Head Off Holiday Havoc
"Joy to the World" may be the theme, but a lot of us find this time of year brings more stress than bliss. As we try to meet age-old ideals, we feel pressure to cook the perfect meal and buy the perfect gift.
It's time for Americans—particularly the women who bear the brunt—to make more realistic holiday plans, psychologists say.
"It's always legitimate to say 'no,'" says Dorothy Cantor, Ph.D., former president of the American Psychological Association. "People forget that they have that option when the holidays come." Dr. Cantor, a co-author of Finding Your Voice: A Woman's Guide to Using Self Talk for Fulfilling Relationships, Work and Life, says today's two-income couple has little time to cook, shop or party. Modern demands mean cutting down on holiday hubbub.
"Women need to realize that it's acceptable to delegate some of their responsibilities," says California psychologist Elaine Rodino, Ph.D., who specializes in relationships and stress.
Have a potluck dinner, so you don't end up cooking the whole meal yourself. See what you can pick up at your local bakery. Ask dinner guests to help you clean up after the meal.
It's wise to plan ahead and decide how the holidays can be most enjoyable for you and your family—without holding yourself to artificial norms, Dr. Rodino says. Make plans to flee to a mountain cabin with your family. Feel you're right not to invite relatives if you have a rocky relationship and fear they may spoil the mood. Talk to the family about spending limits on gifts.
"If you're not going to do it joyfully, then don't do it," says Cecile Andrews, Ph.D., author of The Circle of Simplicity: Return to the Good Life. She urges people to make their own choices about how to observe the holidays.
"The holidays are not just about getting presents," Dr. Andrews says. "It's a time of inner growth, finding new insight and meeting your own values."