Coping with the Stress of the Holiday Season

 The holidays are not only a wonderful time of year but also stressful, as our normal routine is replaced with a spiraling array of demands–shopping, decorating, social and family gatherings, and so on. Most of us are excited as the holidays approach. But then they don’t always live up to what we hope, and we find ourselves stressed-out, disappointed, maybe even depressed. So here are a few tips to help you enjoy the holidays.

  1. Be realistic. Naturally, we hope to have positive feelings and experiences during the holidays. However, for many reasons, things can go wrong. Make that okay. The holidays don’t have to be perfect and you can’t control everything that happens. Sometimes you have to let go of expectations and let things be.
  2. Plan ahead. Take some time to anticipate before rushing headlong into the “harriedness” of  seasonal events. Review your calendar. Think about upcoming events, who will be involved, what they will be like, and how you want to respond. Set aside certain times for activities like shopping, baking, signing cards, and so on.
  3. Pay attention to your feelings. Positive feelings (mostly from our connections with others) are what we hope for during the holidays. However, as things don’t go as planned, it is easy to feel stressed…disappointed…hurt…frustrated…etc. The less aware you are of the build-up of these feelings, the more power they will have over you. So notice them early enough that you can take positive steps before they overwhelm you.
  4. Take care of your needs. It’s easy to want to please everyone else. But saying “yes” too often can cause you to feel resentful and then guilty. You don’t have to do everything. It is okay to say “no.” Reduce the amount of time you spend with difficult people. Then let go of the worry about how others will feel. Be proactive about deciding what will bring you joy.
  5. Observe more, react less. Difficult people, including family members, are not going to change just because it’s the holidays. Go into gatherings with realistic expectations and know that it isn’t your job to get people to change. Shift from a reactive role to an observing role. Notice what is going on, even grieve what’s going on, without thinking you have to make it all better.
  6. Use stress-reducers. There are lots of ways to manage the stress. Take 10 or 15 minutes to be alone, without distractions. Take a moment to pay attention to your breathing or take some deep, cleansing breaths. Take a walk. Meditate or practice yoga or stretching. Listen to peaceful music. In short, do anything that is incompatible with stress and helps you restore or maintain an inner calm.
  7. Find meaning. What is the meaning of the holidays for you? Remember that you won’t buy happiness by spending more and more money. The happiness of the season has more to do with traditions and connections than how much you spend. Keep your focus on what is most important.

The one thing to remember, in order to find joy this holiday season, is that you have choices. Holiday events don’t just happen to you. You shape them through your actions and how you choose to view them. Let me invite you to make choices based on acceptance, gratitude, and goodwill rather than fear and resentment.


About Roger K. Allen
Roger K. Allen, Ph.D. is an expert in personal transformation and family development. His tools and methods have helped tens of thousands of people live happier and more effective lives. To learn more, visit www.rogerkallen.com>.

One response to “Coping with the Stress of the Holiday Season”

  1. Pam Infanger says:

    Dear fabulous friend,
    Hope your holidays will be full of wonder, joy, peace and the love of our Savior. Blessings to you!

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