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The American Psychological Association identified the top four main stressors of the holidays: difficult family conversations, the pressure of gift giving, finances, and managing expectations.
Vaile Wright, PhD, a clinical psychologist and APA’s director of research and special projects, said the holidays can be difficult for a variety of reasons.
As families reunite, long-held grievances or competing political ideologies can lead to arguments that ruin even the best holiday feast.
To avoid this stress, Wright advised that each family decide how they want to approach delicate topics.
Wright said that if you’re roped into a discussion you’re eager to avoid, you should feel able to remove yourself.
“When we communicate how we really feel to somebody and do it in a way that we can feel good about that maintains the relationship, I think we feel better at the end,” she said.
Wright explained that families should be upfront with their financial resources and be transparent with kids.
The APA also advises setting realistic expectations so that you don’t feel the pressure to give everyone including your office mate the best gift they’ve ever received.
The APA advises making one financial decision at a time, tracking your spending, and making a plan to address your financial stressors.
Additionally, making a financial plan can help people avoid being overwhelmed by their expenses.
The APA said it can be helpful to set realistic expectations.
Additionally, the APA advised that if a child asks for a present that’s too expensive, parents can talk about what’s realistic as a gift and why the holidays are more than just gifts.
Wright also suggested people take time for themselves and pay attention to signs that the holiday stress is taking a toll on their health.
“For a lot of people, stress may first manifest itself as physical symptoms, like an upset stomach, headaches, like feeling like your blood pressure rising” she said. “You want to be paying attention to these symptoms before they get worse.”
In general, Wright said she wants people to take it easy on themselves and try to enjoy spending time with family and friends.
“I want to encourage everyone to give themselves a break. There is no such thing as a perfect holiday.”
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