Neutralize holiday season pressure!

Neutralize holiday season pressure! After Thanksgiving, students and parents alike enter into a flurry of rehearsals and concerts, winter sports seasons, added social responsibilities, mid-terms/finals and pressures to eat, drink, buy, bake, decorate, socialize, and be merry. These pressures may fuel expectations that predispose us to disappointment and even depression. Here’s a list of common holiday pressures and...
Neutralize holiday season pressure!

Neutralize holiday season pressure!

After Thanksgiving, students and parents alike enter into a flurry of rehearsals and concerts, winter sports seasons, added social responsibilities, mid-terms/finals and pressures to eat, drink, buy, bake, decorate, socialize, and be merry. These pressures may fuel expectations that predispose us to disappointment and even depression.

Here’s a list of common holiday pressures and corresponding reminders to help you manage the season:

Pressure #1: Family harmony and traditions:

“We do Christmas Eve at my aunt’s and Christmas morning at my brother’s. We have too many traditions to count!” Sounds like a classic Rockwellian experience! Scores of family members, good food, and respectful conversation.

Neutralize the pressure by remembering that:

  • Not all families interact harmoniously. Some don’t even interact.
  • The holidays have a way of inadvertently highlighting struggles of the human experience such as divorce, illness, grief, domestic violence, addiction, depression, and financial strain.
  • Many people feel stress when it comes to family gatherings.
  • Conflict runs rampant during the holidays, be it from cumulative annoyances, passive aggression, sibling rivalry, or excess sugar and alcohol.
  • Returning college students may find themselves bored with so much ‘free time’ or, if they had not been living at home, overwhelmed with living at home again.

Takeaway: You’re not alone if you feel like you “miss out” on the idyllic Christmas. You’re also not alone if December 26th is one of your favorite days of the year, not because of sales but because you move on from a season that brings up many emotions, not all of which are positive.

Pressure #2: Friendships and social life:

“Holiday break is going to be like one big sleepover. I’m basically going to live at Jamie’s house!” Or, “I’m going to see all my friends from HS!”

Neutralize the pressure by remembering that:

 
Takeaway: Despite social media posts that intimate otherwise, many students see little of their peers over break. This is particularly true for college students who have advanced beyond their first year or two. Some students feel OK about not having a peer group, whereas others struggle. If you’re in the former group, enjoy the independence and solitude. If you fall into the latter, check out our forthcoming post, “The Making of a Better Holiday Break.” Please note: if you experience symptoms that indicate crisis (e.g., anything that could lead to getting in trouble with the law, harming yourself or harming someone else or planning to harm yourself or someone else), immediately contact your local mental health crisis hotline or call 911. You are not alone and your life matters. Don’t wait!

Pressure #3: Consumerism:

Black Friday doorbusters begin before the Thanksgiving dishes have been washed. By mid-October, we can’t escape commercials and popups for tablets, iPhones, VRs, and sneakers… Soon after, we’re barraged with requests for—you guessed it—tablets, iPhones, VRs, and sneakers.

Neutralize the pressure by remembering that:

  • You’re in good company if the idea of holiday shopping gives you a headache. In a 2014 Pew research survey, the majority of people reported that “buying and receiving gifts makes them feel joyful (83%) and generous (78%), but considerable minorities also said it makes them feel stretched thin financially (46%), stressed out (36%) or wasteful (23%).”
  • You have a choice to participate in holiday consumerism. Inc.com’s Jonathan Alpert says, “…spare the craziness of the shopping malls. Set an example for friends and family by doing something that reflects your beliefs. Be creative by making greeting cards and giving homemade gift certificates to your friends and family spelling out how you’ll treat them. For example, offer to spruce up your parents’ yard come Spring time, help your sister with babysitting, or make a home-cooked dinner for a friend. In lieu of cheesy grab bags at the office party suggest donating to a worthy charity…”

 
Takeaway: Not everyone enjoys browsing, buying, wrapping, long lines, or debt. You can make a choice whether to participate or the extent to which you participate. Reclaim your holiday season!

Pressure #4: Success and productivity:

“I’m spending the first two weeks of January touring Amazon’s corporate offices and then doing a one-week training.”

Neutralize the pressure by remembering that:

On the topic of holiday break fatigue:

  • The culprit for holiday break fatigue may be the prior academic term’s cumulative buildup of sleep disruption, poor nutrition, insufficient exercise, substance abuse, and/or mental health issues. Fatigue may also result from enormous course loads, over-commitment, or from coping with roommate issues, academic struggles or financial stress.
  • Use the holiday break as an opportunity to reflect on the cause of your fatigue.
    • Is it related to a physical or mental health issue? If so, schedule an appointment with a physician, psychologist or other professional.
    • If you’re feeling drained from exams, over-commitment, an unhealthy lifestyle or any area that you can address safely without assistance, consider stepping away from the fast-pace of your life. After a period of rest, explore the issues contributing to your fatigue and make a response plan.

 
Takeaway: The takeaway = take time away. This is particularly true for those operating at breakneck speed. Recognize that taking time away is invaluable to your physical and mental health. For those who feel their fatigue needs to be assessed by a professional, make an appointment. Holiday break is the perfect time to commit to better health!

An important note: For the many students who are seasonally employed or engaged in family obligations (i.e., babysitting, cooking, cleaning), taking several days off (even one day) is unrealistic. For these students we ask, can you take moments to yourself? For instance, can you enjoy a hot shower or a walk on a local park or trail? Can you nurse a cup of hot tea with a blanket wrapped around you and binaural beats playing in the background?

Pressure #5: Consumption of food and drink:

“Here, these are the best! Try a few…”

Neutralize the pressure by remembering that:

  • Food comas aren’t a joke. The Oxford English Dictionary defines “food coma” as a “state of sleep or extreme lethargy induced by the consumption of a large amount of food.” The holiday pressure to eat, drink and be merry, well-meaning as it is, can lead to a food coma in the short-run and health complications in the long run (e.g., high cholesterol or blood pressure, exacerbation of diabetes).
  • Whether you are trying to lose weight, watch your blood sugar or simply be healthy, it is OK to have a prepared, polite statement to use after you are offered appetizers and cookies.

 
Takeaway: Sometimes the food, drink and dessert really is too much. It’s OK to use a canned response to politely refrain from indulging in rich holiday fare. It’s your body!

When all else fails, use humor to get through the season. As William Thackeray says, “A good laugh is sunshine in the house.” Consider checking out Saturday Night Live’s 90s gem, “Dysfunctional Family Christmas” or browse a New Yorker comic or two!
 

#parents #families #teens #college #wellness #holidays

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