Be Less-Stressed This Holiday

With Permission, by Carol Goldberg 

Its 11 a.m., the turkey isn’t done, the in-laws are pulling into the driveway and you still haven't set the table. Is this what the holidays are all about? If you're feeling the pressure to have everything just right, take a few minutes to read over the following tips that will hopefully put the "happy" back into the holidays.

Plan – But Not Too Much

"Part of the problem with holiday stress is when the holidays are really blown out of proportion and people start preparing for them so far in advance," says Carol Goldberg, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in New York City. "Advance preparation is nice, but it shouldn't take over your whole life. You shouldn't be so focused that afterward you're going to feel somewhat let down because the celebration didn't match your expectations."

Put It In Perspective

"I think it's important to put the holidays into perspective," says Dr. Goldberg. "Be realistic. Preparation shouldn't be such that it takes over everything, but you should be prepared." She suggests making lists -- a different one for each event, celebrations and gifts."

Share The Work

If you have people coming over for dinner or a celebration and they offer to bring something, let them, recommends Dr. Goldberg. "You'll have less stress and people will feel that they're doing something worthwhile and useful," she says.

Being the host or hostess during the holidays can be a particularly stressful role. Dr. Goldberg suggests sharing preparation and cleanup with others. “If guests ask how they can help, see if a few could arrive earlier to help set the table or stay afterwards to help with the cleanup," she says.

All In The family

"Another thing which people today find very stressful, is the ‘reconstituted’ family structure," says Dr. Goldberg. "Holiday time tends to be family time, so people who are divorced have to face ex-in-laws and ex-spouses, and that can be very difficult. " If you're divorced or separated, and your children are splitting the holiday between both parents' homes, make arrangements to pick up or drop them off at a neutral location if possible, says Dr. Goldberg.

When it comes to conflicts with parents or siblings, Dr. Goldberg suggests keeping in mind it's only for a few days. "It'll be over soon," she says. "If you see the time as limited, it's easier to take."

Holidays can be difficult times when a close friend or family member has passed away. Setting aside some time to talk about the deceased person and share memories of them is one way of coping. "But move on," says Dr. Goldberg. "Spend maybe a half-hour discussing this person and then stop that conversation and go on to the rest of the celebration."

If You're Alone

Holidays are often very difficult for people who are alone. "If people are single or far from their families, they could celebrate with friends. Friends are often a substitute for family," says Dr. Goldberg. If you know several other people who are also alone, put together a group and share the holiday together.

"Another thing I think is nice is to volunteer for part of the day in a hospital or soup kitchen, because you're doing something worthwhile, and you're probably not going to feel as sorry for yourself when you see people who are worse off than you," she says.

Remember the HealthQuest EAP

Need a little help with the holiday stress?  The HealthQuest EAP is available 24/7 and just a confidential call away at 1-800-284-7575.