Minimize Stress this Holiday Season
Judy Myers, Extension Educator — Children, Youth & Family Consortium; and Heather Lee, Educational Resource Development and Support Manager — Family Development
Holiday celebrations often evoke childhood memories of family gatherings, eating special foods, and (maybe) receiving gifts. But for adults and parents with financial worries and difficult family relationships, holidays often cause additional stress.
Perhaps intentions to honor a holiday with solemn ceremonies or by refraining from ordinary business have been lost in the commercial expectations to indulge in pricey celebrations. Here are some tips for reducing the commercial pressures associated with holidays.
- Volunteer at a food shelf, food bank, or another community organization as a family or an individual. Read Children and Youth Learn and Develop when Volunteering for ideas (also in Spanish).
- If you are planning a get-together, consider making time to share family memories, play games together, or read stories aloud.
- If gifts are part of the holiday celebration, don't let the pressure to give gifts exceed your ability to pay for them! Rather than buying expensive gifts, consider exchanging hand-made gifts, such as breads, jams, children’s hand-drawn pictures, or family photographs. See Holiday Spending for tips on keeping your spending in check.
- If a loved one has passed away, create a ritual to honor that person’s memory and place in the family.
- If recently bereaved, talk with a trusted friend or counselor and plan for an alternative way to celebrate the holiday.
- If your family has experienced a recent divorce, separation, or custody change, give yourself the freedom and patience to explore new traditions with your new family configuration. If you are in a new relationship or newly married, see New Families and Traditions for ideas on merging and developing new traditions.
- If a holiday tradition causes you a lot of stress every year, consider dropping it! Some long-held traditions, such as cookie bake-offs and gift swaps, might cause more stress than they are worth. Other traditions might be appreciated more if they become an occasional occurrence instead of an annual one.
Remember, there are ways to honor special holidays that minimize stress and require little or no spending. Discuss upcoming holidays with your loved ones and make needed changes to help minimize stress and truly celebrate the occasions with your loved ones.
University of Minnesota Center for Spirituality and Healing. (2014). Mindful Holiday Giving.
Is Your Homemade Food Gift Safe to Eat? — How to create preserved homemade gifts and test them for safety.
Reflecting on Holistic Health — Ten questions to help you reflect on the past year’s joys and accomplishments as a way to minimize stress during the holidays.
Dealing with Stress — Online courses and resources for understanding and coping with stress.