Old sad dog

Feeling sad, depressed, or anxious at any time of year is no barrel of monkeys, but every emotion seems more heightened during December’s holiday season. Not everyone feels Jolly Old Saint Nick’s exuberance for gift giving and all of the seasonal trappings. In fact, according to a survey by the American Psychological Association more women than men feel stressed at this time of year. Another study reported that women spend on average 11 days preparing for the holidays. According to WebMD, the average American spends 42 hours a year on holiday activities.

Women indicated that they believe themselves to be responsible as the traditions keepers based out of a need for “family-making”. Cookies must be baked, presents purchased and wrapped, elaborate dinners prepared along with writing cards, attending holiday parties…well, I think you get the general idea.

Whether it is based on a real or imagined expectations, women have a tendency to create stress in order to honour these rituals and traditions. As a result, women can build up feelings of resentment toward their spouse and other family members who don’t feel this same sense of obligation and perhaps are even somewhat oblivious to of all the work involved in making the holidays sparkle. All the stress builds up and bam! it isn’t unusual to see glum faces, a sense of extreme frustration or pent up anger in many North American households at this time of year.

It certainly doesn’t help that magazines, commercials, and TV shows project picture perfect holiday scenarios. Even when there is conflict in a storyline, it seems to get resolved within 28 minutes — allowing for a few commercial breaks promoting different must-have gift ideas for that special someone on your list!

Woefully unrealistic, these manufactured made-for-TV scenarios simply add an unnecessary element of stress. Holiday stress shows up in many ways. Worries about money (overspending on gifts and parties) along with cramming more into an already packed schedule worsens the situation.

This Christmas Eve at 2pm ET and 11am PT, I’m hosting Trista Thorp as my special guest on Your Authentic Life. Trista is a certified Vedic Master Educator through the Chopra Center University in California. She is an internationally-recognized leader in the field of meditation and emotional healing who has been sharing her gifts with thousands of people around the world. Together, Trista and I will discuss the barriers that keep people from living their full potential especially at this time of year.

I’m thrilled to spend this time with Trista and also want to provide a few extra tips to help reduce holiday stress.

1) It’s about you – first. It may seem self-indulgent, but it isn’t. When you take care of your needs and analyze if you need to do something or if it is a manufactured expectation, you allow yourself the opportunity to assess its relevance. Perhaps it is time to release a few things from your holiday ‘to do” list. Ask yourself if the expectation is yours alone and if so, why are you really doing it? Why not release a few things you don’t want to do anyway and create a bit more space in your calendar to do something nice for yourself. Maybe watch a funny movie, read an inspirational article, or perhaps even take a nap.

2) Reinvent the holidays. Imagine if you could create the holidays just the way you want them to be. Now, make a list of what this season would look like tailor-made for you. What things would you do or stop doing? Where would you be and with whom? The closer you can get to having your wishes and needs met, the less stress you’ll feel and who knows, you might actually have the best holiday ever!

3) Have brave conversations about expectations with your loved ones. Go through the list of things you plan to do to prepare for the holidays and discuss what should be kept or ditched and why. Then divide up what can be shared in terms of the tasks associated with the remaining list. If you’re worried about finances and what overspending will do to your budget – have that conversation too and stick to a realistic plan. Otherwise the holiday blues will linger long into the new year.

I hope you’ll tune and listen to this episode as we explore more ways to help you make healthier decisions about how to consciously spend your time and have honest conversations about what traditions you want to keep and which ones can be released. We’ll share ways to help put unhealthy stress in its place so that more space can be created for peace, love, and joy. After all, isn’t that what the holidays are really all about?