The most wonderful time of the year is often the most stressful time. Woodside students and staff members shared their experiences with annual holiday stress and the best ways to cope.
An increase in stress during the holiday season is not unusual due to the common pressures of gift spending, cooking, decorating, and creating a magical holiday experience for family members. According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, 38 percent of people said their stress level increases during the holidays. Another survey by the Principal Financial Group found that more than 53 percent of people feel financially stressed by holiday spending, even though more than half of the 1,000 respondents had created spending budgets.
“The idea of gift-giving at Christmas time among religious and secular Christian communities got completely blown out of proportion by the business community,” said Molly Nixon, a bilingual resource specialist at Woodside. “Consumerism drives this so-called holiday stress.”
Nixon explained that in Mexico, the holiday season is more focused on get-togethers, parties, food preparations, and attending church than the pressures of gift-giving.
“The only stress involved is pulling together food for the party,” said Nixon. “Otherwise, it is a de-stressor and presents the opportunity to relax and spend time with people.”
According to the American Psychological Association, people who are lower middle income ($30,000-$50,000 household income) are more likely to report an increase in stress during the holidays. This group tends to carry the weight of stress from work, the commercialism of the holiday season, and time pressure to get everything done for the holidays.
“I think it’s important to focus on what really matters to you,” said Laura Perdikomatis, the Physical Education Department Chairperson and a teacher at Woodside. “For me, time with family is precious, so I try to give experiences to my family instead of gifts.”
Perdikomatis feels that the experiences she gives are the best gifts. This allows her to not only spend less money but to also spend more time with family.
“I have taken my nieces ice skating for the past 10 years,” said Perdikomatis. “The number of cousins that can make it each year can vary as they have gone off to college and life, but it’s always a fun time and I think better than a Target gift card, for example.”
Another way to cope with holiday stress is to create time for yourself.
“I try to get out into nature to deal with the stress of American consumerism,” said David Edel, a special education teacher at Woodside.
Wendy Porter, one of the Administrative Vice Principals at Woodside, copes by preparing gradually and making time for herself to relax in the midst of the holiday frenzy.
“I try to be in the moment with people, do a little preparation each day, and carve out some time for myself in all of the chaos,” said Porter.
Many feel the pressure of time during the holidays. According to the American Psychological Association, 69 percent of women and 63 percent of men feel holiday stress due to a lack of time to get everything done.
“[There’s] too much to do with too little time to do it!” said Barry Woodruff, a drama teacher at Woodside. “I would say the holidays require good time management skills.”
Woodruff copes by enjoying the holiday surroundings and finding time for himself in order to recharge.
“Personally, I try to enjoy all the sights and sounds of the holidays as much as possible and I also try to find quiet time in the midst of chaos,” Woodruff explained.
Students have also been feeling holiday stress, and finals week makes this stress even worse.
“I think holidays are stressful because of finals,” said Park Fabian, a Woodside junior. “I relax and make sure my grades are up, so I don’t have worry too much about dropping my grades.”
Another student expressed stress over shopping, traffic, and the holiday rush.
“Because there’s a lot of shopping to do… it’s just very overwhelming in general,” said Esmeralda Rosales, a Woodside senior. “When you’re trying to get everybody for dinner or everybody for a family activity, like watching a movie, that’s stressful.”
Perhaps the most common stress of the holiday season is the expectation for family members to create the perfect holiday experience for their loved ones.
“I think the cause of a lot of holiday stress is the anticipation and expectation for fun and magic,” said Porter. “If only it were that effortless. Instead, it takes a lot of stamina and patience.”
Perdikomatis also felt that expectations are the root of holiday stress.
“I think what causes holiday stress [are] unrealistic expectations,” said Perdikomatis. “We see images from the past or current media portrayals of the perfect holiday meal, card, tree, or party when in reality, it takes a lot of time and effort to create these seemingly perfect scenarios.”
Sarah Lefort, a Ceramics teacher and the Art Department Chairperson at Woodside, recommends taking a step back and focusing on what matters to you and the true purpose of the holiday you celebrate.
“I love the holiday season because it is a time to be with family, to take a break from “real life,” and to celebrate whatever it is you celebrate,” said Lefort. “The holiday season means making an extra effort to do nice things for others, to come together in celebration, and to enjoy the moment.”