British Columbia

Women feel more stress during holidays, and experts say it might come from within

A Victoria dietitian and life coach say women need to stop putting everyone else's needs before their own during the holidays.

'My friends aren’t judging me ... they just want to get together and have a good time'

Two experts say women feel holiday stress more than men. Why is that? (RonTech3000/Shutterstock)

Everyone feels the stress at holiday time, but two experts in Victoria say women feel it more.

Life coach Erin Acton and registered dietitian Kristen Yarker say many women feel too much stress on themselves to be "perfect" this time of year.

"Women will often take on additional things," Acton told All Points West host Robyn Burns. "'I must throw the perfect dinner party! The tree must be exquisite!' Right? All of those really high expectations women can sometimes really set for themselves."

Yarker says she was once falling into those traps — "And might have thrown a bag of dry rice into the pantry and it splattered everywhere" — but then she started looking at why she was feeling that pressure.

"My friends aren't judging me on everything being perfect. They just want to get together and have a good time," she said.

Enjoy food you eat and eat food you enjoy

Yarker says many of the women she counsels as a dietitian have a problem with putting people around them first and themselves last.

That can have real consequences, she says.

"Skipping meals, running on nothing but adrenaline and caffeine," she said. "We're going to get overwhelmed when we're like that, so putting ourselves back on our to-do lists and doing some really simple things with eating can help you stay calmer and actually be more productive and get more done."

Yarker says one thing women can do is be mindful of when they need to eat. That could mean, if you plan on staying at the mall all day, bring a snack like a granola bar to eat.

And there's a way to balance healthy habits with tasty treats during the holidays, she says.

Life coach Erin Acton (right) and registered dietitian Kristen Yarker say many women simply put too much stress on themselves to be “perfect” this time of year. (Kirstie Hudson/CBC)

"Pick and choose what will give you the most pleasure and really tune in when you eat that," she said.

"By tuning in and enjoying that you might eat one or two cookies versus, you buy it and you're driving and you're shoving cookies in your face and you don't even notice it. And that's how you end up eating 10.

"If you're not getting pleasure out of them, then they really were a waste."

It's OK to say 'no'

Time is precious this time of year, and many women will be asked to commit to many events and parties.

That doesn't mean you have to say "no" to the important people in your life, Acton says, but just don't overcommit.

"Saying 'no' can be a really great way of saying 'yes' to themselves," she said. "[There are] a little more calm, little more 'zen' moments throughout the holidays, versus, say, running from event to event to event."

Yarker agrees and says, when making plans, it's important to decide who in your life needs to be committed to during the holidays and who you can make arrangements for in January.

"Can we book another day to go for a walk together or have tea together at another time?" she said. "A lot of people are ready to do that instead. They're often doing it because they feel the pressure to have an open house and have people over and do all that too.

"So it can often be a gift to others to say 'no.'"

With files from CBC Radio One's All Points West

To hear the full interview, click the audio labelled: Women feel more stress during holidays, but experts say it might come from within