How Not to Manage Holiday Season Stress

How to Best StressHappy New Year! 

Well the holiday season is drawing to a close and exhausted parents are looking forward to their little ones returning to school – actually some (most?) have probably been looking forward to the schools reopening since they closed before Christmas! 

And that’s simply because Christmas, indeed ANY holiday season, is a stressful time.

But why should it be?

Well, ideally, it shouldn’t.  After all, it is a holiday season when everything is supposed to be jolly, enjoyable, focused on family, sharing and giving.  But somehow it never turns out that way.

This year, as with last year, I found that my life was once again overtaken by events.  I’ve spent much of the year lurching from crisis to crisis it seems, and true to form, I catapulted into the Christmas season like a runaway express train.   

It didn’t help that I was laid low with flu for almost two weeks.  And yes it was flu (not “man flu” but the real one!)  I had all the aches and total exhaustion – and I also had a really bad head cold too.  Not that I got any sympathy!  It actually took one of the moms at school to offer to pick my kids up and drop them at school the following morning, because I looked “like death” (thanks!) – before my other half (finally) took me seriously and allowed me to stay home whilst he did the school runs, in what has been bitterly cold weather here. 

This left me with very little time to do all the preparations, decorations, cooking etc that I wanted to do for everything to be “perfect”.  And I guess that is the problem.  We all want everything to be perfect!  Or maybe not. 

This year I was aiming for “getting through it” and there were times when I was sure I’d set the bar too high!

I CAN’T be the only one who gets just a LITTLE bit stressed when faced with Christmas cards for every child in each of the boy’s classes, can I?  They’re 5 now and without a word of a lie, getting them to write cards was worse than having root canal treatment at the dentist.  THEY HAVE to write the cards themselves.   I couldn’t bear the SHAME of facing the parents in the playground when “little Jemima has written and HAND MADE and decorated all hers herself” if my two could only just about manage to sign an “X”.  But the supervision of the writing… let’s just say it’s NOT the time to give up your favorite vice!    

Four evenings it took.  And when they were finished, I was informed that they HAD to put chocolate coins because that was what everyone was doing this year.  Anyway, chocolate coins were not to be found, so darling husband came home with some Roses (mixed wrapped, loose chocolates).  Great!  So then I spent a tense half hour sorting through the chocolate centers to avoid known allergies (“Johnny’s allergic to strawberries”, “Tariq doesn’t like mint”) and removing all the nut containing ones and STICKING them ONTO the envelopes, because the boys had enthusiastically stuck them shut some time earlier.

It wasn’t much better with the tree decorating.  I love doing the Christmas decorations – normally – but because the boys had already finished school, this year they “helped” me.  As a result, the decorations took me three times longer than usual, the tree had TWO angels on top of it (“Twins, mummy, like us”) and two baubles that have survived years and years of Christmases finally shattered resulting in panic as I shooed children and dogs away from broken glass and pine needles.

Still, at least we all enjoyed the pantomime!

Next year, I’m going to make sure I reduce Christmas stress properly.  I will write all the cards early in December, buy everything online in November and have it all wrapped and the house decorated before the boys finish school.  Or maybe I’ll just get it delivered from Harrods..!

How was your Christmas?

Only Losers Get Stressed

I think that there is a stigma against stress.  Maybe I’m wrong but when I talk to people about it, it seems to me that women will admit to being stressed, but dismiss it as just being the way life is; and men either don’t admit to feeling it at all, or see it as a macho, positive thing – whether it is or not.

How can we ever allow ourselves to benefit from stress relief if we are too scared to admit to being compromised by stress? 

Stress can affect anyone.  People of every race, gender, age, ability, culture, socio-economic class etc, all experience stress.  No one is immune. 

But different people do experience stress at different levels.  What one person finds super stressful, another might simply glide through.  And everyone handles stress situations differently – meaning some people are less likely than others to suffer chronic or long-term effects of stress.

There are many factors that determine who is more vulnerable to the harmful effects of stress.  Financial strains, job related stress, relationships and parenting can all take a toll.  So can illness and life transitions and other stressful events.  Some people handle stress extremely well.  They mitigate its effects well.  These people are usually those who have a strong support network in place.

The people who often has more trouble dealing with stress are those who don’t have a strong support network such as friends and family.  This is the number 1 cause of stress in adult women!  Other high risk stress groups are those who don’t get enough to eat, are in poor health or who are sleep deprived (Note – new mothers can fall into every one of these groups and stay-at-home parents are continually identified as amongst the most highly stressed groups!). 

People who are hit with many stressful events in rapid succession may also have trouble coping with stress.  These people, whether young or old are less likely to handle stress well, and more likely to suffer more from the effects of stress.

While no one can avoid all stress all the time, stress does affect people differently.  The ability to bounce back seems to lie in general health, support and stress as a relatively isolated event rather than an ongoing occurrence.

Recognize when you have moved into a “high at-risk” group and change your actions to incorporate adequate stress relief measures for the phase of life you are in now.