For many people, the holiday season is a time of friends, family and togetherness, but for some, holiday stressors can make this time of year anything but joyous.
“There are a lot of things in the holiday season that are inherently stressful,” said Cpt. Michael Oganovich, a clinical psychologist at Winn Army Community Hospital. “For instance, if you’re from a lower socioeconomic status, you may not have a lot of extra money, and you’re just getting by as it is. Now you’re expected to provide gifts for your kids or you’re not an adequate parent. So not only are you not able to do something, but now you feel like a bad person because you can’t.”
However, not all stressors come from external sources like gift giving, Oganovich said. Some stressors from an internal need to be perfect — especially during the holiday season. This internal need is fueled by people comparing themselves to their peers when they see updates on Facebook and Pinterest or even fictional characters on television, the clinical psychologist continued.
“Think of the military environment,” he said. “We can’t always be home for the holidays because of duty assignments. Some families may not be able to afford to travel, and others may not have a family to go home to at all. Now they see all of these holiday commercials and movies where everyone is sitting around the fire telling stories. They don’t have that, so they’re comparing themselves to some unobtainable ideal of the holiday season.”
Oganovich said one way to deal with holiday stressors is to stick with daily routines.
“Continue doing stress-relieving activities like hobbies, don’t abandon exercise until January and don’t over indulge in fatty foods,” he said. “It’s also OK to ask for help when you need it. If you’re the host of a holiday dinner, delegate. You prepare the main dish and let someone else bring side dishes.”
During this time of year, it’s also important for those in leadership positions or even peers and colleagues to remember to check in on each other.
“Don’t assume everyone is happy,” Oganovich said. “Anyone can put on a smile, but you don’t know what’s going on underneath unless you ask.
“A good way to start the conversation is to ask a question like ‘What are you doing for the holidays?’ If they give you an elaborate plan like ‘Well, I’m going to Chicago, then I’m doing this, then I’m doing this…’ then you can gather that things are probably going OK for them. But if they say, ‘Oh nothing’ or they’re dismissive, you might want to dig a little deeper.
“Making a little effort to not only take care of yourself, but also your peers, can help ensure everyone is able to enjoy the most wonderful time of the year.”