In the years during which women rarely worked outside of the home, they did most if not all of the housework, cooking and childcare. These days, although both men and women typically work full-time jobs outside the home, women still do the majority of housekeeping, meal preparation and looking after the children.
This has been described as the “second shift” of work for which many women are responsible. According to Pew Research, married mothers still spend an average of eight more hours per week than married fathers doing housework, and six more hours per week looking after the children.
Women Face Extra Demands During This Season
This can be stressful under normal circumstances, and the holiday season can increase a woman’s workload and stress-load significantly. Children who are normally at school for seven hours a day are enjoying weeks of blissful (for them) holidays. There are special meals to prepare. There are holiday parties to plan or contribute to. There are presents to buy for family, friends and coworkers. Women feel pressured to keep up beloved family traditions and to make the season as magical as possible, no matter what it takes.
Any situation that brings high stress can make us particularly vulnerable to the habits that we struggle with the most. For some, it might be overeating (a major temptation in this season of treats). For others, it might be compulsive shopping (also a temptation in this consumer-baiting time of year). The stress of the holiday season may also lead some women to engage in heavier and more frequent drinking, which has the potential to result in an alcohol use disorder.
Women Drink More Than They Used To, and Stress Plays a Part
Studies have found that women are drinking significantly more alcohol than they did as recently as 10 years ago. Stress is the reason that many women report drinking—stress from work, from school, from personal relationships and from childcare. The holiday season can put the demands from many of these obligations into overdrive—somehow we are supposed to have special time for everyone during this busy time of year. This means that women who rarely drink are more likely to up their drinking for the season, and that people who regularly drink are more likely to drink heavily for a time.
Mental Health Can Suffer From Holiday Stress
The temptation to engage in potentially destructive habits is not the only worry for women during the holiday season. Even without concerns about over-drinking, over-buying, overeating and the like, holiday stress can take a toll on mental health.
Women are more prone to depression and anxiety, as well as a number of other mental health disorders. The holiday season is supposedly the season of joy, but many people who are prone to depression and anxiety find that the holidays trigger symptoms of these disorders.
It may be holiday parties triggering social anxiety disorder or dysfunctional family reunions aggravating symptoms of depression. All of the demands of the season may leave you feeling tired and emotionally spent and therefore more vulnerable to psychological distress. It may even be the weather—as much as the songs of the season glorify a white Christmas, the short days and severe weather that December brings to many parts of the world can drag down your mood.
If you are a woman who finds the holiday season getting you down, you are certainly not alone. During the time of year when you may be under internal and external pressure to take care of everyone and everything, don’t forget to take care of yourself.