DaVita Stories

Taking stress out of the Holidays

This post was originally published on the Family Talk Blog Dec. 17, 2015. It was republished with permission, on DaVita Stories.

The holidays—with all its joys, excitement, and let’s face it, stress.

Added stress is a normal part of the holiday season. In a well-known life events stress test, 12 points are added to your score if it’s the holidays!

Television commercials show happy families sitting around a roaring fire, encircled by affluence. Cheerful music plays in all the stores. Christmas lights brighten the streets (a nice thing in the dark Northwest!). Yet the holidays are not all cheer and tinsel.

The arrival of Christmas, Kwanza and Hanukkah do not automatically bring happiness. Current life problems don’t go on vacation in December. Often the feeling that you should be happy makes everything worse. If you don’t somehow fit the television picture of holiday bliss, you feel that something is wrong with you.

Meanwhile, rushing around to buy presents, worrying if your family will like them, preparing holiday meals, and juggling finances to pay for it all can bring on a holiday headache.

Here are some tips to get the most out of the holiday season:

Stay focused

Remember what’s important. What does your holiday mean to you? How do you want it to be? Take control of your celebration and design your day to fit your needs. Remember to keep “the main thing, the main thing!”

Let go

Unrealistic expectations make for disappointment. All too often, a set idea of what something should be can prevent you from experiencing what it is. Make your plans, and then hope for the best, and enjoy whatever happens. This doesn’t have to be the best Christmas you ever had.

Take care of yourself

Mary has been shopping every weekend for bargains. First she hit one mall, then another. When she got home late Sunday night, she cooked until midnight and cleaned her house past 2 a.m.  Slow down Mary! Make sure that you make time to take care of yourself. The purpose of the season is not to shop till you drop!

In the middle of the holiday madness, take some time for yourself. Go for a walk, take a hot bath, or read a good book. Try to find an oasis of calm that’s just for you.

Accept your feelings

The holidays can remind you of what’s missing. You may be alone and lonely. You may be a struggling single parent. Finances may be tight, and everyone else seems to have money. Your marriage may be rocky right now, and all your friends seem happy and secure. It’s human nature to compare yourself with others and come up feeling short. Accept your situation as it is, without judgment or comparing it with others. Focus on the positive.

Past losses

Naturally, we think about our loved ones that are no longer with us during the holidays. We miss them at our holiday table. Accept your sadness and share your memories with others–these feelings are important and should not be swept under the rug.

Help others

Helping others who are less fortunate is a positive way to celebrate our feeling of community and connection this holiday season. It helps us remember what is important.

Express your love and appreciation of others

Gift giving is not the only way to express your feelings. None of us remember the gifts we received as children. What we remember is the love and closeness that we felt from others. No matter how you feel about the holidays, take time this season to tell the important people in your life how much you love and appreciate them.

That is a gift they will treasure always.

Dr. Paul Schoenfeld

Dr. Paul Schoenfeld

Dr. Paul Schoenfeld is a clinical psychologist with The Everett Clinic, a DaVita Medical Group, and the Director of The Everett Clinic’s Center for Behavioral Health. He specializes in working with children, families and adults. In his spare time, he’s a second degree black belt in Aikido (a peaceful martial art) and teaches aikido to children in Seattle. In addition (like many Pacific Northwesterners) he likes to hike, bike, and play in the sun (and rain).