December 5, 1998 | By: Haven Miller

The image is a familiar one - a happy family opening gifts, eating, laughing, and singing together in perfect bliss. It's the ideal holiday scene, one that's perpetuated in the media.

The trouble is, it's a scene that's hard to duplicate in our real-life holiday experience.

For many of us, the images in our minds this time of year are ones of love, blissful togetherness, and harmony. But we also put pressure on ourselves to cook dinners, buy gifts, mail cards, and entertain guests.

"Holidays are often busy and stressful times," said Gary Hansen, Extension sociologist in the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. "It's also stressful when the reality of the holidays does not live up the ideal. This can detract from our ability to have enjoyable and memorable holiday experiences."

Hansen said holiday stress is a real phenomenon. Overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of the occasion, we often get tired and fail to make the most of our time spent with family and friends. He said the key to enjoying the holiday season is to develop realistic expectations.

"Being realistic is not being cynical," he said. "It's a way for you to avoid unnecessary disappointment. You and your family are more likely to enjoy your holiday experiences if you don't try to compare them to an unattainable ideal."

Planning is also important to avoiding stress. Careful advance planning allows us adequate time to complete tasks without fatigue. We should also stay flexible, and be prepared to refuse requests that don't fit our plans.

"We shouldn't push ourselves to do too much," said Hansen. "When the celebration is over we still want to have some energy left for the things we need to do."

Hansen said when the holidays are over we should get plenty of rest and exercise, continue our usual hobbies and interests, and make plans for a fun activity so we'll have something to look forward to.


Writer: Haven Miller
(606) 257-3784

Source: Gary Hansen
(606) 257-7586