Holidays are busy days filled with activities, traditions and stress. Instead of dashing through the snow on a sled, you dash through the malls searching for gifts; and though you are told “it’s the most wonderful time of the year,” all that dashing keeps you from feeling “peace on Earth, goodwill toward men.” And when you finally have all the gifts wrapped and placed under the tree and you sink into your easy chair for a silent night, suddenly “I’ll have a blue Christmas without you” comes on the radio, stirring up ghosts of Christmases past.
Let’s face it though you may enjoy “rocking around the Christmas tree” with people you love, singing “Santa Baby” and “All I Want for Christmas is You,” there still may be moments when your silver bells turn blue, and instead of decking the halls, you may feel like decking the person singing fa la la la la, la la la la! The question is: “Is it normal to feel overwhelmed during the holidays?”
According to Dr. Elizabeth Douglas, family medicine at Middlesboro ARH Hospital, it is normal.
“Holidays—especially the Christmas holiday can trigger mental and emotional stress like anger, anxiety, sadness, loneliness, moodiness and even feelings of loss,” said Douglas. “Recognizing and managing these stressors can bring the merry back into your Christmas.”
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), emotional stress usually occurs in situations people consider difficult or challenging. For example, if you consider dashing to the mall to shop for gifts just before Christmas challenging, complete your shopping early in December — don’t be a last-minute shopper. When you release yourself from that stress, you will have more time for building a snowman while walking in a winter wonderland.
NIH also states that a person’s attitude can influence whether or not a situation or emotion is stressful. If you tend to have a negative attitude about the holidays and act more like a Scrooge than a Santa, your bah humbug attitude is only going to bring you down and possibly a piece of coal in your stocking!
“Having a positive attitude during the holidays helps manage stress levels,” Douglas added. “If you will take a deep breath and focus on the joy of Christmas, you will increase your holiday cheer.”
However, if you still find yourself struggling with holiday stress, a recommended stress buster is laughter. For decades numerous studies have been conducted on the mental and physical benefits of laughter.
“You may have heard that laughter is the best medicine,” stated Douglas. “Laughter actually enhances your intake of oxygen, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles and increases the endorphins released by your brain. Laughing the stress away definitely will improve your holiday.”
Want to lower your stress and get the laughter started? Listen to silly Christmas songs with barking dogs or singing chipmunks or watch funny movies about decking houses with thousands of blinking lights or cartoons about crazy reindeers gone wild. Whatever you do, don’t feel like you just got run over by a reindeer while dashing through the snow on Christmas Eve. Instead, embrace your inner child and experience the holly and jolly moments of the Christmas season. You know you can do it. Just take a deep breath, enjoy a good laugh; and have yourself a merry little Christmas this year.
Elaine L. Smith is the Marketing and Communications writer for Appalachian Regional Healthcare.