Fighting Holiday Stress


Holidays can bring feelings of joy, sharing of rituals and, unfortunately, great stress. Sometimes it’s the financial worry about affording gifts for others. Often it’s the break in routine which includes travel and family visits. A visit with your parents and siblings can trigger unresolved childhood issues. Some people numb their feelings of discomfort with drugs, alcohol and food. Others have painful confrontations with their loved ones. Finding a healthy path through the holiday madness is possible.

If you are part of a couple, tension around the holidays can lead to an increase in arguments. A common mistake that couples make during difficult times, is to scapegoat the other. It’s easier to blow-up at your partner than to direct anger or unmet needs at your parents or siblings. Clear communication and keeping a positive outlook can alleviate stress. One year, my husband and I decided before visiting his parents, that we’d be on each other’s sides. This meant taking little breaks from family functions so the two of us could talk and connect. By keeping a united front, we felt happier and more resilient.

Often the expectation to spend long blocks of time with relatives is draining. Women, especially, are typically socialized to meet peoples’ emotional and physical needs during the holidays. The list seems endless: decorating, gift buying, cooking and serving food. Even when you love these activities, care-taking can drain your energy. Mindfulness meditation is a useful tool to recharge and regain feelings of calm. Connecting with your breathe and experiencing your thoughts pass like clouds across the sky offers relief. 

Talk therapy also offers relief from holiday stress. Expressing your feelings with a therapist who you trust can help heal old family wounds. The holidays can become an opportunity to practice mindfulness and effective communication. In my work with couples and individuals, I help patients assert their boundaries, tolerate difficult emotions like sadness and anxiety and transform their relationships.