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Healthy Coping During the Holidays

The holidays are joyous occasions. Unfortunately, we often find ourselves more stressed than ever as they draw near. Maybe you are dreading:

  • Hosting holiday events, or feeling pressured to attend so many holiday events

  • Overspending

  • Dealing with difficult family members or family fights

  • Increased sadness from losing a loved one recently or during a past holiday

  • You are not alone if you do. These are all common holiday stress inducers.

Holiday Events

If you are expected to be the “host with the most”, know it is okay to say no. It is also perfectly acceptable to delegate and ask others to help you. Host events because you enjoy being a host or because a particular event or cause has special meaning to you or to the season, rather than out of obligation or expectation.

Often times, our holiday calendars are full every night and weekend. It’s perfectly fine to turn down some invitations so you can dedicate time for yourself and your immediate family to enjoy.

Some of us, though, find ourselves at the opposite end of the spectrum, tending to isolate and turn down every invitation. Holiday events can be a great time to reconnect with friends and family and enhance your support network. Try to attend at least one.


Holidays, especially Christmas, are overly commercialized. It is easy to feel the pressure to compete and always have to buy the perfect gifts.

Spending beyond your means will only bring about added stress, however. Set a budget and stick to it. If you know how much you have to spend, it will help you avoid impulse buying.

Make the holiday about helping. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or another of your favorite charities. Helping is good and feels good. Serving alongside friends and family brings also the added bonus of making shared memories.

Be creative. Come up with budget-friendly ideas such as hand-made gift items, delivering home-baked goodies or Christmas caroling.

Family Conflict

When family and friends with differing opinions on everything from religion to politics come together, it can cause strain.

Having healthy conversations is good. Recognize you may not be able to change others viewpoints, however. Use conversations as an opportunity to share your belief rather than convince everyone your view is best.

Equally as uncomfortable as differing opinions is bringing up past conflicts. Avoid opening old wounds and instead focus on the positive and the future. If you can, forgive, those past hurts rather than resurrect them, you will feel better during the holiday and all year through.

Know, however, if things escalate and become unproductive, it is okay to walk away.

If family conflict is expected at your yearly gatherings, be proactive! Before anyone arrives, think about good memories to bring up and things you have in common. Remind yourself of how you plan to stay calm – taking deep breaths – for instance. Strategize activities for everyone to enjoy together and keep busy.

Plan ahead, too, on the amount of time you intend to stay. Have an exit strategy.

Sadness and Grief

Holidays can be a more difficult time due to grief and loss. If you’ve recently lost a loved one or lost someone in a previous year around the holidays and you are feeling sad, talk to someone about how you are feeling.

Recognize how you may feel on those special days and prepare to take extra care of yourself during this time. What might make your day less stressful? Speak up about your needs.

Consider developing new traditions. Include doing something special to celebrate your loved one. Perhaps you can cook their favorite meal, look at photos, talk about good times, or do an activity or make a donation in their memory.

Help Is Available

Asking for help is a normal part of life, whether during the holidays or anytime of the year.

If you have questions or would like to visit with a therapist, our licensed professionals are here for you. Our services are for people of all ages, faiths and backgrounds, no matter one’s ability to pay.

For Mental Health Support and Counseling, contact Catholic Charities at 712-252-4547 or

Clinical Director, Benita Triplett, LISW

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