4 Helpful Tips to Manage Holiday Stress

Do you struggle being around family during the holidays? Do you find yourself worrying about how to handle uncomfortable situations or conversations? Do you find yourself dreading the holidays instead of enjoying them? Please know you are not alone! Many people find themselves in a constant state of hurry, worry, anxiety, dread, and exhaustion during the holiday months. This can be accompanied by frustration when our high expectations are not met for these occasions. 

Our society is intent on projecting images of how our holiday experience should be, so it is no wonder that we have high hopes. However, we all know that reality does not always look like that put-together family laughing merrily and enjoying a perfectly cooked meal in a pristinely decorated home that we commonly see in movies, TV shows, billboards, social media, etc. Life is messier than that and that’s okay!

Here are a few tips to help you enjoy your holiday experience with loved ones.

    1. Manage expectations
          • Be flexible!

    To be human is to hope and dream, it’s perfectly normal for us to have expectations! It can be helpful for us to examine how we are holding these expectations. 

    Are we creating them out of something fragile like glass that will shatter the moment they are not met? 

    Or are we creating them out of something more flexible…say rubber? Bendable plastic? 

    This way, when our expectations are not met exactly as we had hoped, we can try to be more adaptable and still enjoy our time in the way we would like.

        • Zoom Out!

      It can also be helpful to examine where we are in relation to our expectations. 

      Are we zoomed in so closely that it is hard to see the big picture? 

      Ex: I am hoping that my Mom includes my cousin in this conversation, then the Christmas ham is cooked perfectly, then we all say grace, then no one interrupts me as I am speaking, then my Dad doesn’t bring up that conversation…etc.

      Or….can we zoom out our perspective? 

      Ex: I hope that the Christmas dinner is fun and enjoyable for all!

        1. Know your boundaries ahead of time

      Do you know there are situations with your family or friends that happen every year during the holidays that are stressful or uncomfortable for you?

      I’m not sure it is possible for us to know exactly what all of our boundaries are beforehand, but simply thinking through how we would like to handle a situation should it arise can be useful!

      Here is some helpful language that can be useful when setting boundaries with others:

      • “That doesn’t work for me”
      • “I am not comfortable with this”
      • “Not at this time”
      • “I would rather not discuss that right now”
      • “I would appreciate _____ instead”
      • “I would feel more comfortable if ___”
      • “I need to do ___ to take care of myself”

        1. Have an overarching goal

      Consider the holiday experience that normally brings you stress and plan what your overarching goal might be. This can help us to mindfully respond to situations when they arise instead of mindlessly reacting. An example of an overarching goal might be… 

      1. Enjoy time with my family

      2. Have fun!

      3. Be as present as possible

      4. Prioritize my needs

      5. Cherish every positive experience

      When something happens or comes up, I can pause and consider, 

      “Does this serve me and my overarching goal? What might serve it instead?”

        1. Practice regular self-care

      The holidays are the perfect time to amp up our self-care routine. This can be incredibly useful to both manage the stress and enjoy the true gifts the holidays have to bring. Practicing yoga, mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing, journaling, and other relaxing and calming practices regularly can help us slow down, be still, and be fully present. 

      “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why we call it ‘the present’”– Eleanor Roosevelt