Holiday Stress: What Did You Expect?

by Doc Orman, M.D.

During the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons (including New Years), expectations can be a huge source of stress for many people.  There are different types of expectations that can become problematic, some of which are placed upon us externally, while others have their origins internally.

External, Social Expectations

Regarding externally-generated expectations, these are largely created by Madison Avenue and the mass media.  They often come from powerful images of happy families, joyous celebrations, peace, love, and harmony.  They can also come from strong family traditions, where certain expectations have been set in stone, sometimes for generations.

The problem here is that the holidays may not always be a joyful time for everyone.  Some years, you may not feel much like celebrating or being in a party mood all the time.

Also, if you are alone, or if you have recently become separated or gone through a divorce, these social expectations of happy family life and harmonious interactions might be difficult for you to live up to.

Personal Expectations

In addition to the many unrealistic social expectations that are flying around during this time of year, you’ll need to also be on guard against your own personal, internal expectations.

Often, each of us may have very deep-seated expectations about how we should feel, or how others should behave, during the holidays, or what are appropriate ways to celebrate (and what are not), and even what is the “right” way to decorate your tree, if indeed you decide to have one.

We can also have expectations about how husbands or wives should behave during the holidays, expectations about who’s going to be responsible for performing certain tasks or making certain arrangements, expectations about how much children should or shouldn’t be involved, etc.

Be on the lookout as well for how much you own personal expectations might be inappropriately influenced by outside, social pressures.  Sometimes, people can believe something is seriously wrong with them if they don’t feel particularly merry, or if they are not in a celebratory mood during the holidays.  In truth, it’s absolutely fine to feel any way you want during the holidays.  And nobody (including yourself) should make you feel “bad” or “wrong” just because you may not have the same feelings as the crowd, or just because your life does not match the idyllic images portrayed by the media.

Anger And Frustration Often Have Their Roots In Hidden Expectations

If you’re starting to feel angry, frustrated, irritable, or otherwise upset during the holidays, be suspicious that hidden expectations might be playing a role.

Ask yourself:

  • “Do I have any internal expectations about how people should behave during the holidays that may not be getting fulfilled?” or,
  • “Do I have any big ‘shoulds’ or ‘shouldn’ts’ that others appear to be violating?”

Take a quick inventory of these types of hidden expectations and then ask yourself:

  • “Do I really have the right to assume/demand that everyone else will live up to my personal expectations?” (Guess what the answer is most of the time.)

Also, you can download a free copy of my Holiday Stress Relief E-book  (no email required) by clicking on the cover image below:

Have A Stress Free Holiday Season

 

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Robbie November 22, 2011 at 12:07 PM

Unparalleled accuracy, unequivocal clarity, and undeinable importance!

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