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  • Managing the pressure of gift-giving during the holidays


    The holidays can be a stressful time for many people. We often want to provide our family and friends gifts that they will love and appreciate. However, we are often busy with dealing with the stressors of everyday life and are not always sure if the gifts we are considering will miss the mark. The American Psychological Association (APA) has provided a few helpful tips on how to deal with the pressure of gift-giving. In this article, we will review some of the tips by APA and add cognitive-behavioral insights.

    Make a list, (don’t check it twice!) The APA suggests making a holiday gift-giving list. Often times, we spend much of our time worrying that we are forgetting someone important and mentally reviewing our obligations and errands. However, taking a moment to either write a holiday gift-giving list on paper or in our phone is a simple way to ensure we don’t forget our most important gift our loved ones. Indicate on your list the gifts that our of highest priority, as you might not be able to complete everything. As you check items of your list, there is no need to continue mentally reviewing the possible gifts for the loved one in question.

    Set realistic expectations. The APA reminds us that it’s important to not put pressure on ourselves to make this holiday season the “best ever.” Instead, the APA suggests that we set realistic expectations and begin taking small concrete steps toward achieving our holiday goals. In cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), we are aware of unhelpful thinking styles such as “all or nothing” thinking. In all or nothing thinking, we fall into the trap of thinking that something is either completely “good” if it meets all our expectations, or it is completely “bad.” However, it is important to remember that the truth lies somewhere in the middle. For example, if we prepare a delicious holiday meal and forget to buy or prepare pumpkin pie is the entire day ruined? Can you still enjoy the rest of the food? Can anyone go to the grocery store or bakery? If the grocery store or bakery are closed, can anyone go buy donuts? Does this situation create an experience that people can have fun laughing about?

    Practice self-care. The APA suggests that we take time to eat healthy, exercise, and spend time doing enjoyable activities even when life gets hectic during the holidays. It can be easy to get swept away by our holiday obligations. However, continuing to take care of ourselves will make it easier to deal with the challenges and stress we will invariably face. In CBT, we often emphasize the importance of positive behavior change. Therefore, it can be helpful to be aware of the ways we let our self-care fall to the wayside and take small concrete steps address it. For example, we may not have time to go to the gym if our schedule is filled with family obligations. However, we can still find time for a brisk 15 minute walk in our neighborhood. It may not be as rigorous as a workout at the gym, but our health is not all or nothing.

    There is often  no shortage of stress during the holidays. Following the suggestions listed here and the other suggestions by APA on dealing with gift-giving pressure can make your holidays more enjoyable. For more information on how CBT can help manage stress during the holidays click here for a free phone consultation.

    Dr. Jason von Stietz specializes in Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Sport/Performance Psychology in Torrance, CA. He works in the Torrance office and is available for a free initial phone consultation. Dr. von Stietz works with individuals from Long Beach, the greater Los Angeles area, and the South Bay including Palos Verdes, Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, and El Segundo.