Holiday season is upon us. That means Hanukkah dradles in shop windows; 10 million emails about sales we CAN'T MISS; and Christmas carols everywhere. It also means, for some of us, time with family and maybe even some time off from work. It's a time of reflection, consumerism, connecting with family, religion, gift-giving, decorations, cooking... No wonder so many of us get stressed around the holidays!
There's no question about it: Holiday stress is very real. In fact, one survey from natural health site Remedy Review of 1,000 people found that 66 percent experienced holiday stress, with money coming in the number one stress (42 percent) followed by family (20.4 percent) and travel (14.4 percent). And when they broke it down by gender, they found women were even more likely to get stressed around the holidays than men: 71.5 percent to 60.3 percent respectively.
Why are women more stressed than men? The survey didn't cover that question, but here are a couple of theories. Our society expects women to perform the majority of emotional labor in personal relationships — and the majority of cooking and housework at home. And many women are also balancing work and family. That means that moms are expected not only to decorate the tree, but also buy the presents. Daughters are expected not only to clean the guest room, but also make sure Uncle Joe doesn't get too drunk and say anything offensive this year. Sisters are asked to help cook, and then to help clean. And, of course, we're supposed to make all of this look effortless.
According to self-care coach Carley Schweet, learning to say no might be the key in dealing with holiday-related stress. "As a self-care coach, one of the biggest stressors I'm seeing around the holidays among women right now is a lack of boundaries," she tells Bustle. "This time of year, it's so easy to get caught up in the mindset that we have to do it all — see every family member, attend every holiday party, meet work deadlines etc. — that we often forget how relaxed and joyous this time of year can be. Learning to say no or politely decline invitations might just help you save your sanity this holiday season."
So, yeah, there's a gender imbalance when it comes to holiday stress. And to shine a little twinkle light on what many women go through at holiday season, I decided to ask around. What stresses you the most about the holidays? Here's what 13 women had to say.
1. Sara, 45
"The one thing that stresses me out at the holidays is dealing with family, both my own and in-laws. There are great family members on both sides, and there are not-great family members on his. For me, there's the possibility of ticking off an aunt by supporting my daughter's personal boundaries and dodging barbs from my in-laws. I can do these things just fine and can hold my own in any discussion; it's just the fact I have to that adds stress."
2. Kerry, 35
"The stress that I feel during the holidays doesn't have anything to do with shopping, decorating, or hosting: it is related to seasonal depression. Growing up, I watched one of my loved ones struggle with the holiday season (despite it being her favorite time of year) because of how much it made her grieve the loss of her parents. Virtually my whole life, then, Christmas has been marked by an acute knowledge of how heavy sadness is. Not only that, every holiday season, I also brace myself for the pending losses that I know will make me grieve during the holidays myself.
While this may not seem like stress, it is. Stress to me is, in part, feeling the pressure of not having enough time to do everything we need or want to do. The stressor of the holidays for me is that the entire season reminds me of how little time we all have."
4. Alex, 34
"The one thing that stresses me out during the holidays is having to plan my travel to see my family. I live in Seattle and all of my family lives in California. Sometimes I have to skip holidays because it is expensive to go home or I need to stay back and work. Flights from Seattle can be expensive and buying gifts on top of holiday travel stresses my finances out even more. I end up spending a lot to go home for a few days. I also do not care for gift giving, so feeling obligated to buy gifts is a stressor. I have made efforts to let people know that I will not be participating in gift exchanges so that I can save money, time and not be stressed."
5. Crystyl, 37
"[W]orkplace gifts always seem to be stressful for me, deciding what to give, who you give to and when/how to give the gift producing a bit of anxiety."
6. Jordan, 25
"[I] operate a boutique (read: one woman) PR consulting firm. Because of that, for me the most stressful part of the holidays is striking a balance between work and family. Most people assume that those that work for themselves have all the time in the world and can make their hours whatever they choose — which is only partially true. In reality, freelancers and entrepreneurs can often (and easily) slip into a habit of working much more than 40 hours a week if we're not careful. The most stressful thing for me is turning myself off so that I don't end up missing the moments that truly matter during the holidays."
7. Lily, 35
“I feel like we women still bear the brunt of social expectations in terms of ‘making the holidays happen’. We’re expected to decorate the house, host parties, and get gifts for family and friends, all while looking fabulous and well put together. Like it’s all easy and effortless when, in reality, the strain adds up to make for what can be the most stressful time of the year."
8. Mary, 29
"I always get stressed out by how busy and distracted I am around the holidays — with work, with holiday shopping, parties, etc. I feel stressed when I think about all the things I'm doing instead of what I really want to be doing, which is spending time with my family and relaxing."
9. Jane, 32
"My mom is undiagnosed bipolar so holiday stress revolves around trying NOT to lose my mind about that, while hosting 15+ people and warning them that my mother is out of her mind."
10. Genya, 32
"I’m an extrovert with anxiety and ADD. My partner’s family is all introverts. I spend the holidays massively distracted by my rejection sensitivity and concerns that I forgot someone on my gift list, didn’t spend enough on someone who spent more on me, and feeling hugely guilty for being so far away from my bio family."
11. Polly, 30
"The stress of having to work through Thanksgiving as a consumer products startup plus the stress of my family guilting me for having to work while home for the holidays. If I had a baby I had to take care of on Thanksgiving no one would bat an eye of needing to duck out to change a poopy diaper. But customer service on Black Friday? Heavens!!! My priorities must be misplaced!"
12. Lauren, 29
"Managing quality time with all of my core people. Between my bio family, my non-bio family and then my friends, finding sufficient time to spend with everyone can be taxing and leave me feeling riddled with guilt — especially as someone who identifies as a sensitive introvert."
13. Dinah, 34
"I'm hosting for the first time and other people will be cooking in my kitchen. I'm a bit of a control freak. ::deep breaths:: Also, some of my family is more strict about [keeping kosher] than we are so this will be complex to get all the diet restrictions and allergies managed appropriately."
Now might be a good time to practice some yoga breathing? And also remember: You don't have to do all of the things, all by yourself, all of the time. Recruit friends and family to help, because the holidays shouldn't fall all on women's shoulders.