Tips on How to Spread Good Cheer Amidst Holiday Stress

Holiday stress can be escalated with the increased pressure of finding the perfect gift for friends and family members, creating a festive, decorated home or attending social get-togethers.

Behavioral Health Therapist Niah White, MSW, LCSW, a behavioral therapist who treats children and adults at Monarch’s Davidson County behavioral health site, explained that everyday stressors combined with holiday pressures may create difficult situations in addition to cherished times.

With some preparation and planning, stress can be reduced or avoided by remembering the following.

Develop, Define Your Family

White said to explore options available during the holidays and remain flexible about adhering to family practices or starting new ones of your own.

“You have the power to transform, redefine and create your own traditions,” White stressed, suggesting that a popular example of this is “Friendsgiving,” a spin on the celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday focusing on hosting friends for a shared meal. It can also mean making reservations at a restaurant so one person doesn’t bear the burden of cooking for many or hosting a meal for friends, neighbors and others prior to the holiday spent with family.

“Just because the same event has been held year after year and family members are adding pressure, doesn’t mean you are obligated. Sometimes it is a breath of fresh air to involve a variety of family members,” White noted. “Focus on what works for you and your family.”

Know Your Boundaries

Realizing boundaries with schedules, finances and emotions can be useful when being pulled in different directions. “Know your limits. This doesn’t mean only financially, or the tangible limits, like how much food you can eat before becoming nauseated, but know your limits emotionally,” White explained.

Being realistic with time constraints is also important. “How much time can you spend with others before needing a break or requiring a ‘breather?’” she said, adding to be aware of sensitive topics such as politics, relationships or religion.

emotional stresses during the holidays

Seek to Connect

White observed that people are typically sharing, caring and more generous than normal during the holidays: “Take advantage of this and intentionally recognize the good in others. Seek opportunities to volunteer and become involved in causes greater than yourself.”

White suggested finding common bonds with those you don’t see eye to eye: “Perspective is always helpful in adjusting feelings of pressure and stress. Find common bonds or shared interest such as a sports team, learning a new recipe or sharing a special family version or watching a popular movie together.”

Focus on the time during the holidays with family and friends by engaging, embracing and building genuine relationships and connections throughout the year.

“Even for those with family or friends who are far away, the holidays may be the only opportunity to connect,” she said. Set times to talk and interface with those in your community.

The essence of the holidays is to spend time with friends and family. White suggested being open and honest about feelings around holiday stress, while setting realistic expectations to enjoy all that the season has to offer.