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Dealing With Holiday Stress

Updated on March 6, 2013

Bah, Humbug!

Do you feel that way about the Christmas season? Instead of being fun, are the holidays something you utterly dread? Maybe it's that one relative you simply can't deal with. Or maybe you hate Christmas shopping? I've already talked about Christmas shopping specifically, but what about the rest?

Does putting up the tree make you want to grumble under your breath? Are you going to scream if you hear another Christmas song? Here's some ways to help you deal with things when 'Happy Holidays' makes you want to say 'Nothing happy about it'.

Take Control

One of the things that's not uncommon about holidays is the feeling that somebody else is in control of things. That's especially true if you're visiting parents or in-laws. It's very important not to let anyone treat you...often if you were a small child or act as if you have to do what they say and nothing but what they say.

Of course, this can be difficult, and you do need to respect people when you are under their roof. Learn - and believe me this is hard - to gently but firmly say 'No, I need to do X'. or 'I'm sorry, I need five minutes here'. The best way is to yield on the things you know are truly important to the other person, but stand firm on the things that matter the most to you. If it's really that important that you help bake cookies, help bake cookies, but you have the right to expect something in return.

Avoid The Booze

Don't use alcohol to deal with stress. It won't help and you might just end up saying something you're thinking and don't want your relatives or in-laws to hear. Or doing something embarrassing that then ends up on Youtube, courtesy of somebody's teenager.

Save the wine for the family table and keep it in moderation. If you must resort to a chemical mood lifter - try chocolate. It doesn't result in anywhere near as many problems.

Avoid The Last Minute Rush

Get your Christmas shopping done well in advance. The same for decorating the tree, unless your family has a tradition of doing it on Christmas Eve.

If you're responsible for Christmas dinner, then make sure you have everything in hand ahead of time. Buy non-perishables early and if you have the freezer space, buying the turkey a week or so before Christmas can help you avoid the craziness that seems to take over many supermarkets right before Christmas (Thanksgiving is even worse).

If you plan on experimenting with a new recipe, try making a small quantity, privately, a couple of weeks before. There's nothing worse than an inedible dessert on Christmas day.

Give Yourself The Gift of 'Me' Time

No matter what you have planned, do allow some time Christmas week to do something on your own and just for you. Don't let anyone get in the way of this...or mock you for your choice of what to do. Whether it's taking a long walk in the snow, or curling up in a corner with a book, or watching a really silly movie - do it.

Christmas is about giving to others, but you can't give what you don't have and you aren't going to make anyone else happy if you're miserable, no matter how hard you try.

Ditch Stupid Traditions

Talk to your family about those things you always do that you don't like. You never know, you might realize you aren't the only one who thinks that it is completely stupid to always have fruitcake.

Everything that's done over the holidays should be enjoyable to someone, and clinging to family traditions that nobody really wants any more really is just silly. Bear in mind that there is no law saying you have to decorate a tree, or have turkey, or go to midnight Mass when none of you ever go to church any other time.

Removing 'dead' traditions is like pruning. It gives space for new ones to grow that might be a lot more fun.

Be Reasonable About What You Can Do

Don't take on too much...and try not to let other people take on too much either. Don't be afraid to ask for help if you find yourself in a metaphorical balancing act. If you consistently make way too much food, every single year, it might be time to make a little bit less.

If it takes three hours to decorate the tree, maybe you should consider a smaller tree. Do you have to use all of those ornaments that belonged to Aunt Flo and nobody but her ever liked, when she died ten years ago?

The things you do aren't as important as the people you're with.

Avoid Those You Love But Don't Like

As painful as it is, try and schedule things to minimize exposure to those relatives you simply don't get on with.

It honestly doesn't benefit anyone at all if you're sitting around glaring daggers and curses at each other. Be polite, yes, and obviously you should be willing to sit at the table with them. But don't be afraid to beg off on outings and activities so that you aren't thrown together with somebody you can barely have a civil conversation with.

As I said right at the start. Take control. It's your Christmas too...and you need to do what you have to do to enjoy it, or nobody will be happy.


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    • jenniferrpovey profile image

      jenniferrpovey 6 years ago

      And coming up with NEW traditions is good too, especially when you're building your own family and blending ideas.

    • europewalker profile image

      europewalker 6 years ago

      Great tips, especially about skipping worn out traditions and taking on more than you can do.