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Dr Barb - Managing Holiday Stress Dreamstime ID1319.539

Managing Holiday Stress

How do you manage holiday stress?

Holidays signify family togetherness. We envision warm, loving, happy people connecting in special ways…except when it is not so warm and fuzzy. What goes wrong? What are your expectations? If you expect everything and everybody to flow perfectly, this may not happen. Past problems can worry you at holiday time, creating edginess, apprehension, or irritability. So much to do? So little time? According to the American Psychological Association, 38 percent of people report an increase in their stress levels during the holidays.


Sometimes old wounds surface. Unresolved anger. If you want your holiday to proceed in a pleasant way, do you think this is the best time to try to reconcile? Tabling resentments for a time other than the holiday table would be preferable. Ideally, throughout the year would offer better times to reconcile issues. Avoid unnecessary battles during the holiday.

Who are the downers?

What about people who are just downers? That is sad for them. Maybe even you do not feel like being jolly. Anxious? Depressed? What kind of things can you do to lighten the atmosphere? Consider candles, music, decorations, and lovely aromas from food cooking. There are different ways to add humor. Humor can help with jokes and “remember when” funny stories. Of course, delicious food and yummy desserts are the ticket. Not a good cook? That is what restaurants and carrying-in food are for.

Any alcoholics?

What can you do about people who drink too much? You could discuss it with them in advance. What if you decide to have a sober holiday with no drinking? If there will be children around, being a positive influence on them is a good reason. Serve other beverages like cider, lemonade, or rootbeer floats. Encourage a lot of water. Use your imagination. If you decide to drink, limit your alcohol intake.

Hyper children?

What if children are running around wild? One of my patients decided to have an adult-only table. She said the children do not like to sit still anyway, so they snacked their way through food, played, and were content. Another idea is to have someone designated to take antsy children away from the table to play a quiet game, puzzle, color, or watch a movie.

Do you set expectations?

Two ideas are important with children (which also work with difficult adults) prior to holiday meals, whether hosted at your home or someone else’s:

1. “Ask” them what behavior they think you expect—a day prior and again before guests arrive. This may engender more compliant behavior.
2. Describe the possible objectionable behaviors your children might exhibit and ask the adults for their understanding should they occur. This may elicit enhanced cooperation.

So… what to do if you’re disappointed?

  • Listen to others, acknowledge their feelings, acknowledge your feelings
  • Try to ignore or distract yourself with what is positive. It is important to change your mindset about negative behavior. In that way, you can manage your own mood and model how to behave in stressful situations.
  • Be assertive when necessary. Say no without saying no. Rather, state what you are willing to accept.
  • Take good care of yourself.

With this being the “most magical time of the year,” create a new tradition that will make it magical for you!