Coping with stress and anxiety
during holiday season (Article)
Part 1: Genral overview
To understand why we feel stress and anxiety before the holidays, we need to first focus on what is a holiday and why do we have so many expectations from holiday times?
For many people, a holiday is as it sounds, a holy day. A day that has connection do the Creator. A day that has an important meaning. Let’s look at the significance of the word holy. What makes something holy? There are holy people, holy objects, holy places, holy events. The element that makes anything holy is the bond, the connection between people and the Creator. It is an action that gives earthly, natural, regular objects, people, places and events, connection to the Divine. An invisible bond that connects something from our Nature to the Creator that created us. In case of an object, it is an object that is used to perform spiritual ritual that has a connection to the Divine. In case of a place, it is a place that has a special connection to the Divine, a place of worship. In the case of a person, it is a person that has a higher bond, a higher level of connection to the Creator. And, in the case of a holiday, it is a day where a certain ritual is conducted that has an important meaning to the connection between us, humans and our Creator. It is a day full of meaning, full of gratitude for our existence. A day that commemorates a certain event in our faith. A great miraculous event, something unnatural that happened, something above space and time that showed the entire universe the grace of Lord. And we want to commemorate it , we feel obligated to do so.
We feel it is our responsibility to commemorate this holiday, we feel that we need to give thanks to the One that brought us to this universe and gave us life. And we do not wish to disappoint him. We want to make sure it is meaningful. We also hope to establish a higher level of spirituality, a higher level of connection with the Creator. It is a day full of spiritual expectations, aspirations, and desires. There is also an element of fear and respect to the Lord. It is that fear that we are not going to perform well. The fear that we are not going to give this important day the right attention and respect. Those are a lot of emotions that are floating in our mind: Expectations, fear, desires, and aspirations for elevated spirituality. An urge to make sure the Lord is content with our performance. It is in a way like an actor or a singer before a big show, or an athlete before a big competition. They want to make sure the show or the game is successful. They do not want to disappoint their audience or their fans. That kind of mindset creates a mixture of feelings. Excitement and optimism on one hand, stress, and anxiety on the other hand.
The second factor of the holyday is not so Divine and has not much to do with the religious part of the holiday. It lies on the social aspect of the holiday. We celebrate holidays with friends and family, and in any society, there are social codes of behavior that create certain rules of conduct that elevate the level of stress and anxiety in each and every one of us during the holiday times. If we are hosting a holiday event at our house, we wish for the house to be at its best shape possible before the event. We invite friends and family members that we have not seen for a while.
We want to give them the best impression of us. We want to show them our family cell at its best performance. The house needs to be clean and presentable. Oftentimes we neglect the maintenance of the house throughout the year and suddenly before the holiday, we must fix stuff, paint, replace old furniture, clean carpets, replace burned lightbulbs, refresh the external and internal looks of our house. Organize it. All those extra activities needed to be done in a short period of time right before the holiday. These activities are taking their mental and financial toll on us. There are many arguments between couples about different topics, such as, how well the house needs to look, what needs to be bought, cleaned, and replaced. There is also the inter family politics. That is strongly present. Who to invite? Who did we go to last year? how many people to have over. Do they get along with each other? Where are we going to reside them? What do they like to eat? How judgmental they are of us?
What would they think about us if we did not do X, Y, Z. what would they say or think if we invite or not invite certain people? Oftentimes we find ourselves inviting people that we do not necessarily wish to invite, but we feel obligated to do so because our significant other is asking us to do it, or because they invited us before, or because they have nowhere else to go to during the holiday. There are dozens of such factors, considerations, compromises and social considerations, that are floating in the air, it is a hurricane of different considerations that are flying around us and we are trying to put all the pieces together to calm down that hurricane and find the exact balance what will create the desired outcome.
The third factor is our expectations from the family reunion. We wish for everyone to get along. We want our family members to be happy during the event, we do not want them to fight, we want them for one evening to forget about all their frustrations, anger, past arguments, we want them to have a good time and put everything behind. However, often it is an unrealistic expectation. Deep inside we know it, and we have an internal fear that all hell is going to break loose during the event and all the underlying emotional charge will float during the event like a clogged toilet and I don’t want to expand here the visual description what happens in that case.
The last factor is financial. I think that a significant portion of families overspend beyond their budget before the holidays whether they are inviting or being invited. We buy gifts for family members, co-workers, friends, significant others. We buy new clothes, decorations. It is a financial burden that oftentimes takes a big toll on our bank account long after the holiday is over, and that by itself is enough to elevate our level of Anxiety and Stress, and it is an accelerator for so many arguments before the holiday.