Merry Stressmas \\ Lauren Jacobs, M.A.

Picture from Google

It’s the time of the year again where we travel from a distance to get together with loved ones and enjoy good company and even better food. We are told to relax and enjoy each other and everything that surrounds us during this season; after all it’s the most wonderful time of the year, isn’t it? Unfortunately for women, this season is known to be one of the most overwhelming periods of the year. A survey completed by the American Psychological Association discovered that women report an increase of stress by 44% around the holidays, which is disproportionate to men’s report of approximately 30% (1). It’s true. Despite the advances women have made throughout the years in education, the workforce, politics, and economic independence, on average they still do twice as much work at home with child care and chores than a man, even when holding a full-time career. For women, holiday stress may be a function of greater family responsibilities as we are expected to and often volunteer to take all of the tasks associated with family celebrations, such as shopping, cooking, and cleaning. It takes a lot of perseverance to do all of this regularly, let alone during the holidays when we are knee deep with family visits, gift-wrapping, stocking stuffing, and cookie baking tasks. We are busy little elves trying to make the holiday everything it should be for others, often losing our sanity and spirit along the way. But please, relax and enjoy the season if you haven’t been defeated by the expectations we’ve placed on ourselves.

If that hasn’t been enough, there is always that one other thing that occurs during the holidays that can truly put the icing on your gingerbread house. (Yes, I make terrible jokes to keep up with the holiday spirit!) This one thing is known as the time when a family member opens his or her mouth and asks a highly personal, probing question such as “When are you finally getting married?” or “When are you getting a real job?”, resulting in you being left to let it fester, become embarrassed, or have the holiday-halting shouting match that makes for a good story the following year. If that doesn’t scream “Holiday fun” I’m not sure what does. This additional stressor often compounds with the aforementioned, resulting in avoidance of these off-putting inquisitions and ill-directed focuses on things that do not make this season what it’s supposed to be.

It’s with this that I want to take a moment to pause in the chaos of this season. We’re very familiar with what it is like to be over-involved in a whirlwind of attending holiday parties, decorating our homes, and finding the perfect gifts for friends and family. The holidays show up and disappear within the blink of an eye. Let’s aim to put the “stressmas” of the holidays aside and focus on sharing good times with our loved ones and creating memories that will last a lifetime. Give thanks for all that we have and are yet to experience, acknowledging all of the blessings in our lives and not taking any for granted. If we could refocus our hearts and our minds, this season may be less stressful and more delightful – and after all, tis’ the season to be jolly!


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