The Biggest Killjoy to Your Holiday Celebrations: STRESS

coal stocking

3 ways to understand WHY & HOW stress fills your stocking with coal

 THEY SAY it’s the season for peace on Earth, generosity to those in need, focus on family, time off from work to reboot, home-cooked meals with friends and in-laws, and outpouring of love to all mankind. And of course, Big Boxes marketing and media alike start shunting these messages into our brains even before the last lame Halloween costume has been tucked away for next year. Painted in that rose-colored prescription, what’s not to LOVE about the holidays?

Picture perfect is a crock.

 Tell me if this line (or something like it) doesn’t ring a bell:

“Honey, would you please turn off the damn football game and hang the lights?! I ask you to do ONE thing during the holidays and you always take forever.”

Even if some of you don’t have a lovely wife who bugs you about the whole twinkling lights task, fifty bucks says someone nags you to attack some dreaded list of responsibilities during the holidays… and it snowballs into a festering bout that neither of you drop until you’re finally swigging champagne on NYE. Point being, year-end holidays can become a force-feeding of extra duties—shopping, cleaning, decorating, packing, prepping for company, cooking, blah, blah, blah.  And often these lead up to overspending, travel catastrophes, overeating, rerun parties, never getting enough real rest, cramming for end of year deadlines, putting up with that ONE obnoxious, know-it-all relative, and perhaps a small Christmas tree fire.

Maybe any other time of year you’d be a little more appeasing or less chapped about hanging the damn lights (or whatever)… but for many men, the holidays create a pressure cooker situation that starts around Thanksgiving and doesn’t end until they apologize for not becoming the perfect version of Bobby Flay meets Bobby Trendy meets Frank Sinatra and for over-celebrating when the team they don’t hate that much wins the Superbowl. We may say and do things for (what we think are) the right reasons; but confetti a few layers of seasonal stress over the whole scene and we end up saying and doing things in all the wrong ways. Certainly both genders are on the hook for it… but somehow men get the short end of the stick.

FYI: Men are STRESSED too

Go ahead and Google “holiday stress women men” and see what even the first few pages reveal. Beneath the countless regurgitated, idiotic Band-Aid therapy tips to counter seasonal anxiety—just focus on the good, try forgiving and dive into meditation—are pages of stats and stories of the pressures of high anticipations, Christmas shopping brawls, couple meltdowns, corporate party indiscretions, suicides and depressive acts of desperation.

Embarrassingly for the publishers of plenty of these articles—even the most recent ones—is the fact that some of the data repeatedly referenced are as old as 2006. But the worse crime is the emphasis on concern for women’s health and sanity over men’s, asserting that women face impossible guidelines and expectations to create the perfect holiday celebrations and top last year’s family experiences; thus, features from HuffPost to the CDC and every therapist and talk show in between create a case that women shoulder much more stress than men- downplaying the roles and responsibilities guys bear as well as overlooking the emotional roller coaster they experience.

Additionally, these incomplete articles shed little light on the stressors that work and career finances place on employees and CEOs alike; and this further skews the argument because there are still more men in the workforce than women, and, even during the holidays, career/job/income stress outweighs all other categories of pressure. All that said, I am not a huge fan of memorizing and tossing out statistics… because I can safely assume none of us enjoy being shuffled into a stack of nameless, faceless numbers; but I am not pitting men against women- suggesting you keep on with your procrastination, inauthentic one-sided apologies, and overfilling of your favorite highball glass. So let’s focus on real solutions- without the lame re-gifted “eat more veggies and try focusing on the power of giving” pacifiers.

3 ways to understand WHY & HOW stress fills your stocking with coal

 Amidst the smorgasbord of seasonal articles and other year-round research I do as a Performance Coach for businessmen, I ultimately see three blatant truths, gentlemen:

  • It’s YOUR holiday too, so you should do what YOU enjoy.
  • You’re not emotionless minion robots, so you should EXPRESS what’s on your mind.
  • It’s your responsibility to investigate the WHY behind what’s really taking the air out of your sails- holiday OR NOT.

To fulfill these though, you gotta do some of the heavy lifting—3 simple (though not entirely easy) strategies. But know they’re the gifts that will keep on giving throughout the year.

  1. Write down what you don’t enjoy doing and tell someone. I’ve heard from clients that, yes, the light-hanging things is a pain-in-the-ass. They hate doing it and will find everything else under the sun to distract themselves with BEFORE detangling a hot mess of a climbing a dodgy ladder and leaning precariously over a gutter or 15’ treetop. If you never tell your wife, in-law, brother or coworker what stresses you out and what you agonize over having to do (to take one for the team, again) then you’ll be stuck in the rut you’ve dug for yourself. They can’t read your mind- only react to your attitude and actions.  So, SPEAK UP about what you DON’T like and also what you DO LIKE. 
  1. Design a gameplan, delegate tasks, and stop procrastinating.  It’s amazing to see folks who live and die by strategy, spreadsheet and support… to shit-can it during this supersaturated window of time. The holidays layer on more agenda items, crowd us with even more traffic jams, and suffocate us with expectations that invariably gnaw at our nerves if we choose not to prepare. So huddle in, agree on a strategy of tasks and activities, and apply a little teamwork.
  1. Go to the damn doctor and get some bloodwork.  Want to know WHY you’re getting agitated more easily, unable to stay asleep, arguing nonstop with your sweetheart, losing your libido, or struggling to push yourself through a tough workout or workday?  Your body has got the answers, because your physiology dictates your psychology—and vice versa. Do the simple math: headache = irritability; back pain = loss of confidence; loss of holiday bonus = chest pains. I know that going to the doctor is not on any guy’s holiday list, let alone To Do List any other time of year, but grow up, suck it up, and get some labs done. Check the levels of components like testosterone, DHEA, Vitamin D, blood count, iron, thyroid function, even heavy metals that might be hanging out in your bloodstream. Your own specific evidence of things off-kilter will gift you with relief in seeing that you’re not going crazy and confidence that some tweaks in taking care of your physical health will reduce your mental stress in spades.

Happ-ier Holidays mean being proactive

Getting a handle on how you can better thrive through the season might help you to smooth things out for future holidays… you know, the ones you dream about—with more football games and fewer musical specials; more NORMAL food, less fancy unidentifiable little bites; more quiet time and simple gatherings, and fewer over-hyped, overdressed affairs with strangers.

If you still need a hand and a solid wingman, give me a shout. Cheers and Happy Holidays, boys.  ~KD


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