Managing Holiday Stress

It’s that time of the year again (where did the time go?). The holiday season is upon us. And while this is a time many look forward to all year long, it does not come without stress. Here are a few tips to help you manage holiday stress.

1)       Know what you value most about the holiday season. When we move in the direction of our values we tend to feel better about what we do, regardless of the outcome, which is never guaranteed anyhow. It is hard to do everything that is demanded of us during the holiday season – various parties, children’s events, family gatherings, religious services, etc.  Some would never want to miss a holiday party or social event because that is what makes the holidays fun for them. This does not mean that every party will be a blast or that things will go perfectly. But if you know you value the social aspect of the season, you will feel better if you prioritize attending those events. For others, extra time with family is what they most value about the holidays. These folks will feel better about the holidays if they prioritize family time, even if that means missing some parties or special events.

2)      Have a plan. Once you have prioritized what you will do, have a plan for how you will manage each event. Plan things like gifts, meals, how much money you will spend, how long you will stay, and so on. Then communicate your plan to others. If you can only spend one night at a family gathering, let the host and other family members know so feelings aren’t hurt. If you have more than one event to go to in one night, be sure to communicate your intentions to those going with you as well as the hosts, when possible. Couples may have to negotiate their plans if one partner wants to stay longer at one event or if there are certain people with whom one just does not get along.

3)      Maintain good boundaries. Difficult family dynamics, tensions with co-workers, unresolved conflicts with spouses and children can all be exacerbated during the holidays. This is a prime time to maintain good boundaries in relationships. The first step in having good boundaries is being very clear about what you want (this is where steps 1 and 2 above come in) then you must effectively communicate your boundaries to others. Simple phrases such as I like/I don’t like and I want/I don’t want can help us clearly communicate.

Of course many people struggle with value clarity and maintaining boundaries. If you need help in these important areas of life, find a good counselor and work on developing the skills you need to be your best year round.

Happy Holidays to You and Yours!

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