Another year of holiday joy is upon us; another year of holiday chaos, stress, and anxiety is here, as well.

For many families, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Years are times for reunions, reconnecting, and enjoying one another.

Yet however great the celebrations are, holidays are stressful. Here are six tips for making your holidays as peaceful and stress-free as possible.

  1. Don’t over-plan. It can be tempting to arrange to first swing by grandma’s, then see your in-law’s at their home, then return and make a holiday dinner for your family and your out-of-town brother and his five kids. Don’t do it. The holidays are time for reconnecting, but if you’re bitter, grumpy, and yelling at your spouse, you (and the rest of your family) will be miserable and disconnected.
  2. Realize that you can’t please everyone. The more people who are involved in a situation, the greater the chance for hurt feelings and misunderstandings. This year your parents might not be able to see the kids open up their presents or you may miss seeing your sisters at Thanksgiving. Do the best that you can with the limited time and energy you have.
  3. Make a budget, and stick to it. Don’t go into debt purchasing things you can’t afford, or else come January you’ll regret it.  Families often will have a year when to make all of their gifts by hand, or they’ll do a gift exchange rather than purchasing things for everyone. The holidays are a time for sharing and showing love. You don’t need to purchase anything for this. Remember, you and your family and friends will not remember the gifts you gave them, or the amazing pies you baked. They’ll remember the feelings they experienced, and the stories and laughter shared.
  4. Think about what feelings you want to experience during the holidays. Do you want a frantic excited holiday, or a serene and peaceful one? Do you want to be surrounded by tons of people, or have a more intimate time with your loved ones? Plan your day with this in mind.
  5. Be aware of your anxiety and stress level. Have an idea of things you can do if you begin feeling your anxiety rise. Some people find that going into a quiet part of the house away from people is helpful. Others seek out their spouse or partner, some people find the resident cat or dog and give it attention, others step outside.
  6. Have an escape plan. Seriously. If things get nasty, Aunt Marie has too much whiskey and becomes verbally abusive, or your introvert husband starts hyperventilating, make a graceful exit. It may be enough to simply go out for a walk, or you may need to return home.

Even the best families have conflict and stress, and holidays are notorious for exaggerating stress that is already present. Remember, the world will not end if you leave the party early, if you buy a pie instead of make one from scratch, or if this year you stay home rather than going to your grandparent’s house. Your happiness matters, as does your mental health!


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