SIKESTON -- Is the idea of family get-togethers, your bank account balance and the holidays in general making you feel a bit strained this year?
You're not alone.
High expectations, family losses, finances and altered routines often contribute to holiday stress. But, there are ways to help prevent this anxiety.
One of the key ways is to keep perspective. "Someone once said, there is no stress in this world, just stressful thoughts," said T.J. Feeler, a licensed professional counselor in Sikeston. He recommended eliminating "should" thinking and accepting reality to help get through the holidays.
But for those who do experience stress, Kyle Schott, a counselor at Bootheel Counseling in Sikeston, said one of the most important things people can do is stay within their daily routine -- including exercise and eating patterns. "Holidays are out of routine compared to the rest of the year," he pointed out. Moderate eating, similar to daily routines, helps keep down anxiety about weight gain. Alcohol consumption can add to stress instead of helping people relax, Schott added.
The holidays are often a time that makes losses, such as death or divorce, more difficult. "It's ingrained in our psyche that Christmas time is for families, and a loved one's not there," Schott said.
But there's a way to help handle grief, which is individual to all, said Laura Wade, volunteer coordinator at Legacy Hospice in Sikeston. "You go through and pick out things that feel right to you," she said.
She suggested altering some traditions that are too painful. To remember a loved one, people can buy a poinsettia or place setting in their memory. Or to be less obvious, one could buy a dozen roses to keep in the corner, Wade said.
But whatever changes occur, communication is important. "Don't not mention it for fear of upsetting someone -- there will be tears and there will be sadness, but that's just natural grief," Wade said. "Explain 'I still love this person and I still miss this person. By changing it doesn't mean that I don't love them anymore, it's just too much for me to handle right now.'"
Divorces, or other family dysfunctions, are also more pronounced at this time of year, which is why strong family relationships are key, Schott said. But young children in this situation are usually OK. "Children are more resilient than adults," he said. "Usually they can deal with it better than we do as adults.
Schott also suggested keeping finances in check. "We never seem to be able to afford enough," he said. "But you certainly want to stay within your financial means, if not, it's going to come back and bite you next month."
Another key to keeping sane during the holidays is to just relax and keep everything in perspective. "If you're getting freaked out, you're probably the only one freaking out about what's going on," Schott said. "Nobody's really going to care if the meringue on the lemon pie doesn't taste right."