Fa-la-la’s and yuletide carols bring joy to many come holiday season, but experts warn that too much of it can be more fatiguing than festive for some.
Stores and radio stations are playing holiday jingles earlier than they used to, with some big box companies starting as early as Halloween. This phenomenon is now referred to as the “Christmas creep.”
And it might be unhealthy. Kit Yarrow, a professor emeritus at Golden Gate University who studies the psychology of consumers, said stores piping in preseason tunes can be panic-inducing.
“A lot of people find it stressful to start hearing holiday music really early,” she said. “It becomes a reminder of how much work they have to do before they’re ready for the holidays: shopping, cooking, etcetera.”
A report last year from two retail industry groups found that 56 percent of shoppers enjoy Christmas music in stores, 17 percent don’t, and the rest neither like it or dislike it. One in six employees say it “dampens their emotional wellbeing,” according to the survey.
It’s unlikely to stop. Many stores contend that holiday music and peppermint-scented candles make people buy more stuff.
So for people who get irritated by the constant tunes, it’s a matter of buying earplugs or simply tuning it out. Some experts have said the mental work of ignoring the sounds around you can be draining.
For some, holiday music is more than a small annoyance. Those who suffer from seasonal depression, or are grieving a loss during the holiday season, may find it hits a painful note.
“People who have negative associations with the holidays, they’re kind of bombarded with it wherever they go,” Yarrow said. “Music is just a part of that. People in that situation probably try to find ways to protect themselves.”
To combat holiday stress, wellness experts recommend focusing on quality time rather than material gifts, taking breaks and practicing gratitude.
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