How to Handle Holiday Stress


It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Except.. buying gifts is really expensive, and am I supposed to buy a gift for my mom’s new boyfriend? And how much food should I cook for Christmas Eve? Is anyone at least bringing dessert? I shouldn’t eat dessert anyways, I gained 10 pounds since last Christmas. I’m sure grandma will have no problem pointing that out to everyone! And wait… I’m really not looking forward to seeing my one cousin. I bet he’ll complain about the ham or make fun of my outfit. At least he’s not as bad as his mother, she always drinks all the wine and makes a huge scene at the end of the night!

…Sound familiar? I’m sure we can all relate in some way to the pressure and stress we feel around the holidays. Whether it’s buying gifts, or the lack of excitement to see family, the holiday’s aren’t always super magical. It’s alright and totally normal to not be super excited for the holidays, and to even dread some of it, but there are ways to handle holiday stress and make the season more bearable.

Decide you want to enjoy the holidays this year.

Set your intention and seek out those uplifting moments. Don’t focus on what you’re dreading, get hype for what you’re excited for! There’s a reason why people find the holidays so magical. Enjoy the beautiful lights and being able to share gifts of love with others. Be excited to see and catch up with family. Be grateful that you’re able to do any of these things! Make a conscious decision to be happy this year and to enjoy the holiday. It’ll be gone before you know it!

Get into the holiday spirit, just like you did as a kid.

People often complain that the holidays don’t feel as magical as they used to. That’s a pretty normal feeling when you get older. When you’re a kid, December is like a month of non-stop celebrating. You make your Christmas list and go see Santa. You bake cookies and play out in the snow. Maybe some activities, we’ve outgrown, but that doesn’t mean we can’t engage is some fun holiday activities and get into the Christmas spirit!

Make a day out of your gift wrapping my making some cookies and hot chocolate. Put on a Christmas movie marathon and some festive PJ’s. Take a trip to your nearest city to look at the tree and all of the fun lights, and maybe even go ice skating. You can even just drive around your neighborhood and check out all of the lit up houses. The holidays can feel the same as they did when you were younger! You just have to let it.

Acknowledge that you aren’t responsible for making the holidays perfect.

Things happen. People don’t like their gifts and cookies burn. Not everything can go exactly as planned. It’s not your fault if something goes wrong, that’s just how life works. We’re all only human. We fight, we get frustrated, we cry. It’s alright. Just make the most out of the holidays and let go of all expectations. Some things might turn out worse than planned, and others might turn out better.

Remember that it’s the thought that counts.

Buying gifts is hard. It’s also expensive. Don’t dwell too much on what to buy people. If you aren’t sure if you should buy something for someone, odds are you should probably get them something small. It’s always a nice feeling to know someone was thinking about you, even if it’s just a little something. Also, always appreciate every gift. Even if it’s not a gift you’re too fond of, just remember the stress you feel when buying gifts for others. It can be hard to know what someone wants or likes. Plus, we’re not all made of money and may not be able to afford to buy the most extravagent gifts. We’re all doing our best.

Accept your family for who they are.

Maybe you have a really negative mother or a really obnoxious brother. Maybe you don’t click and you really dread getting together for a few hours. It’s alright to not have a lot in common with family. You don’t have to love someone’s every trait. However, at the end of the day, they are family. Who is going to have your back when you need it? It might just be that obnoxious brother you can’t stand. Love your family and accept them for all their flaws. You don’t have to be inseparable, but use the holidays as a way to catch up and to see that they are doing alright. We’re all flawed human beings, and we need to learn to accept not only our own flaws, but the flaws of others as well.

Practice your breathing when your family really tests you.

Of course, we can accept our family and their flaws, but when that aunt makes that really insulting comment about your dress, it becomes nearly impossible to not become a little fed up. Again, we’re not perfect and we all have emotions. We get angry and offended and upset. No everything goes perfect during the holidays, and it’s totally alright.

When something goes unplanned or you feel an argument approaching at one of your family gatherings, excuse yourself for a moment to squeeze in a quick meditation. You don’t need anything crazy like any candles or music, just find somewhere you can be alone and close your eyes. Tune out all the sounds behind you and focus all attention on your breath. Try breathing in for 4 counts, and exhaling for 4 counts. Do this for just a few minutes until you feel your heart beat slowing and you feel grounded again. You will then be able to approach all challenges in a much calmer matter. Do this as often as you need.

The holidays can be rough, but try to hold on to all that makes it so magical. Get excited to reunite with family you haven’t seen in awhile, and allow yourself to indulge in all the holiday has to offer. The holidays are what you make it. Don’t dread and dwell, enjoy the holiday cheer that only comes once a year!