Holiday Stress: Expecting Others To Behave As You Wish

by Doc Orman, M.D.

In an earlier post on the role that expectations can play as hidden causes of holiday stress, I briefly touched upon our expectation that people should behave as we might like or wish them to behave.  This is a very common cause of stress throughout the year, but it gets elevated to even greater proportions during the Holiday Season.

A Perfect Storm

Why does this expectation become more prominent during the holidays?  Well, it’s because a number of factors come together, all at the same time, to make this very likely.  Here are just some of the factors that bring out this hidden cause:

  • Many more people to interact with, and have expectations about, during the holidays
  • Many more interactions to have with all these additional people
  • More social expectations about how people should behave during the holidays, that are driven by the media, by advertising influences, and by other generally accepted social norms
  • More personal expectations about how you’ve been conditioned to believe  people should behave during the holidays
  • Greater likelihood that your personal expectations might differ from the personal expectations others might have developed, over the years, about how people, including themselves, should behave during the holidays.

You see, there’s a type of “perfect storm” resulting from multiple factors all coming together to make us more prone to having expectations about others, and to become easily stressed (i.e. frustrated, annoyed, angered, disappointed, etc.) when other people don’t behave exactly as we desire.

Consider This As An Extra Gift!

We all look forward to receiving gifts during the Holiday Season.  Well, did you ever consider thinking of this increased tendency to get stressed by how others behave as a type of additional holiday gift? 

Think about all the great opportunities you will have to practice letting go of this common automatic tendency.  Think of all the many people who are likely to drive you “crazy” during the holidays, from the inconsiderate motorists, to the surly checkout person at your local Walmart, to your distant relatives whom you only see on special occasions, to your own dearest, most beloved immediate family members.

What a great gift this can be to practice your ability to deal with this common hidden cause of stress.  Even better, the more practiced and adept you get at quickly recognizing and then letting go of this common hidden cause, the less stress you will have during the rest of the year as well!

So keep this thought in mind as you go about your routine holiday chores. And also remember that every time you let go of your own personal expectations, and grant others the freedom to act as they may choose (even when this differs from your personal preference) you are giving them a gift as well.

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

Here’s a link to some additional information on how to cope with holiday stress from







{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Howdy November 22, 2011 at 9:53 PM

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