Are the approaching holidays a time of anticipation or anxiety?
Next week, Sunday through Nov. 24, marks the observance of National Families Week. During the week, many families will gather Thursday to celebrate Thanksgiving.
But the Norman Rockwell image of eager family members gathered for a feast and fellowship in a cozy environment does not always reflect reality.
For people who associate the holidays with tension rather than tranquility, the Building Strong Families program offers some encouraging words.
The program is part of the University of Missouri Extension and is coordinated by Lucy Schrader.
"The holidays are a high-stress time," Schrader said, "due to more obligations on the calendar, the blending of cultures or families who may not get along, overwhelming financial stress and high expectations for traditions."
The holiday to-do list may include: shop for gifts, prepare a covered dish, host a gathering, purchase a new outfit, attend a party, clean the house for company, travel, wrap presents, buy groceries and more.
How can family members manage stress? Schrader offers the following recommendations:
• Try to celebrate one good thing each day, whether being ready to leave on time or sharing daily events.
• Discuss changes in schedules or possible conflicts that may affect upcoming events.
• Be respectful and kind to family members who may be struggling with changes or other circumstances.
• Be realistic about what to prioritize and what can be skipped or postponed.
Stress, tension and anxiety often are byproducts of feeling overwhelmed.
And feeling overwhelmed is a natural reaction when schedules overflow, responsibilities multiply and expectations mount.
Patience and a positive attitude may be easier said than done, but they invite holiday merriment rather than misery.