Eye on Extension: Take the stress out of the holidays

VALLEY — Are the holidays a stressful time? Do you feel overextended? Too much to do?  Too much money spent? Even though holidays are a happy time, they can also be stressful because of added work, or added debt. Expectations are elevated during the holidays because of family rituals and assumptions about “how the holidays are supposed to be.” Some of the assumptions we have about the holidays include:

* “Holidays are supposed to be joyous and happy.”

* “Holidays are times when families come together.”

* “There’s no place like home for the holidays.”

* “The bigger the gift and/or the more we spend, the better.”

People want to belong and feel connected during the holidays. This desire can be so strong that we overextend ourselves emotionally, physically and financially. Examples of this include the following:

* Spending money to travel to be with family/loved ones can add a financial burden.

* Buying gifts one cannot afford.

* Attending social/family functions because we “have to” or “should”.

* Preparing an elaborate, “perfect” meal or celebration.

Holidays can highlight everything that may have changed during the year, divorce, death, college student returning home, absence due to military duty, and if family rules are to not talk about, or talk too much about these things, it adds to the stress of the holidays. Or, the sameness of holiday gatherings can be monotonous, and monotony can bring its own set of stressors.

So what’s the answer? Here are some tips to consider and try in order to beat the stress:

* Identify what it is about the holidays that get you down. Once identified, deal with it directly.

* If doing the “same old thing” gets you down, don’t do the same old thing. Change things up. Talk to family members and make a new plan!

* Don’t expect miracles; keep your expectations of others, as well as yourself realistic.

* Don’t “overdo”; plan ahead of time, prioritize what needs to be done and try to involve others with the preparation.

* Don’t worry about how things should be or what you should do but do what you can, and more importantly, what you want to do.

* If the holidays make you feel out of control, “take control” by taking timeouts for yourself. Have more self-compassion and accept your limitations.

* Use humor; try to see the lighter side of life and not take yourself so seriously.

* Stick to a budget for gift giving and food shopping, or even consider alternatives to gift giving.

* Minimize over-indulging in food and alcohol as a way to cope with stress.

Be easy on yourself. Make things simpler. Talk with family members about how to make the holidays more enjoyable. Plan new activities. Take the time to enjoy each other.

  For more information contact Mary Ellen Fleming at 852-7381, or visit the CSU Extension Office for the San Luis Valley Area at 1899 E. Hwy 160 in Monte Vista. Please feel free to visit our website at:  http://sanluisvalley.colostate.edu for information about services provided.

Extension programs are available to all without discrimination, Colorado State University Extension, U.S. Department of Agriculture and Colorado Counties cooperating.