Many Americans already agree that the holiday season can be stressful.
Adding a shift to Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas or New Year’s Day can adversely affect a person’s mental state, experts say.
Millions of Americans will have to work during these holidays this year. A 2014 poll by Allstate and the National Journal estimated that a quarter of the American population had to work at least one day on Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s Day.
In addition to any winter stress someone may already be feeling, negative thoughts brought on by work during the holidays can put a damper on what is built as a generally happy and festive time of year.
“There’s this certain image that you have of a vacation that’s reinforced on TV and everywhere you go, that it’s the time to be with your spouse or your family or your children,” said Dr Lata McGinn, Professor of Psychology at Yeshiva University. and co-founder of Cognitive and Behavioral Consultants.
“And if you’re not one of them…then it can bring up feelings of hopelessness and loneliness in people.”
The end of the year can already be a stressful time for some. According to a 2006 American Psychological Association study, about 38% of people said their stress increased during the holidays, compared to 8% who said it decreased.
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For someone who likes to celebrate the holidays, the disparity between being glued to a computer screen or stuck at a workplace while others spend time with loved ones goes back to a term commonly studied in business circles. , political and social.
“It’s a feeling of deprivation,” McGinn said.
Relative deprivation – the perception that a person is in a less desirable position or receives worse treatment than others in their situation – has been associated with feelings of anger and resentment.
The subject has been widely studied in the context of social movements. The research sought to examine the link between relative deprivation and various pressures for civil rights, gay rights and feminism. But McGinn argues it can be applied here as well.
For someone struggling to work on a holiday they were hoping to celebrate, it can be easy for them to compare their situation with friends, family, or co-workers who seem to be having a good time.
“You feel like everyone is having fun and I’m the only one stuck here,” McGinn told USA TODAY.
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The “psychological contract”
Overall, not getting enough time off from work can contribute to larger issues of work-life imbalance and burnout, which can have mental, physical, and professional consequences.
Burnout can also increase the risk of health problems such as coronary heart disease, according to a 2017 peer-reviewed study.
So-called “workaholism” can also have negative impacts on an individual’s personal life, says Malissa Clark, associate professor of industrial and organizational psychology at the University of Georgia. She said she conducted dozens of interviews with “workaholic” spouses.
“Working all the time, including vacations, really has a detrimental effect on all levels on their relationship, but also on (their) children,” Clark said.
Clark says asking some employees — especially those not in an emergency field — to work a holiday against their will could be seen as breaking a “psychological contract,” which she describes as a tacit expectation between employee and employer.
She says that the idea of a psychological contract, which came to light in a 1989 study by Denise Rousseau, rests on the employee’s expectation that they will eventually be rewarded for their hard work with things like holidays, promotions or raises. When those rewards don’t materialize, employees may feel more dissatisfied or less committed to the organization, she said.
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Can’t avoid working holidays? “Accept it radically”
Of course, not everyone will be able to escape holiday work. And not everyone will necessarily be saddened to miss the festivities either.
But for those who will be working when they would like to celebrate, the first thing they can do is “radically accept it,” McGinn says.
She says it’s important for these people to create other ways to mark the holiday season, but it can be counterproductive to fight something that may be out of their control.
“It’s this mental battle that can create stress.”
Follow USA TODAY’s Jay Cannon on Twitter: @JayTCannon.