Holiday De-Stressing Tips

I love the holidays. Hot cocoa, snow, seeing extended family, listening to Christmas music on the radio, and driving around my neighborhood looking at Christmas lights – these are just a few of the things that bring me joy during this time of year. However, as is the case for many, I have had to learn how to navigate my expectations. I have had to make changes so I can enjoy the holidays because this can be “the most wonderful time of the year” or the most stressful time of the year.

Here are a few things I have learned:

  1. Evaluate your expectations. Are they realistic? Are they dependent on others’ reactions? Do you have expectations of others? We cannot control what others do or their reactions, but we can control our own expectations of them. If you have expectations of others, it is important to be upfront with them rather than to assume they’ll read your mind.
  2. Simplify.  I admit it. I hate shopping. But I have learned to get my holiday shopping done quickly and to not wait until the last minute, which helps. Who do you want to give a gift? Make a list. Decide how much you want to spend on each person. Stay within your budget to decrease additional financial stress. Dedicate time to shopping – a full day or better yet, a few hours online. I ask all of my family members to make an Amazon wish list. The kids enjoy doing this, and it makes buying gifts much easier! What else might you need to simplify? Last year, did you make goodies for everyone on the block? This is a wonderful gesture, but if you are stressed, give yourself permission to just do this for a select few or perhaps not at all. Consider turning Christmas cards into New Year’s or Valentine’s Day Cards.
  3. Manage your schedule. Plan as a family what things you’d each like to do over the holidays. Then adjust your schedule to make room for these favored events. Everyone wins by getting to do something they enjoy. When you’re pulled in too many directions, remember that you can’t do it all.
  4. Enjoy each moment. Mindfulness is a valuable skill for everyone, but especially for those who struggle with depression or mental illness. It’s easy to let your mind wander to the past or the present, but practice keeping your mind centered in each moment. Be fully present in a conversation with a family member. Focus on chopping vegetables in the kitchen or watching your kids laugh and play rather than letting your mind wander. Practice being in the here and now.
  5. Focus on what is important. This holiday season, focus on your faith, traditions, family, or whatever you value most rather than food. For those who struggle with disordered eating, the holidays can be extremely stressful and challenging. Being surrounded by food and individuals talking about diets and holiday weight gain can be quite triggering. Plan time for what you value most. It’s important to remember what the holidays are really about.
  6. Give yourself grace. As I watch Christmas shows on television, I am reminded that is NOT reality. Everything looks perfect – elaborately decorated houses, beautiful Martha Stewart-style feasts, everyone smiling and getting along. No one is on their electronic devices; rather laughing and enjoying one another. Know yourself. If you don’t have the gift of hospitality, that’s fine! If you don’t have a knack for cooking or decorating, don’t beat yourself up. It’s okay. You are gifted in other areas! Ask for help if you need to. Take breaks to be alone. You deserve to give yourself grace. You are human.

May your holiday be calm, simplified, peaceful, and filled with things that are most important to you and your family.

Kori Hintz-Bohn, MA, LCPC, CEDS
Senior Program & Clinical Consultant
McCallum Place Eating Disorder Treatment Center, Kansas City