Friday, November 30, 2012

Managing Stress During the Holiday Season

While the holidays bring plenty of cheer and laughter, they also tend to bring a great deal of stress. Planning face-time with family, coordinating activities, and managing the financial aspect of the holiday season can often become overwhelming. The following suggestions from the Mayo Clinic aim to reduce holiday-related pressure and anxiety:

Stick to a budget. It might be helpful to decide in advance how much you are going to spend. The trick is to then stick to it. Remember that gifts and presents do not equate to happiness. Do not extend beyond your means. If you have a large family or are traveling, consider other gift-giving arrangements. Some alternatives include donating to a charity in someone’s name or exchanging homemade gifts.

Plan ahead to avoid becoming overwhelmed. Trying to visit all of the family in a single day can be exhausting. Spreading family visits over the course of several days will allow you to make the most of the time you do spend with relatives. If certain relatives drive you crazy, consider activities that minimize the amount of time you spend together, like a cup of coffee or a quick lunch. Establishing some organizational tools can also help minimize unnecessary stress. For example, generating lists can help keep you focused while shopping or planning meals and activities.

Be flexible and realistic. Striving for utter perfection can often lead to disappointment when things do not pan out as hoped. The ability to make adjustments along the way is essential. Do not be afraid to adopt new traditions that better suit your family’s needs. Remember that traditions can grow and change as your family does and not every year has to be exactly like the one before.

Maintain healthy habits. The holidays are full of temptation. Remember to keep everything in moderation. Overindulgence can often lead to feelings of guilt. Try to strike a balance between some indulgence and maintaining your regular habits and routines. Exercise regularly and make sure you get enough sleep. Engaging the family in physical activities together can help make those healthy routines seem a little more fun.

Be aware of your feelings. Holidays may not necessarily be happy and joyous, particularly for those who have lost a loved one. Take the time to acknowledge and work through your emotions. If you are feeling isolated, reach out by volunteering or get involved in community events. When dealing with pushy family members, do not be afraid to say no. At the same time, do not be afraid to ask for help when you are feeling swamped. Openness and honesty can prevent harboring frustration, anger, and resentment. Take some time for yourself and relax as well.

For divorced families, the holidays can often be particularly challenging. The American Psychological Association offers several key pieces of advice for the holiday season, beginning with the importance of setting aside differences and laying down the sword. Put the needs of your children first. Encourage your children to spend time with your former spouse and reassure them that you will be fine when they do. Do not put unnecessary pressure on your children. When visits are not possible, technology like Skype can help facilitate contact between family members during the holiday season.


“Stress, depression and the holidays: Tips for coping,” Mayo Clinic, available at

Dr. Elaine Ducharme, “10 Tips for Managing Family Stress at Holidays,” American Psychological Association, available at

Contributed by: Kelly Thompson, Law Clerk

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