A new study has found that people experience holiday stress due to the unrealistic expectations that they have.
The study conducted by a Kansas State University expert on family relationships found that people feel like failures when they are not able to meet their expectations.
"People often feel that they have to match or surpass the holiday experiences of previous years; if we don't meet those expectations, we feel like failures," said Tony Jurich, K-State professor of family studies and human services.
Most people try to make it a perfect holiday or try to re-create positive holiday memories, and in the process of doing so, they end up losing some of the holiday enjoyment.
"It's like what Ralphie says in 'A Christmas Story' when he finally gets the Red Rider BB gun. He says, 'It's the best present ever and the best present I'll ever get,'" Jurich said.
"Sometimes people have moments like this and they think, 'this was the best moment ever and I'm going to try to duplicate it every year,' but some experiences cannot be duplicated," he added.
Jurich says that these unreal expectations are what cause people to view themselves as failures.
"In the first case -- where people are trying to meet these unreal expectations -- you get a lot of people with holiday stress and you can tell it's building up," Jurich said.
"Maybe someone will say 'let's try this' or 'this sounds like fun,' but for the person planning the holiday events it seems like another burden thrown on their back and they get even more stressed out," he added.
According to him, the easiest way to get out of the holiday stress is to simplify.
"First, you need to look at your expectations and ask if they reasonable expectations; are they even your expectations?" Jurich said.
"Instead of trying to do 15 different things and having them not turn out well, you may want to just focus on two or three things that you can accomplish well," he added.
His advise is that, instead of following with a family holiday tradition, one should try to create a new tradition, one that will work out with the current circumstances.
"This is hard to do because sometimes it may sound like you're being disloyal to family members," Jurich said.
"You may want to include aspects of previous rituals, but without having that ritual dominate or without feeling like the holiday would be ruined if you don't do things exactly as you had in the past," he said.
In the event that one wants to change a family tradition, one should always consult with the other members of the family before the holiday, so as to avoid any unwanted hassles.
Or, if a relative does something that makes you uncomfortable, then it's best to broach the subject ahead of time. This approach will save you stress and prepare the other family members for any changes.
"Let people know ahead of time. If you leave something in the ethereal mist of holidaydom and you're not sure how people will react to a change, then you are left absorbing anxiety about whether or not things will go over well," Jurich said.
"Or, in the case of someone doing something that makes people uncomfortable, go to the person and address the problem. Work with them on something that will work for both people. Find a compromise," he said.
As with every holiday, everyone has different expectations, and some people may not have the same expected feelings. People sometimes have unpleasant memories of a holiday, and in such cases it is best to try to reclaim the holiday.
"When people have had negative experiences that they associate with a holiday, they can feel like an outsider looking in when they witness other people getting excited for the holiday," he said.
Doing something to create a different, positive memory can be therapeutic and enough to help a person reclaim the holiday, Jurich concluded.