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Stress and the Holidays:
Coping Strategies to Keep you Sane

By Helen Hunter, ACSW, CMSW

(Page 2 of 2)

Also, be sure to review your expectations and be realistic. Not everyone is jolly, generous and loving all through the holiday season. As Wayne A. Van Kampen from the Bethesda PsycHealth Reporter wrote, “ Somehow (during the holidays) persons feel pushed into hiding, covering over, or denying the reality of sadness, fear and tension. Perhaps what is needed most is simply a more honest embracing of ourselves, others, and the realities of life.” Not everyone will have a happy family gathering just because it is the holiday season. Old resentments are likely to resurface, no matter how hard we try, when people are thrown together for an extended period.

In addition, there are a number of strategies that can be used in planning the holiday celebration.

These strategies include the following:

  • Delegate responsibilities and activities so that one person is not taking on more than can be accomplished without help.

  • Do not assume responsibility for the entire household’s holiday happiness.

  • Work minute by minute on your attitude. Postpone becoming angry and show understanding and calmness. This technique should be used not only during the holiday period, but every day!

  • Any task that you have chosen to do, whether it be the cooking, cleaning, gift wrapping, card addressing, organizing, decorating or shopping, is to be viewed as a choice that you made. Try to have fun in tackling these tasks, which will make the holiday easier and keep your spirits positive.

  • Start traditions that make the most sense to you in your life now. It doesn’t always have to be done the same way every year.

  • Do things together as a family that you all truly enjoy.

Make the holiday season a time for you and your loved ones to have fun and to share special memories. When the entire season is over, sit down, relax and count your blessings. Remind yourself as to how lucky you are. When you make an effort to have a joyous, stress-free holiday, you can avoid the stress. The key is to plan ahead, and to ask for and accept help from others.


Helen Hunter, ACSW,CMSW, is an independent geriatric social service consultant and trainer. She is also a writer, and has had numerous articles published in national magazines focusing on elder and family care issues. Licensed in the states of Connecticut, New York and Florida, she currently resides in Fort Myers, Florida.


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