The holidays are a very challenging time for many people. There are extremely high expectations that everything is going to be perfect, people are going to get along and there will be overwhelming good will towards others.
Some people hold the Martha Stewart or Pinterest impression of the season. Everything has to match, have a holiday theme and be just so. The result is hours of planning and second-guessing in an attempt to have the perfect dinner party or gathering.
The reality is that the holidays can be financially stressful, emotionally stressful and mentally stressful. Often the pressures to make the season perfect creates a minefield of problems for people. Adding alcohol to the equation to try to “relax and unwind” can result in even more drama and complications.
Many individuals with social anxiety, depression or low self-esteem use alcohol as a form of self-medication. It allows them to feel as if they have “loosened up” and are being fun, entertaining and socially engaging. This feeling of being the life of the party soon degenerates into being obnoxious, angry and hostile and ultimately creating even more drama.
Then, to make matters even more complicated, there is a constant feeling of being judged for many people. This may be internal or more external with abrasive and challenging family members overtly criticizing and comparing. For those already struggling with challenges this season it can lead to more stress, anxiety, depression and perhaps the use of alcohol as an escape.
For anyone with concerns about stress levels over the holiday season, being proactive and planning events or activities at your comfort level will be critical. Additionally, blocking off your calendar for “you time” and then accepting events that work into your schedule allows you to remain in control.
This also means having a way to say “I’m sorry, I can’t make it; I have something already on my calendar” when you find yourself overbooked or overwhelmed. Booking time to do the things you want to do and what you enjoy over the holidays will decrease your stress levels and allow you to have control.
Evening events and more formal and elaborate dinners and parties are a lot more stressful than day types of events and gatherings. Instead of planning an elaborate dinner party, consider a lunch or a brunch that allows you to serve non-traditional foods and beverages that are your favorites.
Having events in the day is also a good option to reduce family drama, particularly if the drama tends to be more problematic with alcohol. Lunches or brunches can be matched with hot apple cider or a wonderful Christmas punch that is non-alcoholic.
It is also much less likely that guests will bring alcohol to a daytime event as opposed to a dinner. This allows you to control the alcohol at the lunch, brunch or event without adding to your stress.
Start Your Own Traditions
To avoid stress over trying to create the perfect holiday, why not develop your own family holiday traditions? This can be something completely different such as doing holiday volunteer work in the community or perhaps planning a family game night with everyone invited to bring their favorite board game.
Make the holiday season your own. Avoid getting caught up in the quest to provide the perfect Christmas or holiday festival and do things that you enjoy with your family. Having fun, laughing and enjoying the company of people you love is the best stress relief possible over the holiday season and throughout the year.
Sherry Gaba, LCSW is a Radio Host, Certified Transformation Coach and author of the award-winning book The Law of Sobriety: Attracting Positive Energy for a Powerful Recovery and Ecourse. You can take her quiz to find out if you are co-dependent or sign up for a 30-minute strategy session with Sherry. Check out Sherry’s new book “Love Smacked: How to Stop the Cycle of Relationship Addiction and Codependency to Find Everlasting Love”.