Reducing Holiday Stress

By Sherry George, LCSW
Social Work Manager
Methodist Richardson Medical Center

Aah, the holidays … full of laughter, full of spirit, full of stress. How can you make it through the holidays without getting stressed out? That’s an age-old question that has been asked by countless generations. Between shopping, party planning, cooking, the dynamics of family get-togethers, financial pressures, and more, it’s no wonder that many people are counting the days until the holidays are over and the new year begins.

As a health care worker, caring for patients during the holidays, especially critically ill patients, can be more stressful than normal. The fact is the holidays are charged with emotions. Couple that with sick patients and family expectations on top of personal obligations and responsibilities, and there may be the potential for a meltdown.

Technology is also an added stressor. A constant need to check our phones for text messages and emails is not only stressful, it also tends to distract us from focusing on what’s really important — family and friends. Holidays are about relationships, and the best way to build and maintain good relationships is through face-to-face time where true communication takes place.

Stress isn’t pretty. It can take a physical and emotional toll on all of us. Stress can make us feel tense, cause us to lose sleep, give us headaches, make us feel tired and anxious, cause us to be irritable, and sometimes, even depressed.

So, what should we do? The key to staying as stress-free as possible is balancing work life and personal life. Here are 10 tips to help you de-stress during the holidays:

  1. Have an attitude of gratitude. Misery and gratitude cannot occupy the same space in our psychological house. We have the power to choose between these emotional states. Are you seeing the glass half full or half empty?
  2. Keep your expectations balanced. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect. Some things will go wrong. You won’t get everything you want. Remember, worrying about things that are out of your control is useless and stressful.
  3. Don’t try to do too much. Taking on too many tasks and obligations can dampen your spirits to the point of exhaustion. No wonder people get cranky, irritable, and depressed. Learn to say no. Delegate as much as possible and manage your time wisely.
  4. Don’t isolate yourself. Don’t sit at home feeling left out. Get out of the house and find some way to join in. There are hundreds of places you can go to hear music, enjoy the holiday sights, or volunteer to help others.
  5. Don’t overspend. Create a reasonable budget and stick to it. Don’t try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts. There are an abundance of unstructured, low-cost, fun holiday activities available for you and your family. Try window shopping, a trip to the country for lunch, an excursion to look at holiday lights, and more.
  6. Get some sunlight. Many people suffer depression due to a lack of sunlight because of shorter days or gloomy weather. Twenty minutes of sun a day can lessen the seasonal blues.
  7. Don’t overindulge. Be aware of how certain foods affect your mood. Loading up on fats and sweets is likely to cause you to have less energy, make you feel guilty, and feel more stressed. Be sure to get plenty of sleep and physical activity.
  8. Plan ahead. Many people purposely avoid the mall to avoid the stress associated with a crowd of shoppers. Instead, shopping online and preplanning for parties and other holiday events can prevent last-minute scrambling.
  9. Learn acceptance. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. Be understanding if others get upset if things go wrong. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals change as well. Choose a few cherished traditions to carry through the years and be open to creating new ones.
  10. Give yourself a break. Create time for yourself devoted to doing things you love to do. If you can’t take care of yourself, it’s harder to care for others. Just 15 minutes alone without distractions may be the refresher you need to handle everything you need to do. Take a walk at night to gaze at the stars. Listen to soothing sounds of the season. Find something to reduce your stress and clear your mind.

At Methodist Health System, taking care of each other is just as important as taking care of our patients. If you care about your career and are ready to practice in a mutually supportive environment, then it’s time to choose Methodist. Learn more by visiting

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