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Published: Sunday, 12/11/2011 - Updated: 2 years ago

Not so happy holi-daze

Extra obligations crank up stress levels

BY RONEISHA MULLEN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

BLADE ILLUSTRATION/WES BOOHER Enlarge

It's the most wonderful time of the year.

Or is it?

For many, the holiday season is filled with family fun and celebrations, but behind the joy and beauty of the holidays is a tremendous amount of stress, especially for women.

In today's world of two-earner and female-headed households, the average woman's plate is already brimming with more than a fair share of time-consuming responsibilities. The holiday season tends to come with a merry to-do list of its own and often includes additional shopping, cooking, cleaning, traveling, entertaining, and hosting.

And rather than feeling jolly, women are sometimes left burdened with the unwanted gifts of stress and depression.

"There are a lot of different stresses that can come up at this time of year," said Dr. Terry Gibbs, an obstetrician and gynecologist and director of the Mid-life Center for Women's Health in Sylvania. "Women take on a lot of extra around this time. In January, I hear a lot of women who come into the center and say 'Boy am I glad that's over with.'"

Mental health problems such as depression and physical ailments often peak during the winter holidays because of extra stress and tension. The extra pressure can exacerbate already existing conditions.

"Hospitals fill up at this time of year. A lot [medical professionals] believe its related to the depression this time of year can bring for some people," Dr. Gibbs said. "For mid-life women, it can really peak at the holiday time, because you have parents with issues and kids you're dealing with."

After tackling a Thanksgiving feast for more than a dozen people, Carol Bader is ready to cross Christmas off of her to-do list.

"I'm having a party for about 40 people," said Mrs. Bader, 63, of Toledo. "I do all the cooking, the cleaning, the shopping. Everything." Even though she's retired, Mrs. Bader said she sometimes feels stressed when it comes to her holiday responsibilities.

"It's hard," she said. "It's not as stressful as when I was working and raising kids, but it's still a lot."

Bonnie Rankin is more than happy she won't be hosting her family's Christmas celebration at her Bowling Green home this year.

"Me and my husband both come from large families, so the minimum for any get-together is 35 to 40 people," Mrs. Rankin said. "I'll help out where needed, but I'm glad it's not on me this time."

There are a number of ways for women to reduce stress during the holiday season, including planning ahead and delegating tasks.

"Don't take on more than you can handle and have as many people involved in preparation as possible," Dr. Gibbs said. "These are the kinds of things that help women most."

Rachel Morrow knows all too well the stresses and pressures of a working wife and mother. The mother of three has come up with her own techniques for reducing holiday stress.

"I just had 27 people over for a pre-Thanksgving celebration," said Mrs. Morrow, 36, of Toledo. "We hold one family celebration a week early. When you do it all on that day, you feel rushed and you don't get to spend time with people," Mrs. Morrow said. "As far as gifts, I shop online. It's not worth making yourself sick."

Tips on how to prevent holiday stress

Don't let the holidays become something you dread. Instead, take steps to prevent stress and depression that can descend during the holidays. ● Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends, and other activities. Make shopping lists.

● Delegate tasks. Ask family and friends to help with party prep and cleanup.

● Make a budget. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget.

● Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do.

Source: The Mayo Clinic

Contact RoNeisha Mullen at: rmullen@theblade.com or 419-724-6133.



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