How To Stress Less During The Holiday Season

In Lola Shreveport, Michelle Yetman, PHD. by Lola Magazine

With every morning news show discussing the pandemic shortages, “Better get your turkey now!” and the images of huge shipping container ships sitting idle off the coast of California, you may already feel stressed about the holidays before you even had a chance to put away the kids Halloween costumes. Holidays can bring on a lot of stress and unrealistic expectations for many of us, but this year we may all be setting ourselves up for feeling like a failure unless we pause, do a reality check and carefully plan for the holiday season.

Here are some strategies to enjoy the holiday season and thrive rather than merely survive it:

Everything in moderation. This might be the first year in a while where we actually gather and have Christmas parties. While it will be tempting to go all out and say “yes” to everything and everyone, too much food, alcohol and stress is not good for your health. Make your choices carefully. Saying “yes” to one party may mean saying “no” to another. In addition, maybe you don’t need to host your entire extended family, your church group and your book club while also mailing out personalized holiday cards in the three weeks leading up to Christmas. Putting too many things on your to-do list, no matter how fun they sounded at the time, will leave you feeling stressed and burnt out. Better to be selective with your time and energy.

Stick to your budget. No one wants to feel regret or anxiety when the credit card bills roll in come January. Make your gift-giving list and assign an amount before you decide to go shopping. Stick to your budget! The global shipping delays are an opportunity to get creative. You can buy locally or think outside the box. What about offering coupons for baked goods, a massage, foot rub or car detailing? Not all presents need to be purchased at the store. Teach your children how good generosity feels. Help them play Santa. Let them learn the value of volunteering if they are old enough. If they are still young, before new toys arrive, get a box and have them select toys they are willing to part with for children who may not be getting many toys this season. Emphasize the “Season of Giving” and try to find an opportunity to teach your children this rewarding message.

Ask for help. Moms typically try to do everything themselves. Teaching our children that family is a “team” and everyone pitches in is a good lesson. Divide and conquer. Have the family pitch in and clean the living room before the tree goes up. Ask your mother and sister-in-law to bring two side dishes and dessert to the holiday meal. When people offer to help, give them that gift and graciously say, “Yes, that would be wonderful!”

Set realistic expectations. In order to do this, you may need to stay off social media. If that Instagram or Tiktok feed of professionally decorated living rooms, sparkling from head to toe with silver glitter and snowflakes, are already starting to invade your feed (we have not even had Thanksgiving people), you made need to take a break. Know the difference between fantasy and reality. The reality is crying toddlers after a long car ride, crazy Uncle Joe sharing his conspiracy theories at the table and Aunt Mary, who begins to call your children by the wrong names after she has had one too many Chardonnays. Real life is messy and families are complicated. Prepare yourself and you will not be disappointed. You may not have the perfect family and your holiday meal may not look like a Norman Rockwell painting, but if you can accept people for who they are (shortcomings and all) and recognize that your time with them is limited, you should be able to survive even the most awkward family dinner.

Finally, remember to take a moment for yourself. Focusing on others is a wonderful aspect of the holiday season and who doesn’t love the season of giving? In the true spirit of giving, remember to give a little back to yourself. Keep to a schedule as much as possible. Protect your sleep, your generally healthy eating habits, and make time for exercise and pleasurable activities. Happy Holidays!

Written by Michelle Yetman, Ph.D.  Clinical Psychologist

Children’s Center, School of Allied Health Professions

LSU Health Shreveport