Fact: Holiday stress is disproportionately felt by women.
Why? Because women do the holiday “heavy lifting.” According to research by the American Psychological Association (APA), women shoulder the majority of the family burden for shopping and holiday celebrations (think cooking and cleaning), and they feel particular stress from the time crunch of getting it all done.
Many women during the holidays put stress management practices, such as daily meditation, yoga or walks, on hold while cramming too much into too little and turning to comfort foods as a way to cope. This leads to arthritis flares, increased symptoms of autoimmune disorders, such as fatigue and chronic pain, increased anxiety and depression and for some, weight gain.
Here’s how holiday stress impacts women, according to the APA study:
- 44% of women report that their stress increases during the holidays
- 69% of women feel stress from a lack of money
- 51% of women feel pressure to give or get gifts
- 69% of women feel stress from a lack of time
- 41% of men strongly agree that they feel like they can relax during the holidays while only 27% of women feel this way
- 41% of women eat for comfort during the holidays
- Women are twice as likely to report that they cook, shop for food, and clean.
Many women also struggle with the stress created by the double shift of work and family of responsibilities. The worries of weight gain, the stress of so many social commitments (another holiday party?), family, friends, and the ever-shrinking bank account can all build up to feel like one giant pressure cooker. After all, food is always around, and with all the running around to get stuff done women will drop their fitness routines in order to just sit for a while.
“Women in particular need to be mindful that their responsibilities may have more stressful consequences than they realize, and that they are reacting to the stress in unhealthful ways, like eating and not permitting themselves to relax,” according to the APA.
Ladies, it’s time to bring down the holiday stress level several notches!
10 Ways To Beat Holiday Stress & Create a Healthier, Happier Holiday:
- Take a daily walk with no phone, no agenda. Unplug from the world. Twenty minutes every morning makes a huge difference in how you face the day.
- Stick to your routine and schedule your priorities first. Do you usually workout on Monday, Wednesday and Friday? Go to your book club on Thursday evenings? Do something special on Friday nights? Go! Put these on your calendar in pen!
- Cut down on emotional eating. Identify exactly what you’re feeling before you take the first bite. Are you hungry? thirsty? tired? stressed? sad? happy? Give it a name, and then choose to eat it. Choose each bite. It takes the “power” away from the food.
- Say “No.” We go overboard to please others. Accept the commitments you want. Period.
- Ask for help and delegate. Accustomed to doing it all? Most of the people in your life are accustomed to you doing it all too, and most likely, they don’t realize you need help. They aren’t mind readers. Ask for help, and be ready to assign a task.
- Create a nightly tranquil self-care routine rather than plopping in front of the television. Consider taking a hot bath, and surround yourself with fragrant candles and your favorite music. You might even “unplug” from all electronics. Gasp, I know!
- Simplify — ask yourself, “How can I make this easier?”
- Downsize meals — consider less dishes, or host a community meal where everyone brings their favorite dish. This creates inclusion and connectedness.
- Reduce gifting — Set boundaries and limits early, and stick to them. Decide for whom you are buying presents, and decide on a quantity. When we give with overabundance to the people in our lives we desensitize them to the meaning of the gifts.
- Simplify plans with close friends — Save the holiday get-together for after New Year’s. For now, get together for coffee as a respite from the holiday flurry.
In essence, what all of this means is slow down, enjoy the sights and sounds of the holidays, and most of all fill your holiday with joy, love, gratitude and merriment. There’s much to celebrate — including a less-stressed you!
Resource: Greenberg, Quinlin & Rosner, 2006. Holiday Stress Report. American Psychological Association.
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Meet Melissa: Melissa Rapoport is the Manager of Health Coaching and Lifestyle Programming at Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, NY. She combines her graduate work in Developmental Psychology with her education in nutrition, health and coaching to create highly individualized programs that result in lifetime change. A contributing author to three international bestselling books, Melissa’s greatest joy is her relationship with her two daughters.