The holidays are here! Wheeee! Well, sometimes, maybe not so much.
Although most understand this time of year can bring stress as well as joy, we don’t always plan accordingly. We spoke with Dana Alonzo, Ph.D., associate professor of social work at Fordham’s Graduate School of Social Service, to get some suggestions.
Full transcript below
Patrick Verel: Is it cliché to say that the holidays are stressful, or do you get the sense that folks understand that it’s not going to be all smiles and good cheer this time of year?
Dana Alonzo: I think that what we tend to see is that people have a superficial or anticipatory recognition that this is going to be a stressful time, and, “I have so much to do. I’m going to be spending so much money. How do I find that perfect gift for someone?” And there’s lots of that kind of thinking about the stress, but it doesn’t end up translating into any real planning or prepping for how to manage it, so that by the time the holiday actually comes, I think people do end up feeling quite stressful.
Lots of people tend to think about the holidays as they see them on TV or in the movies or the way they always imagined they would be or wanted them to be. And when they end up in the room with their families, and it doesn’t match that expectation, it can be quite disappointing.
Patrick Verel: What advice do you give to someone who is actually dreading the holiday or having a tough time of it already?
Dana Alonzo: I think the first thing is to manager your expectations. If you don’t expect things to be perfect and put that kind of pressure on yourself, when things aren’t perfect it won’t be that surprising or disappointing. People who are experiencing stress this time of year because they’ve had a major loss in the recent past, planning a new tradition or beginning a new tradition can be really helpful.
So rather than focusing on not having that individual with you to share the things you would typically do with them, doing something different and starting a new tradition can be a really helpful way of managing some of those feelings of loss. I think that self-care is also very important. What tends to fall by the wayside is what you tend to do for yourself on a daily basis that keeps you going.
Patrick Verel: What are the best strategies for people to take?
Dana Alonzo: Going outside and taking a walk, sitting somewhere quiet for five to ten minutes by yourself and just allowing yourself to breathe deeply. Those are things that can be done anywhere. Research shows it’s really effective at allowing people to kind of take a break and reset themselves.
And I think that if you’re relying on things like a class at the gym, or going out with my friends, and then your friends are unavailable or you can’t afford the health club that month because you want to spend your money for presents for someone else. Those are not the best things, but something that you can just do for yourself, by yourself that doesn’t require any additional burden are the things to go to.