Holiday Stress: Can Santa Claus Cause Stress?

by Doc Orman, M.D.

With Christmas rapidly approaching, the theme for my three blog posts this week will be thoughts on the relationship between Santa Claus and human stress.

I’ll start off in this post with some general thoughts on how Santa and stress may be related.  Then, in my next post, I’ll explore whether you should or shouldn’t teach your kids to believe in Santa, and I’ll let you know where I come down on this question.  And finally, I’ll try to shed some light on how the myth of Santa Claus can lead to financial stress.

Sorry, Virginia, There Is No Santa Claus

We all know that Santa Claus is just a myth.  It’s a nice little story we can tell our kids about a jovial, white-bearded, rotund, red-clad middle aged gentleman who spends most of the year living at the frigid North Pole, but every Christmas he flies all over the world with his reindeer, climbing down chimneys, spreading peace, joy, and gifts to all the planet’s children as a reward for being well-behaved and always listening to their parents.  And to top it off, he gets all these tasks done in just one day! And with much more accuracy, efficiency, and enthusiasm than the Post Office, FedEx, and UPS combined!

Sorry, Virginia, but I’m not buying it.  There’s no way this guy can be real. However, the fact he’s not real doesn’t deter us from gladly teaching our kids to believe in him.  In other words, we’ve all decided that it’s socially acceptable to lie to our kids about this one.  Now there are both pros and cons to spreading this lie, and obviously it wouldn’t have persisted unless a large number of people (kids and adults) were deriving value from it.  But it’s a lie nonetheless, and here’s where it gets its connection to human stress.

False Beliefs Are The Source Of Most Human Stress

Yes, you could say that the myth of Santa Claus is harmless, in and of itself—just a tiny little fib that brings a lot of joy and happiness into people’s lives for just a few short weeks in the year.  And this may indeed be true.

But look at the bigger price we pay, 365 days a year, by having other false beliefs that generate tons of stress, conflicts, and unhappiness for us.  Just look at stress itself, for example.  I’ve spent the past 30 years of my life trying to educate people to correctly understand how everything they’ve been taught to believe about stress is just as much a myth as their childhood belief in Santa Claus.

And yes, I mean EVERYTHING we’ve been taught to believe about stress!  This includes (but is not limited to) very popular, but utterly false, beliefs such as:

  • Stress is something that actually exists
  • Human beings frequently suffer from stress
  • Stress is an inevitable, unavoidable part of modern life
  • Some degree of stress can be good or healthy for us
  • The best way to deal with stress is to manage it
  • Stress helps us to be motivated and productive
  • Our emotions are caused by the things that happen outside of us
  • Etc.

If you subscribe to any of these false beliefs, you probably believed in Santa Claus at some point in your childhood.  The only difference is that you eventually outgrew your false belief in Santa Claus.  Probably because at some point, you figured out that a 300 pound guy was not getting down your chimney alive, assuming you had a chimney, and especially not with that spanking new bicycle he supposedly brought you!

It’s not so obvious, on the other hand, that everything you’ve been taught to believe about stress is equally false.  You don’t have ten-year-olds coming up to you in the playground, making fun of you for still believing in the myth of stress. You don’t have the burden of trying to explain to others how it’s realistically possible for one person to get all around the world and visit every kid, just with just one sleigh and a pack of reindeer.

The Myth Of Stress Is Much More Difficult To Overcome

No, the myth of stress is much more subtle and much more stealth in its destructiveness.  And there’s not going to be some loving parental figure or peer group to take you aside and say “listen kid, you’re old enough to understand this now–all this talk about stress existing, and that it’s inevitable, and that the best you can ever hope to do is learn to manage it —well, this has all been a lie.”

Nope.  Not going to happen.  If you’re going to outgrow your mistaken beliefs about stress, you’re going to have to do this on your own.  You’re going to have to do the corrective thinking yourself, once you’ve found someone who can offer you a more realistic perspective. 

And trust me, when you finally do  get down to the root truths about stress, you’re thinking will become so divergent from your family and friends, that they too will probably laugh at you for daring to challenge the socially sanctioned belief system about stress that’s so widespread.

Just like we would laugh at grown ups today, should they inform us they still believe in the myth of Santa Claus.

Here’s a link to my free holiday stress relief e-book on Facebook.






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