Handling Holiday Stress
By: Bonny Osterhage
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but for many it is also one of the most stressful. Family dynamics and financial constraints are two of the biggest causes of holiday angst during an average year, but this year has been anything but average. Now we can throw travel restrictions, pandemic protocols, and a presidential election into the mix for a little extra challenge. The good news is, there is still holiday joy to be had—even if you have to look a little harder to find it this year.
Here are a few ways you can handle the stress and put a little happy back into your holidays.
- Manage Expectations: Make sure everyone understands that things might look different this year due to limited traveling, financial hardships, online learning or work schedules, and even limited family gatherings with high-risk relatives. Keeping everyone on the same page will help avoid any disappointments about changes in family traditions or plans.
- Stay Within Your Budget: It can be tempting to resort to retail therapy to make ourselves and those around us feel a little better, but make sure you are staying within a budget—especially if that budget looks different than in years past. Don’t run up your credit cards in the name of gifting. Instead try shopping sales, setting a spending limit, or drawing names. Challenge family members to get crafty and make gifts for one another this year. A heartfelt, handmade gift is easily more valuable than anything you can buy. Bonus? You may just establish a new holiday tradition!
- Control the Conversations: Gathering around the holiday table with family should be a time for joy and love—not arguing. Establish ground rules such as, “no politics at the table,” or set the tone by inviting each person to share something positive from the past year. Tabletop conversation starter cards sold at many retail outlets are also a fun way to engage everyone in lighthearted, positive, and productive chatter.
- Virtually Travel: You may not be able to go “over the river and through the woods,” to grandma’s this year, but you can virtually visit family and friends via Zoom, Facetime, and other online platforms. Schedule dinners with extended family, or happy hours with friends and coworkers. Open gifts “together.” Make it merry by dressing up, having ugly sweater contests, or playing online games. You’ll be feeling festive in no time!
Remember, the holidays are not about who can buy the most expensive gift, or whose turn it is to host the holiday dinner. The season is about peace, love and joy, and those are things that we can give freely and often not only during the holidays, but throughout the year.