Tips for Surviving the Holidays

The holidays are meant to be a time of joy. Unfortunately, this time of year also brings added stress to many. With the slumping economy and families feeling the financial strain, the holidays tend to bring on unwanted anxiety while determining how to afford the usual holiday gift giving. Others feel that the holidays have lost their meaning and are worn out from too many seasonal events. Then there are those who are lonely and have nowhere to go, or have had a past sad event overshadow their holiday joys.

With proper planning, effective communication, and using problem solving techniques, couples can learn how to address the common holiday stresses and keep them to a minimum.

Jo Ellen Christian, Executive Director of Healing Strides, Inc., a nonprofit charity teaches Marriage Team Building seminars and classes for couples and provides counseling for families by using interactive hands-on activities. She has put together tips and advice on how to address and reduce common holiday stresses. These tips range from helpful advice on financial strain to family and social obligations to loneliness:

Financial Strain

When times are financially tough, Jo Ellen recommends talking with family members to start new traditions. She also advises you to:

  • Consider making gifts for each other or volunteering to help others as your gift.
  • Agree to “cards-only” or a single family gift for other family relatives and friends.
  • Agree on firm spending limits with EACH family member.
  • Set up a “secret Santa” lottery where each person gives only one gift to the family member whose name they drew. Enjoy guessing who gave each gift.
Family and Social Obligations

Individuals, couples and close families need quiet time and shared moments. Plan ahead to balance visiting or entertaining friends and extended family while reserving quality time for private activities for yourself and close family members. Jo Ellen urges individuals to:

  • A few weeks before the holiday season starts, sit down with family members and friends to respectfully listen to their expectations for the holidays.
  • Follow up by expressing what you would like.
  • Look for common ground and try to incorporate the most important expectations.

Even if you are very busy, the holidays can seem to be very lonely, isolated times. These strategies, says Jo Ellen, can reduce holiday loneliness:

  • If being with close family or loved ones is not possible this year, ask to take a friend’s young children for an outing or invite them to help you to trim your tree or decorate your home or apartment.
  • “Adopt” parents or grandparents or a disadvantaged family or child. Local nursing homes, churches or community agencies can help you with this one.
  • Throw a party for others who might be without family this year. Consider taking a party to a shelter where people need holiday cheer.
Your Holiday checklist:
  1. Decide what events and aspects of the holidays are most important to you.  For example, is it the turkey, the socialization, or the football most important on Thanksgiving? As you write these down, be specific and ask yourself- why is this important?
  2. Surround yourself with your favorite people. Everyone has obligations to others, but make sure you plan time with those closest to you. Who is on your list?
  3. Set aside time for yourself. Take a moment now and then to meditate, pray, exercise, or do something that you enjoy. Even pausing to take a few deep breaths can reduce stress. Jot down any other ideas you might have.
  4. Take good care of yourself.  Drink lots of water, and enjoy holiday refreshments, but in moderation. Exercise is a stress buster.
  5. Establish family traditions. Talk with your loved ones about what traditions they have enjoyed growing up and adapt these to your family, or come up with your own.
  6. Guard Family time. Do your best to keep other people and events from intruding on special traditions and activities with your immediate family.
  7. Take time to Laugh. Rent a funny movie, and try to see the humor in everyday events..