By Roubie Younkin
MSU Extension 4-H Agent 

Managing Holiday Stress


December 20, 2017

The holidays are right around the corner and with them come the holiday stressors. The commitments for time, money and emotional support can overwhelm us and strip the happy from the holidays. We are shopping, baking, wrapping and decorating, adding to our already full schedules. Add holiday parties, family gatherings, homes to prepare for possible guests and children’s school and church programs and we meet ourselves coming and going.

All of this challenges us but this is also the season where financial expectations increase until our stress levels are brimming over.

Some tips to manage this stress:

Plan – If you have a plan in place, you will be more realistic about what you can and cannot do in a given day or week. A budget, and being realistic about what your family can afford to spend also helps to avoid overspending and the corresponding anxiety. Remember to consider extra driving (fuel), holiday baking supplies and possibly clothes for programs and parties. A calendar is a great place to start with a written plan. When everything is written down in one place, you can avoid over/double booking as well as missed appointments and deadlines.

Reduce Demands – It is okay to say no. Others don’t know what your schedule is like, so protect yourself, your family life and your time. Some things are not flexible but many just add to your stress. How many of us long for a quiet night sitting together as a family in front of the Christmas tree? Whittle down the plans until you feel confident you can accomplish them. This will give you a sense of “being in control” (one of the key characteristics of good stress managers) — rather than feeling overwhelmed.

Ask for Help – Many communities (including ours) have programs for food, gifts and even utility assistance. Between the Food Bank, Energy Share, Block of Bucks, The Christmas Store and the many angel trees, no one should have to go without.

Eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, get enough sleep and relax deeply. Taking good care of yourself is one of the cornerstones of stress management, and it’s especially important at holiday time – for you and everyone else in the family. Your stress can splash over onto other family members – so it’s a kindness to everyone when you take good care of yourself. Too much stress can cause you to feel fatigued, can mess with your blood sugars and send your hormones out-of-whack.

The stress of upcoming holidays can overshadow the joy of spending time with family, exchanging gifts, nibbling on holiday goodies and relaxing with friends. No one wants to be too frazzled to enjoy what the holidays are all about. Here are some tips for memorable holidays: Sit down with your family and talk about what this holiday means. Ask each person to share, “What are the most essential (important) parts of this holiday?” “What would really be missed if we didn’t do it together as a family?” What can you do for others who may find it difficult to have a happy holiday? What will each person do to help get ready for the holiday? Make a list of who will do what when.

Spend fun time together – and roll with the punches. Planning time together with your family may be the most important thing you can do for each other. The best laid plans regularly go astray! Expect glitches and make the best of what comes your way.


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