Beating stress this holiday season

  • Published
  • By Elaine Valentine
  • March ARB Director of Psychological Health

Just because it’s the Holiday Season, real life doesn’t go away, and it can bring some unwelcome guests and demands such as family, shopping, cooking, entertaining and depression in the midst of coordinating the big event.  So, it’s no wonder that with these competing demands, the stress can reach a tipping point and take an emotional toll on all of us. However, once you have taken a clearer look at the holidays, about what works and what doesn’t, it’s time to make some changes.


  • Don’t expect miracles

    If your holiday stress stems for a deeper history of family conflict, don’t expect that you’ll be able to resolve any big underlying issues now.  Even though it is supposed to be a season of goodwill and forgiveness, you can’t pin your hopes on leading family members to big emotional breakthroughs or epiphanies.  It may be better to focus on your own sanity and confront challenging issues during a less volatile time of the year.


  • Don’t overdo it or do the same old thing 

    Pace yourself before the family gatherings actually happen and follow through with some limits and boundaries. If you are too overwhelmed to host the holiday party, discuss other possibilities with family members and only plan to drop by for a couple hours instead of attending all night.


  • Don’t worry about how things should be

    There is a lot of cultural pressure about how things should be.  We tend to compare ourselves with these idealized notions of perfect family and perfect holidays.  Facebook is deceiving!!!! The reality is that most people have less than perfect holiday gatherings – they have tension, melancholy, and dry turkey too.  There is nothing shameful about feeling down during the holidays.                                                                                   


  • Be realistic and seek support

    You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it is the holiday season. If a loved one has recently died, or you aren’t near your loved ones, realize that it is normal to feel sadness or grief.  Also, as families change and grow, so do traditions that no longer serve families in the same way. If you feel isolated, seek family members, friends, or the church community.  Seek counseling or consider volunteering at a community event. And, enlist support for meal preparation and cleanup if you are hosting the holiday family meal.  Don’t be a martyr!!


  • Develop a budget

    Before you go shopping, decide how much you can afford to spend on gifts and other items, then stick to it! If you don’t, you could feel anxious and stressed for months trying to pay the bills.  Don’t try to buy happiness with an avalanche of Christmas presents.  Give homemade gifts or start a family gift exchange.


The key is to combating holiday stress is to be conscious about what you are doing and how it feels. Changing your outlook can minimize the stress, and you may even end up enjoying the holidays more than you thought.  It may be time to do something different and start with fresh traditions.  After all, what’s the worst that could happen?  Probably the acknowledgement that others will validate your feelings because they feel the same way!