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It’s the most wonderful time of the year, says the familiar song. However, the holidays don’t always come wrapped up in a neat little package. Many factors can cause the “holiday blues”: stress, fatigue, unrealistic expectations, over-commercialization, financial constraints and pressure to be with one’s family and friends.

When Family Fun Is No Fun

What do you do when your family IS the elephant in the room?

Why is it that whenever I reach out to my family, I end up feeling smothered?

The stress of family relationships and feelings of sadness and loneliness may intensify over the holidays.  Family gatherings tend to stir up old resentments, misunderstandings and conflicts.  Feelings of pain and isolation may arise, as people agonize over having to spend time with family.  Or, you may be spending the holidays alone without your loved ones, making you especially lonely or sad.

Financial Distress

The holiday tradition of giving and sharing with others can be one of the most wonderful aspects of the holidays, but it also can be one of the most costly.  The urge to buy all of the latest toys for your child or that perfect gift for your special someone may be irresistible.

Make a gift list, and check it twice.

Decide how much you can afford to spend for each person on your list, and then put that amount in cash in an envelope. When the envelope is empty, you’re done — no exceptions.   Also be sure to watch non-gift expenses. With the focus on presents, it’s easy to overlook the associated expenses such as food, travel and entertainment around the holidays.

Wrapped up in Planning?

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Now where did I put that confounded bread? All these details are overwhelming me!

You may find yourself focusing on the details of planning to make sure that your holidays are perfect and special.  With extensive planning and attention to detail, your stress may build and enjoyment may suffer.  Remember, the only perfect holidays are those seen on television.

To help you conquer the stress and blues of the holiday season, the Center for Work & Family Life offers the following tips:

  • Set aside differences
  • Call a family truce
  • Acknowledge that the holidays are stressful and do not automatically banish reasons for feeling lonely or sad
  • Spend time with friends and family; social support can ease stress
  • Plan a budget for gift buying, meal planning and traveling
  • Avoid drinking binges that might lead to regretful words or actions
  • Have realistic expectations
  • Set priorities; when you’re stressed out, you tend to see everything as equally important
  • Forget about perfection
  • Be flexible
  • Make quiet time for yourself

For more information about how the Employee Assistance Program can support you through the holiday blues, contact the Center at this confidential number: (213) 821-0800.

Jeff at Hooseby Jeff Harris, LMFT, CPC, CEAP
Program Manager at CWFL

harrisjr@usc.edu

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