Managing Holiday Stress

We’re in the home stretch! The kids are out of school and the holidays are almost here. While this is an exciting, magical time for some; for others it can be quite stressful.  I recently had a chance to talk to my dear friend (who also happens to be a psychologist), Dr. Debbie Sorensen, about how to handle the busy-ness and  expense of the holidays.

Check it out:

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And I love the little cheat-sheet Dr. Sorensen made for the podcast episode:

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Interested in listening to more podcasts? Check it out here:

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Families, Politics and the Holidays

Did you make it through Thanksgiving? How are you feeling about Christmas? It’s fast approaching, and guess what?

Your family is still your family, and your politics are still your politics. 

I recently spoke to the fun folks over at BuzzFeed about how to deal with tough conversations with family over the holiday season.  As always, BuzzFeed’s take on the topic is funny – but also filled with really useful tips. Here’s a favorite:

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As the booze flows, so do the inappropriate and inflammatory comments and questions.  Resist the urge to engage in a drunken argument – nothing good ever comes from it.

Check out the entire article – and all 15 tips – here:

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Families and the Ties That Bind (Hint: None of them are political)

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There is a lot of tension in the country right now.  And we knew it was going to be this way, right? No matter the outcome of the election, there were always going to be many, many millions of folks who’d supported the losing side.  And after a full of year of debate, nastiness and name-calling in the political arena, more rancor post-November 8th was exactly what NONE of us needed.

And now here come the holidays.  A time that’s supposed to be shiny, bright and Pinterest-worthy – but is actually often stressful, disappointing and overwhelming.

I’ve been talking to quite a few folks in the media this week about tips for how to manage holiday gatherings with family members who are on different sides of the political debate.  A few things have come to my mind in these conversations, not the least of which is:

We don’t love our families (and our families don’t love us) because of our political views

The love shared between families is made up of many (in my mind, more interesting) reasons:

  • We share the same history – the history we can remember and the history that happened generations before we arrived
  • We have lots of shared memories – of things good, bad and in between
  • We root for the same football team, laugh at the same dumb movies, like the same weird food, etc
  • We have forgiven each other for mistakes and hurts big and small – and will continue to do so many more times in the years to come
  • We accept each other for what we really are: Not what we post on our Facebook page or send in our holiday cards
  • We sit with each other when we are sick, hold each other’s hands when we grieve and celebrate together when a milestone is reached

Feelings about the election and the coming administration are intense, but let’s all try to keep it in perspective.  Shared political beliefs rarely occur in families anyway, and this year is no different.  To expect agreement this holiday season will likely only result in frustration.  Instead try focusing on all the many things we do have in common and love about each other.  Pumpkin pie, anyone?

Saying “No” To Holiday Stress

Is Thanksgiving really less than a week away? If the thought sends a little bit of panic through your system like it does mine, you might find these tips useful.  My favorite? “Practice Saying No.”  As in:

No, I’m not going to try to out-do all the other moms when it comes to teacher gifts.

No, I appreciate the invitations, but I won’t be attending every holiday event.

No, I’m not going to participate in the rampant consumerism and keeping-up-with-the-Joneses-ism that often plagues the holidays

Oh and another thing: This lady’s stress would be a whole lot less if she ditched the heels. Check it out:

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Halting Holiday Stress: Family Conflicts

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We all have them: family members we just don’t get along with.  Whether it’s because they’re simply annoying, overly obnoxious or outrageously opinionated – just because we’re related to someone doesn’t mean we get along.  Sadly the holidays often make these relationships worse.  Between spending more time than usual together (whose idea was it to make Thanksgiving and Christmas so close together, anyway??) and high expectations for picture-perfect holiday celebrations, this time of year can be a perfect storm of family turmoil.

So what can be done to ease the inevitable tensions that arise among even the most well-adjusted of families?

We are who we are.  Just because it’s the holiday season doesn’t mean that our annoying family members are going to get any less annoying.  In fact, if they do any changing at all it will likely be to become even more irritating (all that booze, heavy food and stress just doesn’t improve things).  With that in mind, it can be best to keep expectations relatively low and realize that that we all have our quirks.

Quality vs. Quantity.  Sometimes we spend so much time together over the holidays, that we simply overdose on each other.  Instead of spending large amounts of time together, consider focusing on quality time together instead – focusing on fun, meaningful and memorable activities or conversations together.

Lose the Booze.  As mentioned above, alcohol often brings out the worst in our personalities.  It can lead us to say things we shouldn’t, get more irritated with others – and more quickly, and can increase the potential for family conflict when we’re spending more time than usual together.  While just thinking about the holidays and the accompanying family time can make some folks reach for the wine glass, keeping alcohol intake to a minimum may actually make the season go more smoothly.

