Lifestyle

Holiday stress plus pandemic stress does not equal fun times


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In case you’ve been hunkered down at home, only venturing into the outside world when you absolutely have to, then perhaps you weren’t aware Christmas is in less than a week.

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There’s the added stress of the pandemic — the second in a row — so combined with good old regular holiday stress, it can feel like the pressure is on.

But fear not. There are ways to cope with holiday stress. We connected with a few experts who had some suggestions on how best to deal with it all.

Psychotherapist Jonathan Alpert believes the majority want to spend less money and make it more about people than gifts, so he recommends rejecting all the stuff.

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“Accept the notion that materialism is not an expression of what the holidays truly represent, or that extravagance and expensive gifts equal happiness,” he says. “These ideas are driven more by Hallmark and Hollywood more than anything else.”

For Alpert, it’s really a time where it may be more satisfying, more joyful, to give than receive and he suggests volunteerism “to take the focus off of yourself and put it towards those in need.”

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Kindness goes a long way, agrees Hansa Bhargava, Chief Medical Officer at Medscape.

“This seems very cliche, but science has shown that empathy for others triggers the release of oxytocin, a feel-good hormone,” she explains. “Being kind can be a two-way street where the giver also benefits.

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Bhargava agrees with Alpert in that it truly is a time where it should be about family and friends, but also yourself, which often gets forgotten. But a little self-love goes a long way.

“Make the time to take care of yourself so that you can be more present and enjoy the holidays and have a different outlook on them,” she says.

We’re all dealing with a lot right now, so Alpert insists it’s okay to not be the life of the party or, heck, go to any of the parties.

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“Don’t feel compelled to accept every invitation,” he advises. “Get comfortable saying ‘no’ to what you don’t want and ‘yes’ to the things you truly believe in. Doing so will help you to feel less resentful and stressed and much calmer during the holidays.”

He adds: “By making small changes to how you think, you’ll be able to make big changes in how you feel.”

Remember, this time of year is all about gratitude – and if these last 21 months have taught us anything, it’s that we should be appreciative of every little thing.

It’s all about perspective, says psychotherapist Joshua Estrin.

“Crazy Aunt Jane and wacky Cousin Joe are probably not going to seem so annoying this year considering we have weathered a pandemic, a variant of the pandemic and a variant on the variant of the pandemic,” he laughs.

“Take a deep breath and simply say ‘thank you’ for being upright and breathing and having the luxury of celebrating. The pandemic stole that from millions worldwide.”

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