While we often look to the holidays for times of joy and gratitude, many of us often feel the harsh pressures and stress of high expectations. From gift buying and decorating to planning holiday gatherings and endless lists of household chores, the holidays can often leave us stressed out and exhausted. This year try these holiday stress management tips leading into the holiday season so you can slow down and actually enjoy the “most wonderful time of the year”.

Holiday Stress Management: Set Realistic Expectations

I’m so sorry to be the one to tell you this, but more than likely your holiday won’t be perfect. Issues that have been stemming for years aren’t suddenly going to go away overnight. If you have parents that over-reach their boundaries, they’re probably going to overstep them again. If your siblings normally leave you to do the majority of holiday work, they probably won’t step up to the plate this year either. And if your mother-in-law has always made back-handed compliments about your home, your cooking, or you, then guess what? Yep, she will most likely make the same kind of remarks.

Make sure you’re setting realistic and manageable expectations for yourself and others this year. Disappointment can often hurt the most. Avoid that disappointment entirely by being self-aware and honest enough to know what you’re able to handle and what may be out of your control.

Communicate Those Expectations with Others

Just because you’ve set manageable expectations doesn’t mean your time with them is over. Now you need to communicate those expectations with those around you. Your significant other isn’t going to know you expect them to clean the bathroom unless you tell them.  Your kids also won’t know you expect their rooms to be neat when company is over unless you tell them. If you want your siblings to help out more, you have to ask them. It’s easier to meet expectations when you know where they are set.

Allow Yourself to Feel Your Feelings

Life has that weird way of doing the unexpected or throwing you obstacles no matter what else is going on in your life. Just because it is the holidays does not mean that you need to be singing “Joy to the World” at all hours of the day.

More than likely, you’re going to feel angry or irritated at some point. You might just feel sad. Or perhaps so overwhelmed you feel empty. All of these feelings are normal in human experience. We hope you allow yourself the time you need to feel them. Do not rush through your healing process just because of commercialized ideals.

PLEASE, Take Care of Yourself

We’ve said it before, and we will say it again. You need to, need to, need to take care of yourself in order to thrive. That means you need to sleep. You need to eat nutritiously. You have to move your body. And you can’t cope solely through drugs or alcohol.

Remember the holiday stress management DBT Please Skills:

Physical iLlness: Before anything else, you need to treat the things that are wrong with your body. If you’ve been prescribed medication, you need to be taking it. Get your yearly physicals. Don’t drag on and extend a sickness because you’re “too busy” to go to the doctor.

Eating: Your nutrition needs to be consistent and well balanced. You do not need to be on a raw vegan detox in order to up your mental health. But you do need to make sure for as many alcoholic beverages you indulge in, you also drink two glasses of water. And yes, hit up that Pittsburgh cookie table. But maybe hit the fruit or vegetable table first.

Avoid Drugs: Unless you’ve been prescribed a medication by your doctor, do not ingest any other mood-alternating drugs into your system. And in regard to alcohol, a glass of wine or two shouldn’t receive judgment, but don’t go on a bender every weekend during the holiday season. Remember, you have a much easier time handling and processing emotions when you are sober.

Sleep: We’ve said it more than once. Sleep is one of the greatest things you can do for your body. And we know you know the incredible way you feel when you actually get a well-rested night’s sleep. Why don’t you want to feel that way more often? Sleep is the time the body gets to recover. And the more recovery it can go through, the more you’ll be prepared to adapt to the challenge’s life throws you each day.

Exercise: If you’re in the majority, you probably don’t like physical exercise. We get it. Most days we don’t like it either. But try to think of working out and getting stronger as a parallel to your emotional strength.

Challenge Yourself

The last thing we encourage you to do is to do something that makes you feel happy and accomplished each day. It’s a sneaky way to build self-confidence. And when your self-confidence starts to increase, the pull your emotions have on your thinking mind decreases. It can be as simple as lighting your favorite smelling candle as you indulge in your skincare routine. Or a mindfulness walk through peaceful snow. It could be returning to your youth through ice skating or sledding. Bake cookies and lick the batter out of the bowl with friends or kids. The possibilities are endless – it is a magical season after all.

Help with Holiday Stress Management!

Counseling can be a helpful tool to help you make stress-management techniques a part of your daily life. Sharing your holiday stressors with your therapist can help you both stay on the same page and keep you accountable in working towards your goals. Therapy and counseling are safe spaces where you can voice your concerns, develop coping and communication skills, and find the support you need.

Remember, therapy is hard work! It can feel extremely uncomfortable and even exhausting. Having a hand to hold and help guide you will only add to your personal success. Cristina Panaccione and Associates Counseling has one location in the South Hills of Pittsburgh and one in the Robinson area. We are currently accepting a limited number of new patients, so check out our videos to learn more about how we can help you stress less this holiday season!

* This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please contact a medical professional for advice.

Dave Lori – LPC

Dave has had the honor and privilege of working in the mental health field for the past 20 years.  His experience ranges from family-systems work to individualized-focus. His clinical orientation ranges from client-centered, solution-focused, humanistic and Existential approach. Dave believes in providing a strength-based, supportive, authentic and non-judgmental approach to the therapeutic process. We all face various challenges and have the ability to reach our personal goals given the independent choices we make each day.


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