone may not like us or feel sad or hurt if we say “no” to something can be aversive to the point where we sacrifice ourselves in the process. This is not what life should be like, and it is definitely not what the holidays are about.

This is the time to assess what the holidays brought you, and I am referring to more than just the presents. What about the stress and pressure? Were there just too many activities to attend and attend to? Did you feel like you had to do it all? Where does this come from? Now is the perfect time for some assessing of ourselves.

What makes the timing so valuable is here we are at the start of another year, a neat opportunity to scout all the things we may put in our own paths that create and/or grow anxiety. Writing out all the activities and responsibilities the holidays brought is a good place to start. Looking back, we can see if there are things we would have liked to cut back on. Maybe we could have taken a few extra hours for ourselves, as opposed to others or work. Maybe we did not have to say “yes” to every single thing that came up. If you come up with even a few things, know that you have the power to decide for next time. Please believe there will be a next time.

Scout ahead into the new year and things you may do on a daily (or weekly or monthly) basis that maybe you can cut back on or even eliminate. Please do not feel guilty when you choose not to take on everything, as this is what it truly comes down to: Will you choose to overwhelm yourself or set aside the needed time and space for yourself? Think of your stress and anxiety levels and know this is a wonderful way to manage it. You have the power to do it.

© Copyright 2013 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Stuart A. Kaplowitz, MFT, therapist in Chino, California

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • nadia

    nadia

    January 2nd, 2013 at 11:22 PM

    was always overwhelmed with the last minute shopping and having too much on my plate every holiday season.this time I promised myself and kept it up.the shopping was completed much earlier,I didn’t take on too many things to a point where I’d stress myself out.frankly it was one of the best holiday seasons ever.I enjoyed every bit of it and was not the least bit stressed.hope to keep this up every year.

  • KEN

    KEN

    January 3rd, 2013 at 3:41 AM

    The holidays, and in fact all days, are like a binge drinking day for me. I instinctively take up everything that is thrown at me and am left gasping for breath at the end of it. Just like having a great time drinking and waking up only to be hungover. its fun while it lasts yes but once everything is said and done the after-effects are not as pleasant. guess I need to think this out better and bring a change in me.

  • Alison w

    Alison w

    January 3rd, 2013 at 3:54 AM

    Unfortunately the holidays usually teach us that we have too much going on to even feel good about them anymore! I want to be more like my kids at Christmas, getting excited over the presents and the time off of school, and having not a care in the world about the other stressors that are setting the adults off.

  • Clive

    Clive

    January 3rd, 2013 at 6:07 PM

    I think of it this way – we jam all our celebrations and the meeting with family and friends at the end of the year. I fall this is spread out over the entire year it would be so taxing any more. It lets us see loved ones whenever we like to and does not get us stuck up in the holiday frenzy. Work out your schedule and celebrate a year long thinned out holiday season!

  • Don

    Don

    January 4th, 2013 at 4:18 AM

    In my view, the holiday season once again taught me that people are petty and greedy and really worth far less of my time and value than I tend to place on them. I have kids who are so ungrateful for the gifts they have been given and I fear that they are setting up this kind of ungrateful nature in their own children too. This is not what I raised them to be but sadly it seems that this is what they have become. Sometimes I just want to skip them season altogether because I get so annoyed and never enjoy myself anymore.

  • Stuart Kaplowitz

    Stuart Kaplowitz

    January 4th, 2013 at 8:57 AM

    Wow Don! I am so sorry to hear that. One of the neat things my family gets involved in is a Holiday giveaway for needy families. We go to help Santa pass out goodies to the children. It is so uplifting to see and experience.

  • Stuart Kaplowitz

    Stuart Kaplowitz

    January 4th, 2013 at 8:58 AM

    Thanks for sharing that Clive

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