The holidays are a wonderful time, but they can also be a stressful time. Family members can “push your buttons,” and you might react with an uncharacteristic stress behavior, like yelling at them or retreating altogether. You may feel overwhelmed with all the things on your “to do” list. You might be stressed by all the needs of others, like kid’s parties, that seem to take precedence over your own.

Generally speaking, we tend to feel stress when our own needs are not being met. Examples of our needs are:

  • Basic needs of life (safety, food, water, shelter, and even some luxuries that have become very important to us like a nice home and well-manicured nails)
  • Our values being compromised, like being put in a position where our integrity is called into question
  • Insufficient time on a great passion like painting or an outdoors activity
  • Financial security
  • Our motivational needs or how we expect others to treat us
  • Our preferences for time and task management, including scheduling and details, is being stretched to the limit

The trick to dealing with stress is to recognize you are feeling it in the moment and find a way to get the underlying need met BEFORE you exhibit that stress behavior. It is our individual responsibility to get our needs met. It is not fair to expect others to always know what our needs are and be exactly what we want.

So here are 5 steps you can follow to better manage stress over the holidays:

  1. Recognize you are feeling it. Just practice over the holidays assuming any time you feel discomfort that you are feeling stress because a basic need is not being met. Just this recognition is a big step. So when you feel a lump in your throat, say to yourself, “I wonder if I am feeling stress.” Or if you feel yourself about to explode and yell at your kids, ask, “Could I be ready to exhibit a stress behavior?”
  2. Accept the feeling and just breathe into it. A good way to do this is to name where you are feeling it in your body. Does your back hurt? Do you have a sense of tension in your stomach? Where to you feel it?
  3. Take 3 deep breaths. This will just slow you down.
  4. Next examine what need is not being met. When you identify it, then think about the actions you can take now or in the future to get that need met. You cannot always get the need met right away, but you can identify what possible actions could be taken. You can schedule those actions. Just being in motion on meeting needs provides some relief.
  5. Now consider what action is appropriate NOW. It is likely not yelling at the kids. But it might be explaining to them what you need at this busy time. It might be scheduling some “you” time. It might be ___________. (You fill in the blank here)

We cannot always eliminate stressors in the environment. But we can always control our reaction to it and use it as a way to clarify our own needs and ways to get them met.

Start with the Thanksgiving holiday and note what your stressors are. Then practice this technique as you go into the end of year celebrations.

You deserve a happy holiday season, and this will help you have it.


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