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Why do the holidays stress me out?!

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Holidays Stressing You Out

The holidays mean different things for different people. We all experience and celebrate in our own ways; threading in various traditions, scheduling festive occasions, and attending once-a-year events that fill our calendars from the end of October into the new year. We also carry around a high level of expectation for this time of year, and daydream about each special moment and the perfect experience each glittery night will bring and every gathering will create.

But things don’t always go as planned, and the holidays can turn into one giant mass of anxiety, stress, and feelings of being overwhelmed. What you believed to be a magical time can quickly turn into a mountain of “have to” and “should dos”:

Have to have a team party.
I have to bring home-baked goods to the neighborhood celebration.
Got to stop here because my friends/family only like this brand.
I should give the team an end-of-year bonus.
Should I open for a half-day on Christmas Eve day?

And so it goes. As does the stress. You find yourself asking, “Why do the holidays stress me out?!”

Here’s why.

Gender gap

Women are impacted by the hustle and bustle of the holidays significantly more than men are impacted. Studies show that on average 44% of women claim an increase in their stress levels during this time compared with 30% of men. The main reason for this is women are shouldered with the majority of the planning, preparing, execution, and closing of holiday celebrations. They worry most about getting it all completed in addition to their regular tasks and responsibilities of work and life. Although both men (49%) and women (51%) alike feel compelled to make the holidays a festive and happy time for their family, women are saddled more with the daily grind and mental focus of meeting expectations.

Compounding this, women have a harder time relaxing during the holidays and are subject to relying on unhealthy coping methods to get them through the season. Unhealthy coping methods often turn into unhealthy habits that continue well into the new year, continuing the stress cycle and feelings of fatigue.

Cherry on top

More than 51% of the U.S. population, 86% of dental professionals, and 84% of private practice owners (general) claim moderate to severe day-to-day stress levels. Their ability to manage, navigate, and cope with their current life and work situations are already at a level where significant consequences occur. During the holidays, people don’t suddenly find ways to deal with daily stressors to make room for holiday stress. Absolutely not. Holiday stressors are the cherry on top of it all. What makes it even worse is those daily tolerances that we typically can bite our tongue or push through can become intolerable. What was never a stress trigger before now is added to the list of those things that push back at us and sometimes right over the edge.

Separation syndrome

Work-life balance is a common theme in conversations around causes of stress: too much time spent at work, not enough time creating memories at home, work piles up every day, and laundry piles up every night. During the holidays, work-life balance becomes an even stronger influence in your ability to relax and enjoy the season. It becomes increasingly difficult to separate work obligations from life demands.

When asked which is a higher source of stress during the holidays, work or home, more than half (56%) of people said work. Their fears: Work obligations will creep into holiday celebrations (34%); they will be unable to get adequate time off of work to enjoy the holidays (31%); they won’t get paid enough to afford the holidays (28%); and they will feel pressure to participate in holiday parties, traditions, and celebrations (24%).

Wrath of Father Time

Study after study, survey after survey shows that time management is the No. 1 stressor for private practice owners.  They fight the wrath of Father Time for just a few more minutes to get just one more thing done before starting it all over again the next day.

The end of the year is also most commonly one of the busiest times of the year for private practice owners, as clients/patients flood the offices to get all of their work completed and maximize their insurance benefits. Now add the holiday demands and already ill-equipped time managers get completely overwhelmed and their stress response is off the charts. With 67% of the general population saying a lack of time is the largest holiday stressor, it’s no wonder why the holiday season stresses people out.

Now what?

The holidays are a form of stress called situational stress. This means it’s a daily event or situation that triggers your stress response. It’s characterized by having a start/finish or beginning/end, and you have the most control over its influence on you.

Remember this as the countdown continues until the holidays are over. Tell yourself, “This is but a moment and it too shall pass.” Remind yourself that this is the only time this event will happen this year, and if you allow the stress of the season to impact your enjoyment of the moment, you are missing a significant opportunity for joy in 2014.

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