Surviving Holiday Stress

Closeup of Christmas tree with ornaments

For some, this time of year conjures up warm and fuzzy memories of being with people they love. Of cozy mornings sipping hot chocolate in front of beckoning fireplace embers, of looking forward to opening gifts and revelling in the pleasure of giving.

For many, however, this time of year is filled with dread. The memories are not so warm and fuzzy. In fact, they are sometimes heated and uncomfortable. Coming together as a family is not always as one would hope. Thoughts that this time might be different than last often fades as old tensions and unresolved issues emerge. For many, the stress associated with wanting to fulfill another’s wish list or keeping up with an over committed schedule may prove overwhelming. Below are ten tips for coping with the stress that this time of year often brings:

1. Change your expectations. Don’t expect that this year will be different or better than the last. Decide to just accept what is – for better or worse. Try to erase the images of years gone by and start fresh.

2. Don’t try to live up to other’s expectations. Be who you are. If you can’t afford to give large, expensive gifts, purchase a smaller, just as thoughtful gift. Or if you feel up to it, make something yourself. These often make the most special gifts.

3. Dress for comfort, not to impress. If you can’t be bothered with formal attire and you know you’re going to be uncomfortable just because you feel that there is an expectation to dress a certain way, consider your own needs. You can still dress appropriately and respectfully without having to pretend to be someone you are not.

4. Change things around. If you’re just keeping up with old traditions for traditions sake and not because they feel good, then consider changing things around. Create new traditions. For example, if you’ve always hosted a big meal and prepared everything yourself, but are tired of doing this, then consider a pot luck dinner at someone else’s house.

5. Take time for yourself. This time of year is typically when friends and family catch up on seeing one another. If this works for you, then enjoy. However, if you usually exit the holiday season feeling exhausted, consider spending some time on your own or with immediate family only – to relax and unwind.

6. Toss obligatory chores. If you’ve been sending holiday greeting cards to the same people every year just because you feel a sense of obligation to do so, stop. Chances are that the recipient will sense that a once a year obligatory card is jus that. Send cards and gifts to only those you really care about and waste less time taking on chores you would rather do without.

7. Do away with wish lists. Although wish lists may be extremely helpful for some, they are often a recipe for disappointment. When children, especially, don’t have all (or most) of their wish list, fulfilled, they are bound to feel upset. Aside from the items often being big ticket ones, wish lists take away the opportunity for the giver to be creative or to think about what the recipient might want or need. Children often feel disappointed if a parent deviates from the list and ungrateful children typically leave parents feeling disappointed too.

8. Redefine giving. Instead of focussing on material gift giving, discuss other options with your family. For example, spend time helping out at a soup kitchen or a food bank with your family so that you can experience the value of giving your time – that’s priceless.

9. Don’t overindulge. If you’re feeling stressed, try not to drown your stressors by drinking or eating excessively. This will only add to your stress later on. Rather, go for a walk or vent your stress on a punching bag.

10. See your therapist. Knowing the stress that this time of the year often brings,book an appointment with your therapist in advance of the holidays so that once the flurry of activity is over, you can vent.