Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Beat Holiday Stress by Not Expecting Perfection

I want this holiday to be perfect!

What is it about holidays? They’re the most joyous of times of the year for a lot of us. However, more times than not, that celebratory distinction can be dubious for some. That’s because the expectation for a perfect, stress free experience also makes holidays among the most stressful times of the year.
               Granted, not all holidays are created equal. Matter of fact, Independence Day may just be one of the least stressful. Barbecue tends to do that, I guess. Yet the truth remains that annual calendar celebrations often bring out the worst in some folks. Why is that?
               Reasons vary, I guess. Alcohol is a leading culprit. We’ve all witnessed how drinking can often be no laughing matter. The trouble is some folks get a wee too into the spirit. In a quest to have a good time, they often tip the bottle too far.
               Pressure is another perpetrator. Holidays are a time to relax and unwind. The problem is some people are so desperate to achieve nirvana that they wrack their own nerves (and everyone else’s) trying to get there. The result? Little things end up sabotaging their big picture desire for tranquility.
               Lack of family or friends is yet another foil that can disrupt a person’s dreams for a peaceful holiday. The need to be with others can be strong in people. Scientists say humans are wired to be social creatures and I for one believe it. So for some, being isolated can often amount to torture – in some cases self-inflicted. On the other hand, some individuals have little choice but to be alone.
Happy 4th
               At the other end of the spectrum, unexpected guests can influence a person’s attitude over holidays. This is especially true when Uncle Joe arrives with his awfully loud mouth. Or worse, awfully loud Hawaiian shirt. Then there’s ‘busy’ Aunt Minerva (who’s not really related) or Luther from around the way, or any number of neighbors or kin who fall through – complaining about everything and everyone. In-laws or outlaws, it makes no difference; their uninvited presence can deflate the joy of any occasion.
               The remedy for all this? Some might say reduce the number of holidays, conduct a boycott or embargo. Others favor just getting rid of them altogether. But those solutions are not an option for most. Besides, they’re half-baked remedies. Fact is, we love our time together celebrating. After all, we’re the hardest working country in the world, with our 60-hour work week and all. We deserve a break, right?
               Perhaps another, more reasonable choice is to get rid of the triggers that set off the anxiety, frustration and drama of it all. However for some, eliminating booze and all but the closest people is also not an option. That leaves few viable solutions and typically, the grin and bear it approach tends not to work so well. It may for guests, which typically don’t know or care that you’re a hair away from wigging out.
Here's to stress free holidays
So what to do? Good question. Trouble is, I’m a columnist, not a social psychologist. What I do know that works for me is to lower my expectations about holidays. That is to say, don’t minimize your excitement or anticipation for them. Rather, I expect the unexpected; realize that things can and will go wrong – even with the best of planning. I factor hiccups into my holidays. That way, when they happen, I can tell myself, ‘I told you so,’ pat myself on the back for being clairvoyant and get on with it. And if I get it wrong and everything goes off without a hitch, so much the better.

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