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Coping with Holiday Stress

By Jean L. Underwood, ARNP, PMHNP-BC | Sycamore Health Center | 12/11/2014

So how did Thanksgiving work out for you? Would you like the next holidays to go better?

I have suggestions for limiting the stress and anxiety surrounding the demands of the holidays. Think about your own expectations and experience of the holidays. Choose what you actually want to do. You don’t have to do what you don’t want to do. What would happen?

Make a list. Here’s mine:

Plan: Set expectations. Make realistic plans, set expectations of enjoying the holiday. Don’t expect perfection.

Communicate: Talk with your family and friends. What makes the holidays fun for them? Ask what they want to do during the holidays. People remember experiences more than the gift. Leave out the stuff that is not realistic. Set priorities. Start a gift exchange by drawing names and setting a dollar limit. Live within your means. Stick with a budget: both for your time and your money. Schedule time to cook, clean, shop, and wrap the presents. And visiting.

Do things differently:

  • Food: Make some healthier choices this year.
  • Cleaning: Ask for help with the projects.
  • Parties: Make conversation. Don’t over eat or over drink. Alcohol leads to depression.
  • Cookies (It is okay to buy!)
  • Volunteer with your family. Give the gift of sharing and giving.
  • If you are hosting, it is okay to ask for help.

Take care of yourself:

  • Exercise: This will give you more energy. Go for a walk with your family. Do some yoga.
  • Sleep: This, too, will give you more energy.
  • Cross off what you don’t enjoy. (NO, leave in the exercise!) Others will understand that you can’t do everything. They can’t either.
  • Give everybody a break, including yourself. It doesn’t have to be perfect nor the same as always. Allow for changes, new ways to celebrate.
  • Meditate. Sing.
  • Seek help if you cannot manage the stress. If you are irritable, unable to do your chores, unable to sleep and feel hopeless for more than a week or two: talk with a mental health professional. Depression should not be part of the holiday experiences. See a mental health professional who can help you make better choices and treat the depression.

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A faculty practice unit under College of Nursing Health Care, the Sycamore Health Center is a primary care and mental health services clinic operated entirely by nurse practitioners. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 319-337-9066, email or visit

Posted On: 
Dec 11th, 2014