Holiday Stress Messing With Your Holiday Joy?

by | Nov 17, 2023 | Anxiety Management | 0 comments

This blog is for you if you read this and thought: “Oh YES! Family, presents, and traditions!”
And then suddenly thought:“Oh NO! Family, presents, and traditions!”

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  Right?

Over our lifetime, we are fed a steady diet of sparkly holiday images full of wonderful moments with family and friends. We are being served these picturesque ideals everywhere we look- stores, radio, tv, movies, books, social media…. We are surrounded by it. The winter holiday magic is EVERYWHERE!!!

Let me come clean and share that I am a HUGE fan of the holidays and get giddy with the Christmas countdown! I have always loved Christmas and all of the traditions AND ALSO I have felt overwhelmed with Christmas and all of the traditions.

At some point, I realized that the Christmas magic was stealing my Christmas spirit. I had to figure something out to protect my inner Elf!

If you have visions of sugar plum fairies dancing in your head alongside a shopping list, event calendar, cleaning lists, and a headache – then the holidays may be a magical mess of joy and stress for you, too!

It doesn’t have to be this way. You can save your inner elf!  You have choices.

Let’s talk about what you can do to enjoy the holidays:

  • Prioritize Presence (Not presents)

  • Let Others Share the Love (Delegate)

  • Reduce the Reindeer Run (Eliminate events)

Prioritize Presence (Not presents)

Wait! What?!? The holidays are all about gifts and giving so why would I want to give that up? Well, maybe you don’t have to give it up, however you may want to shift your focus and intentionality during the holiday season. 

In anticipation of the winter holidays, we start dreaming and envisioning the perfect holiday moments with family and friends. 

As you share your holidays via social media, your post features a beautiful holiday tablescape with candles, evergreen swags, fine china, silver flatware, and endless dishes of homemade food (cooked from scratch by you, of course!). Every loved one is sitting in place in front of their name plates with a festive cloth napkin on their lap while holding a crystal goblet to toast the merriment of the season. The Christmas tree has every ornament in its proper place and each present under the tree has coordinating gift wrap, perfect bows, and a handwritten sentiment on the gift tag.

Snap photo. Apply filter. Add holiday sentiment. Tag. Post. 

Success! The pic is “The Ultimate Holiday Moment”! In reality, prior to taking the photo there were at least five bouts of tears, four arguments, three last minute change of plans, two needed items forgotten, and one fragile celebration planner (AKA you!). 

And after the photo was posted, there were at least five bouts of tears, four arguments, three last minute change of plans, two forgotten traditions, and one fragile post celebration planner (AKA you!).

Many times these tears, arguments, etc.. originate from the energy we pour into creating the idyllic moments INSTEAD of experiencing them. In the business of creating the perfect holiday moment, we become exhausted. We are running in circles to get “this and that” and do “this and that”.

We NEED everything to be PERFECT.

We spend a ton of time and energy ensuring that we have each of the things that have been deemed vital to the holiday experience. If one thing is off or missing, then the whole moment is ruined!  At least, that is the message that we have tell ourselves. 

I get it! It feels good to provide for others during the holidays. The conflict comes in when we are so busy creating the moments that we don’t experience the moments. We emphasize the way the moments look over how everyone (including ourselves) feels in the moments.

Maybe we can start to prioritize the key traditions and elements for ourselves and our loved ones during the holidays. Since our family and friends are important in our lives, maybe we could pause and be present with our amazing loved ones.

You know the saying that “Your presence is a present”?  It’s true!

You and your loved ones will be happier when you are enjoying the memories as you are making them. 

Let Others Share the Love (Delegate)

Sharing is caring! In trying to be more present with our loved ones as we celebrate, we can also share the love (AKA “to-do list”) with our friends and family. 

For many, it may be hard to ask or allow others to help with various pieces of the events.

It may be challenging because you like to take care of people or it may be because you worry that it won’t be done correctly or it will be forgotten. 

The reality is that it is already challenging to do all of the things alone. When you are the one and only planner, chef, housecleaner, photographer, gift purchaser, gift wrapper, activity coordinator, tradition keeper, etc…, you are busy! You are exhausted!

By the time you have completed all of the tasks, it may be difficult to celebrate. You are tired. You are stressed.

You are missing the moments that you worked so hard to provide for your loved ones.

Sometimes our loved ones also want to help out to fulfill their own personal needs to care for others and feel connected. I am sure that you are asked “What can I bring?” or “What can I do to help?” when you send the invites! It may be a great gift to our loved ones to provide the opportunity for them to bring a dish or organize the elements of a traditional activity.

Imagine looking at your to-do list and seeing those check marks as you share them with your family and friends! That feels good, right?

Reduce the Reindeer Run (Eliminate events)

Cue the music! Do you hear these lyrics in your head- “Run, run Rudolph ’cause I’m reelin’ like a merry-go-round”?

This time of year, there are family gatherings, school events, work parties, church celebrations, parties with friends, and all of the prep for these events.  All of this is added into an already over scheduled life! 

If you look at your color coded calendar and feel like you need a clone, it may be time to re-evaluate your commitments. Saying “no” may feel like you are disappointing others and it may feel overwhelming and impossible to imagine where you can say “no”.

When continuing to say “yes” to all of the things, we are really saying “no” to ourselves. While running from one event to the next as we give apologies for having to leave early or arriving late, we are exhausting ourselves. We are not enjoying these amazing moments created for us by others. We are missing out on the moments we desire.

It’s okay to say “no” to loved ones. It’s okay to hit pause.

Take a moment to look over the calendar to prioritize the moments that matter. Maybe start with declining one activity for the week. 

Give yourself and others the gift of you. Instead of checking your calendar to follow your overscheduled schedule, you can enjoy the celebrations as they are happening. You also won’t be exhausted from doing the reindeer run and maybe you will hear the song lyrics of “All is calm, all is bright”.

What I Try To Stay Focused On

In the end, I try to remind myself of what really matters during the holidays. I know that this is an often repeated phrase and maybe it’s repeated because it is true! The memories are what remain after the season has ended.

Do we want the memories of our loved ones to be of us crying or being angry because the ornaments are not hung “right”? Is it right for us to end the season with memories of disappointment in ourselves for unrealistic and misallocated expectations?

If we are too busy creating the “perfect” holiday picture instead of emphasizing how everyone feels, then we end up missing out. You and your loved ones are worth finding ways to be present, to delegate, and say “yes” to the most important things.

Wishing you the very best this holiday season as you rid yourself of holiday stress to find your inner elf!

About the Author- Kathy Davis, LMSW

Kathy Davis, LMSW provides virtual therapy at Resolve Counseling in Texas. She works with families, children, teens, and adults providing online therapy for anxiety, depression, grief, and trauma.