Happy Holidays!

 

 

Halting Holiday Stress: Just Do One Thing

Is wearing matching PJ's your favorite part of the holidays? Then go for it...maybe just not this particular pair.

Is wearing matching PJ’s your favorite part of the holidays? Then go for it…maybe just not this particular pair.

If you are a Pinterest addict like me, then you know there are about a zillion crafty/creative projects and activities you could be doing this holiday season.  In fact, it’s easy to feel like a big holiday failure if you don’t:

  • send out handmade cards
  • make cookies for all your neighbors and friends
  • decorate both the inside and outside of your house by the end of Thanksgiving
  • go caroling
  • feed the homeless
  • make your own nativity scene, advent calendar and stockings
  • buy (or better yet, make!) matching pajamas for your family
  • enjoy several holiday traditions with your perfectly-behaved children and pets by doing things like reading aloud together, making gingerbread houses and singing Christmas carols

I know I left out a whole bunch of other projects – but you get the point.  The number of things we “should” do around the holidays and the things we actually want to do – or physically can do – is much more limited.

So this year, instead of writing a mile-long to-do list, pick just one or two things to do.  And do them well.  And enjoy them while you’re doing them.  And have that be enough. For me, I truly love Christmas cards (giving and receiving!) so that’s where I will be putting the majority of my creativity energy this year.  How about you?

 

Stop Holiday Stress Before It Starts

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Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and my neighbors have already put up their Christmas lights…must be time to start talking about holiday stress!  In an effort to help all of us manage the expectations, pitfalls and joys of this year in an effective way, I am going to offer up a bunch of posts over the next 6 weeks on how to cope with holiday stress.  Here’s my first tip:

Start planning for Christmas now.

No, you don’t have to start playing Christmas carols, but coming up with an idea of what and when you might get things done is a great idea.  By my count there are 7 weekends between now and Christmas (and one of those is Thanksgiving weekend) which means we have plenty of time to do things like:

  • decorate
  • shop
  • bake
  • volunteer
  • go to parties
  • host a party
  • wrap gifts
  • send cards
  • make plans to get out of town
  • whatever else is part of your holiday tradition

So pull out your calendar and see what you can get scheduled.  You will thank yourself in a month!

 

 

Are You Cool Enough to Be Stressed?

Did you know that hip, important and interesting people are pretty much stressed out all the time?

No?

Well, log into Facebook, Twitter or Instagram – better yet check out the latest on Pinterest and the blogosphere and you will see in fact that cool people are highly stressed and super busy, like all the time.

Not true, you say? Unfortunately it is what many of us feel.

photo credit

photo credit

At some point in the last – oh, I don’t know – 20 to 30 years it became super cool to say “I’m so stressed!” and “Life is crazy right now!” and “I don’t know if I can keep going at this pace – aggghhh!”  The only problem with this idea is that it isn’t so cool when this stress leads to heart disease, psychological disorders and other health issues.  Come to think of it, being super stressed doesn’t actually make you cool at all.  It just makes you stressed.  And probably a little bit irritable.  And maybe prone to do things you probably shouldn’t like eat too many candy corns or drink too many lattes.

But yet the idea persists that the more stressed you are the more important you must be.

This holiday season I am going to take a stand against the often-super-stressful months of November and December by offering tips (I’ll shoot for a couple times a week as I am trying to keep my stress down, too!) on keeping the holidays simple, the stress low and the fun high.

Do you have tips, strategies or plans for lowering your stress this holiday season? If so, please send them to me at stephanie@drstephaniesmith.com and maybe they will get included on the blog!

And check out this article on Psych Central that I got to be a part of:

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Keeping It Real at Christmas

I recently received a Christmas card with the following note:

After reading your last blog entry I couldn’t resist sending you a copy of our Christmas card.  It is a far cry from Martha Stewart, but it should give you a good laugh.

Here it is:

Christmas Card

Seriously, how darling is that family?

Here’s the real-life, not-perfect, but super-cute story behind the photo:

We decided that our Christmas card needed some explanation this year:  
Let’s just say there were hopes and dreams of the “perfect family photo” for this card.  

About 10 minutes into our photo secession, son #1 found a section of perfectly flat, bright green, artificial turf.  

Naturally, he decided to run onto the grass…only to find that it was not.  

Imagine his surprise as the carpet of pond scum parted as he fell face first into the water.
This photo was candidly taken right after pulling him out.  

It describes life with 3 children perfectly!

 Merry Christmas!

Thanks so much for sharing, Mandy! Your Christmas card certainly shows us that real and honest – along with it’s accompanying scum – makes for the most memorable (and sincere) holiday greetings!