Why are the holidays always so stressful? Our expectations are too high. We want to both relive the holidays of our youth and to remake them into finer, more glorious gems of intense joy. Since such unrealistic wishes can’t possibly be fulfilled, we are going to be overstressed and disappointed.
Stressor number one is having too many things to do. So scratch off baking cookies to give to everyone you know. Forget about the hand-crafted holiday decorations. Help save the planet and skip the Christmas lights. Pare down your holiday menu, or do a potluck dinner.
Stressor number two is spending money you don’t have, so just don’t. You really don’t have to exchange presents of equal value, or even to have a gift for everyone who gives one to you. You might be a little embarrassed at the gift exchange, but that’s better than a nightmare of stress when the bills come due in January.
Stressor number three is too much partying. Most of us with bipolar disorder do best with a stable routine, so don’t feel guilty about leaving the party early or refusing a third drink. Think back to how you fared in previous years. Does a little flexibility work for you, or do you really need to be in bed by ten? It’s your health, so don’t feel guilty saying “goodnight and goodbye” when the party is still in full swing. Saying “I can’t make it” to an invitation is also a perfectly acceptable option. Know yourself and protect yourself.
Stressor number four is families. Somehow, the ones who know us best can hurt us the most. Be prepared for the extra family contact that comes with the holidays by making sure your own head is in the right place. Be ready to walk away if necessary, rather than reacting to family stressors.
Finally, try to lower your expectations for the holidays. By expecting little, you won’t be as disappointed. These particular days on the calendar really don’t have to be special in order for you to survive and live a good life. Give yourself the gift of a reprieve from this holiday madness.
Share your strategies for coping with the stress of the holiday season in the bipolar message boards.
Published On: December 20, 2006
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