For many, the holidays bring memories of frosting sugar cookies, spending precious time with family near and far and looking forward to a bright new year. Unfortunately for others, the holidays can look and feel very different. They may spend the season in solitude, or their holiday obligations may bring on unnecessary stress. I know for me, the holidays have been more difficult to celebrate since losing both my mother and father. Those of us who have lost close family members may find if painful to take part in the same holiday traditions once celebrated.
In a 2006 survey conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research Center about holiday stress, a pool of 786 adults were asked how the holiday season affects their lives. They reported that more than 60% of respondents reported positive emotions, such as happiness, love and high spirits during the holidays. At the same time, more than 60% also reported increased amounts of stress and fatigue during the holiday season. Other negative emotions reported included irritability and sadness. The survey also found that more females reported increased stress than males (44% vs 31%, respectively). Stressors could be anything from an emphasis on commercialism, to money concerns and pressure for time. Some respondents combatted these stressors by exercising and participating in meditation or prayer. However, many of them turned to drinking alcohol and “stress eating” for stress relief.
Many of us, including myself, can relate to this survey. The good news is there are things you can do to combat potential stressors and bring joy into your life this holiday season.
First, it is important to know your boundaries and not to overcommit. This includes anything from social events to your individual financial budget. You shouldn’t feel obligated to spend outside your financial means. Find alternative, cost-effective ways to show the people in your life you care about them. This could mean baking special holiday treats, or even just spending quality time with them. The value of caring and making someone feel special can’t be found on a price tag.
Second, develop your schedule and underscore healthy habits. It is important to eat a nutritious diet, exercise regularly and get plenty of rest, even through the holidays. Maintain balance in life to help combat any holiday stress you may feel.
Lastly, be engaged and take part during the holiday season. Get involved in your local community center or church. Find your joy in giving time to what fuels your passion. Try not to feel pressured by anyone else’s idea of what the holidays “should” look like. Rather, live according to your own standards and expectations. Be present in the moment this holiday season.
As you celebrate in your own way, I want to encourage you to find your joy. Through the years I have discovered new, meaningful ways to celebrate. It is important to start your own traditions and discover what the season means to you.
Don’t forget to set your boundaries, maintain a healthy balance and engage yourself. Sometimes the best way to celebrate is simply to reach out to others. The best gift of all comes from the heart. Happy Holidays!
~ Tabitha Dunham, Oklahoma ’17, chair, Council on Communications
About Tabitha Dunham
Tabitha Dunham is a fourth-year dental student at the University of Oklahoma College of Dentistry. She is the immediate past president of her local ASDA Chapter and enjoy staying involved in many other organizations on their campus. She serves as the chair of ASDA's Council on Communications. In her free time, Tabitha loves to travel and spend as much time with family as possible. Some of her hobbies include skiing, singing, listening to live music and doing pretty much any activity outdoors. Tabitha has two mottos by which she lives her life: "work hard so you can play hard,” and "fake it 'til you make it" (which came about during her first year of dental school!).