• Stress at Holiday Times

    Stress at Christmas

    Sometimes people get in touch with Birmingham Counselling Services feeling stressed, anxious and even guilty because the holiday season is a pproaching and they find themselves dreading it.

    You might remember the day Santa Claus brought you your first bicycle.  It was the most beautiful thing you had ever seen.  You could hardly believe that the present of your dreams had actually arrived.  You knew than that you would always remember this as the best Christmas ever.  And sadly, you still do.

    You might also have very happy memories of packing a little bag with your most precious possessions before setting off with your family for a summer holiday by the sea or on a farm or visiting Granny.  Wherever you were going, you were very happy, sure that the next few days would be wonderful.  If you were aware that your mother seemed stressed and wasn’t sharing your happy anticipation, you didn’t dwell on it.

    Compare these memories with the last few years:

    a)         Will you ever get all the Christmas Cards written or the picture postcards sent?  Are you the one in your family who writes cards for everyone?

    b)         How will you get the shopping done / the presents wrapped / the suitcase(s) packed with clean clothes / everyone else (family & friends) in the right place at the right time?

    c)         How will you be able to afford everything?

    d)         If you are travelling abroad, what will happen if you miss the ferry or your flight is delayed?

    e)         How will you keep everyone else happy?

    f)         If you are having people to stay with you, how will everyone get on?  X and Y always fight . . .

    g)         What will it be like for your children going back to school in September, when they have not been away on holiday (your budget wouldn’t run to it) and most of their friends have had exciting visits to other parts of the world?

    This list could be endless.  You could pile up more and more things to worry about until you are overwhelmed with unanswerable questions and unsolvable problems, which can be both paralyzing and blood pressure raising.

    It could be useful to remind yourself of a few things:

    1. If you are taking responsibility for your entire family, why are you doing it?  The others can write their own cards / do their own packing / etc.  If they arrive with crumpled clothes, who but you will mind?
    2. You are not responsible for everyone else’s happiness.  If X and Y choose to fight, they can leave your home to do it – into the garden is fine.
    3. You are not responsible for delayed flights or for traffic conditions which cause people to miss connections.  The chances are that you will not be the only one(s) affected, and camaradarie can build up between strangers in these circumstances.  (My personal experience is that both ferry companies and
      airlines will do all they can to ease your problems, but that they cannot change weather conditions, for example.)

    You do not have to take the blame for things which are not your fault.

    4.         Take time to ask yourself whether your vision of what holiday time should be like is based in reality or in some fantasy which has grown out of films, television programmes, books, other people’s fantasies.  There can be perfect moments, but there are likely to be grey patches as well.

    5.         The last point above (g) is probably the most difficult to deal with, as sometimes children can be cruel to each other.  Perhaps you can arrange days out which your childre

    n will really enjoy.  There are still things to do which are free.  If the children have their own happy memories they will be fine.

    The common factor in most of the points above is that so much of what you are worrying about is actually out of your control and not your responsibility.

    Find the time to make a list of everything which is worrying you and which you feel you should be able to deal with.  Spread the points on the page, or leave a big margin at one side.  Then go back and look at what you have written.  Try to be objective and stop yourself from being drawn into your old panic.  Read each point carefully and ask yourself whether it is truly your sole responsibility.  If you decide that it isn’t, make a note of whether it is possible for it to be dealt with by human agency, who should be dealing with it, what if anything you mightbe able to do, what you definitely can’t do.  Don’t expect yourself to be able to perform miracles.  And don’t be afraid to involve other people if your honest assessment is that something is their responsibility.

    It is not your job to sacrifice yourself so that others can have a good time.  If you choose to do this that’s fine, but don’t forget that you have made a choice.  Decide how much you are prepared to do and be clear with yourself and with the others, particularly with children.  They generally have a very strong sense of fair play and provided that they know what to expect will cooperate is making sure that you get time out or a choice of what to do  next.

    Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Members of your family, friends and neighbours might all be glad to be involved in whatever you are planning, to take charge of something rather than simply receiving what you have laid on.  And don’t forget that there are skilled and qualified counsellors at Birmingham Counselling Services who can offer you help and support in changing your approach to life.  You can phone us on 0121 314 9903 or contact us through our website: www.BirminghamCounsellingServices.co.uk

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