Expert advice to conquer holiday stress

Christmas tree, statues of old man and a boy

Magazine articles, television programs and music playlists tell us that this is

“the most wonderful time of the year.” 

That is until the extra work of shopping, cooking, decorating, wrapping, planning and entertaining makes it the least wonderful time.

a gingerbread house

While most of us welcome the chance to celebrate with family and friends, sometimes those encounters create emotional tension and strain. When we feel  sad that loved ones can’t be with us, either through distance or death,  the season can become the worst of the year.

By anticipating these events and feelings, we can prepare ourselves for the physical and emotional stress of the holiday season, and find a way to enjoy the festivities with “hearts glowing.”

Here are links to  and brief quotes from some resources with sound advice for confronting  and conquering holiday challenges.

Plan. Make your list and check it twice. Being prepared for parties and presents and having help from family and friends can reduce last-minute stress.

red and gold Christmas tree bulbs

6 tips for staying happy and healthy  from Mayo Clinic

Over-the-top holiday excursions can be stressful, which is not how you should be spending this joyful season. Focus on your holiday traditions — don’t worry about the rest. Make time for friends, family and good cheer, and embrace relaxation when you can. Don’t neglect the value of sleep, either. Do all that you can to stick to a normal sleep schedule even around all the celebrations and traveling. Avoid or limit caffeine, alcohol, daytime napping and large meals before bed. These factors can interfere with a good night’s rest.

a decorative snowman figure

The “No Bullish” Guide to Getting Through the Holidays from Freud and Fashion

Set boundaries, boundaries, boundaries.  If you’re a “Yes Man/Woman” (someone who always says “yes” and has a hard time saying “no”), then you not only have to deal with the stress of planning for the holiday, but also the overwhelming pressure to please everyone since you’re the reliable person whom everyone depends on (or the schmuck whom everyone takes advantage of), which leads to internal feelings of guilt, exhaustion, anger, and resentment if you can’t carry out all the duties expected of you, but then blame everyone else for not helping you (you probably also don’t feel comfortable asking for or accepting help, right?)

decorative wrapped packages

11 Holiday Shopping Tips  from Bank of America

Don’t shop ’til you drop
Sticking to your shopping list can help you avoid going off on a spree. It’s also smart to take a break between buys. Yale University researchers have found that making a purchase can trigger what they call the “shopping momentum effect”—a psychological impulse to buy subsequent items. To counteract the effect, just walk away from the store or computer screen for a few minutes. And no window-shopping on your way out.

Dealing With Grief  from AARP

Accept your feelings — whatever they might be. Everyone takes his or her own path in grief and mourning. Some may try to avoid sad feelings; others will be bathed in tears. Some feel bad that they aren’t up for enjoying a holiday; others feel guilt because they are feeling joy. However you feel, accept it. And accept the inevitable ups and downs: You may feel peaceful one moment and gut-wrenchingly sad the next. Try to stay in tune with your own highest truth and you will know how to get through the holiday without judging yourself or others.

Enjoy “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”

“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” by Eddie Pola and George Wyle.
Arranged by Hawley Ades
Cantare Children’s Choir: Catherine Glaser-Climie
Ron Bennie, Accompanist

Photos used in this post -compliments of the photographers at Pixabay 

Related post- tips for healthy holiday eating

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sharing the HEART of the holidays

Author: Aletha Cress Oglesby, M.D.

As a family physician, I explore the HEART of HEALTH in my work, recreation, community, and through writing. My blog, Watercress Words, informs and inspires us to live in health. I believe we can turn our health challenges into healthy opportunities. When we do, we can share the HEART of health with our families, communities, and the world. Come explore and share with me.

10 thoughts on “Expert advice to conquer holiday stress”

  1. Thank you for the great advice, Aletha. I love the approach of pointing us to several different experts in different aspects of holiday stress. This year is a mixed bag with our family. I am sooo grateful my husband and I decided to do experience gifts. The shopping was virtually stress-free. However, I feel a little guilty that the grandchildren won’t have mountains of presents to open on Christmas morning, as we have done in the past. Of course, they now range from 10 – 19 years old, so the older ones at least understand the value in the gift card or season pass they are receiving. As for family gatherings, we just this week admitted my mom into a long-term care center. She has always hosted Christmas Eve, so that’s going to be a tough one. My sister has stepped up and offered to host, and it’s close enough that I hope my mom will be up to joining us. My youngest daughter has applied for a K1 Visa for her fiance who lives in Greece. It appeared that it would be approved in time for the holidays, but the interview got delayed, so she’s feeling pretty disappointed and lonely. Our big, loving family will rally, but you can see why it’s complicated for us this year and why your post was much needed. Thank you and happy holidays!


    1. Christie, thanks for sharing your situation and I’m glad the post was helpful. I well understand what you’re talking about. My grandson is 8, but his sister is a teenager so that changes the gifting options. One of my sons lives close so we can always spend holidays with his family but the other lives out of state so he and his new wife will alternate holidays with her family, so he won’t always come home as usual. And I well remember the juggling we did when the grandparents were still living. Life is a continual process of change and regrouping. I pray your family will find peace, love, and joy even if everything doesn’t work out exactly as you wish.


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