Holiday Stress – Let It Go!

August 2023 View more

NMAG1212_FitnessWhat ever happened to the peace and goodwill that the holiday season used to symbolize? Instead of the Norman Rockwell holidays most people imagine, the reality of the season involves packed schedules, unrealistic expectations, and commercial pressure to over spend. According to Mental Health America, the top three stressors are financial, loss of loved ones, and too much to do. Perhaps this year it’s time to stand back, revaluate, and define your own holiday cheer.

Stress Contributors

Dr. Laura Bokar, founder of Fox Valley Institute in Naperville, believes that people’s expectations are one of the major contributors to stress during the holidays. “Stress can be created by ones own expectations based on trying to create the perfect holiday gathering. Stress occurs because perfection is impossible.” Dr. Bokar notes that the pressure to meet expectations for a perfect holiday is undoubtedly a stress inducer.

It’s important to note that some of the stress brought on during the holiday season can be a result of painful memories from the past, or unfilled longing for connection and intimacy. “People with painful memories, or longing for connection, usually suffer in silence. This occurs because everyone is so busy running around trying to create the perfect holiday. These individuals are not noticed, or the individuals are trying to hide in hopes the season will pass quickly,” said Dr. Bokar.

Easing Stress

Dr. Bokar encourages finding ways to take breaks and do something that is positive, such as reading a novel, going for a walk, practicing yoga, getting a massage, asking for help, or recreating more realistic expectations.

Jennifer Adams, yoga instructor at Living Yoga in Aurora, suggests treating yourself to yoga as a way to bring some calm into an otherwise chaotic time of year. “Yoga emphasizes breath awareness and taking the time to consciously breathe deeply, which directly affects and calms the nervous system,” said Adams.

Because people typically hold stress in their minds through thoughts and emotions, yoga ultimately creates tension in muscles, therefore, physical stretching and lengthening of the muscles is very beneficial. “As we release tension from our muscles, joints and organs, we feel better, and as we feel better from the inside out, naturally we become happier and healthier as a whole,” says Adams.

In addition to distressing with exercise, Dr. Bokar suggests focusing on the outcome versus being ‘in the moment’ can cause stress which can also lead to  depression. “Things like buying gifts become a chore to be accomplished rather than a way to create a meaningful connection. For the deeper issues, make an effort to think of others and how you can reach out and help others in need.

Let it go

Some things you just have to let go, like the food being perfectly cooked, or finding the perfect gift. “Why not give a card with a meaningful message of what that person means to you?” says Dr. Bokar.  “We worry about not having the perfect home because the rug is too worn out. Instead, be grateful that you have friends and family wearing out your rug.  Who really cares about the food, gift or rug? They care about being with you!”

When push comes to shove, Dr. Bokar says, “Gratefulness is the best solution to any stress during the holidays, or anytime!” Here’s to letting go of stress and letting in the spirit of the season!