Catch hold of holiday spirit to beat stress
A.J. FLICK Citizen Staff Writer
You better watch out, you better not stress – that’s the message the Arizona Psychological Association is sending to those who find the holiday season less than merry.
”People do get stressed out over Christmastime,” says Gloria Bernat, a Tucson psychologist and member of APA.
”At Christmastime, people want to do so much. They buy gifts. They want everything perfect. They decorate the house. Everything has to be just fine.
”But what’s important,” she adds, ”is that Christmas is a special time. We don’t want to forget that, either.”
Bernat says people should use the holiday spirit in the air to boost their mood.
”It sounds trite to say to not forget the meaning of Christmas, but it’s important to say it. People think they have to get the perfect gift or spend a lot of money to let other people know they love them.
”In a way, it’s easier to buy a gift than tell them what they mean to you and how important they are in your life,” she says.
”Yet that is so much better than giving a gift. And,” she adds, ”it also helps on credit cards. Running up your credit cards doesn’t communicate what you want to communicate to people.”
Telling people face to face how much they mean to you can be awkward and intimidating, she says. If you can’t do that, she suggests writing a note or perhaps baking their favorite treat.
Other suggestions for making the holidays less stressful include keeping healthful foods around the house instead of too many sweets, and not drinking alcohol too much.
”At the same time, you should not make Christmas too restrictive,” she says, which just adds to the stress.
Christmas is a good time to reflect on happy holiday memories. For some people, however, the holidays are a reminder of Christmases that weren’t happy or filled with love.
”The best thing to do is talk about it,” Bernat says. ”Find a friend or family member to talk to about it.
”It’s amazing how much talking about it helps.”
One of the best gifts someone can give is to listen when a friend has this kind of experience, she says.
”Encourage them to talk. If they’re sad and crying and if you feel sad and want to cry, cry with them. That’s a gift.
”It’s not about cheering them up. It’s about letting them know you understand how they feel. It’s not like you can go back and fix it.
”Talking and expressing feelings brings people close together.”
Christmastime might be the only time of year when some people attend church. Guilt might keep others away. Shrug off the guilt, Bernat advises, because that’s more stress.
”Even if you just go to church one time of the year, at least you’re going to church.”
The holidays are a natural time to reach out to needy people in the community, which can lift a person’s spirits, she says.
”It really is a time for letting people know you love them. Even if you don’t know the people.
”It sounds corny, but that’s really what life is all about.”
Eat slowly, get support to avoid holiday binges
Nearly everyone eats more at this time of year. But to control the urge to overeat, the Arizona Psychological Association suggests:
• Eat slowly and savor your food.
• Don’t skip a meal in anticipation of a party. You’ll end up eating more.
• Avoid salty snacks. They can make you eat and drink more.
• Take a walk rather than sit in front of food all day.
• Don’t try to diet strictly before or during the holidays.
• Take healthful snacks, such as a vegetable platter, to parties.
• Create a support system with your friends and colleagues.
• Relax and enjoy the treats of the holidays – in moderation.
• Nearly one-third of Americans overspent an average of $344 on gifts during the 1996 holiday season.
• Eighty-two percent of those who overspent reported exceeding their budget by up to $500.
• Twenty-four percent of those who had 1996 holiday bills reportedly did not know when they will finish paying for their shopping.
(From the NFCC Survey on Holiday Spending, provided by Consumer Credit Counseling Services)
• To beat the holiday blues or to find a psychologist in your area, call the Arizona Psychological Association’s free referral service: (800) 216-3210.
• Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Arizona offers free counseling by phone. To schedule an appointment, call 795-2227.