“Have a holly jolly Christmas” triggers memories of the Rudolph TV show, and it’s a nice wish for a bright, enjoyable holiday season. But for all the holly and all the jolly associated with Christmas, it’s a stressful time for many families.

In particular, family issues that hide below the surface all year long frequently explode with the added stresses of the holidays. It seems that everyone is on edge, and nobody knows how to push your buttons and open old wounds better than the people who know you best. You may get along with your siblings and your parents fairly well during the year, but an offhand remark in early December can make half the room angry and the other half defensive. Suddenly you’re trading jabs about that argument that happened way back at your cousin’s graduation party or Uncle Howard’s funeral.

Other families handle holiday stress in the opposite way: they act like it really isn’t there. They post happy photos of family gatherings on Instagram, with everyone smiling, but are those genuine smiles or clenched teeth? Pretending to get along when you don’t and acting happy when you aren’t are recipes for long-term problems.

So are the holidays survivable? We think so. The same steps that will keep your body healthy and help you fight the bugs that circulate whenever people gather will also minimize the effects of stress. For example, make sure you get plenty of sleep. You might be tempted to stay up to 1:00 so you can keep making cookies or wrapping presents, but you’ll be better off heading to bed at the normal time … and you’ll be more productive and less cranky tomorrow.

Another smart strategy? Watch what you eat. The holidays are fully of tasty temptations that can pull you off your normal diet. It’s okay to treat yourself a little, but if you gorge yourself on everything, you’re not going to feel well, and you’ll probably be angry with yourself in January when your clothes don’t fit as well. Plus, all that sugar and those rich desserts can influence your moods in the worst way. Instead, stick to healthier foods and keep moderation in mind.

Exercise is a great weapon against stress, and you don’t even have to go to the gym. In chilly weather, a brisk 15-minute walk around the neighborhood will invigorate you. Walk every day, and you’ll probably find that you’re sleeping better, too. Activities such as yoga and meditation can help you take the edge off of busy holiday preparation. Know what else works? Prayer. We tend to forget about God while we’re busy preparing for His son’s birthday party, but stopping from time to time to ask for calm, patience, and perspective can restore a stressed-out soul. In the midst of the busy season, we can find peace in knowing God still listens to our prayers.

And if it all starts getting to be too much, reach out for help. Give us a call, and we’ll be happy to sit down and give you some proven tips and tricks to manage stress, along with help finding and fixing what’s causing it in the first place!


If you’re looking for a way to take care of yourself in the coming year, kick it off by joining our first health and wellness group lead by our very own, Tracy Teipen.

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