3 Tips to Reduce Holiday Stress by Kelly Coulter, LPC

The holidays can be a wonderful time of the year filled with joy, fun and family. They can also be chaotic, disappointing, sad and stressful. Here are three tips for reducing stress during this time:

  1. Compassion: Brené Brown says, “Compassion is not a virtue — it is a commitment. It’s not something we have or don’t have — it’s something we choose to practice.” This is especially important during times when stress levels run high. I find that when I approach others from a place of compassion then I am less likely to become frustrated with them. This is especially true with my children. I like to look at their little hands as a reminder that they are still children (10 & 7) and readjust my expectations of them. Holidays can be overstimulating for children and adults which results in lower tolerance. I also practice self compassion by managing the expectations that I have for myself with regard to how much I can get accomplished in the month of I like to create a priority list of things we would all like to do during the break with the understanding that they may not all get done. It is very challenging to prioritize when there are so many things to do: Nutcracker, tree lightings, ice skating, trail of lights, gingerbread houses, etc). I let each child pick one “must do” for the season. Anything else we get done is a bonus.
  2.  Boundaries and Limits: I completely failed in the area of technology with this one during the Thanksgiving break. We did set boundaries around how we would be spending the holidays and decided this year we would celebrate in our new home with just the four of us. We found ourselves with some glorious downtime and took hikes, baked, watched movies, etc. However, we didn’t adhere to our usual time limits with our children’s use of technology or our own. This resulted in two irritable children upon returning to school. The transition back to school can be so tough on children going from little to no structure to high structure. Even though I know that children respond to limits and structure, it was honestly just nice to have them entertained for awhile. Subsequently, we had to go on a technology cleanse since then. During this next two week break from school, I am going to involve my children in deciding a fair compromise for technology use for them and for my husband and me. Children also crave power over their lives, so I like to offer them choices within reason (Parenting with Love & Logic).
  3. Fun: The holidays can be really fun! There are so many entertaining things to do around town. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle of the season and forget to take a moment to feel the gratitude for what is right in front of us. Remember that your presence can be the best present to your children and to yourself. When I begin to feel overwhelmed, I like to do a quick mindfulness/grounding technique which I also teach to my clients. It uses all 5 senses and begins with putting both feet on the ground and taking a deep, cleansing breath. You begin noticing your environment and name (silently) 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste. This always helps bring me back into the present!

With gratitude for you,

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