Holiday-stress-family Penney Murphy & Associates Saskatoon SK

Holidays, Stress & Family

Holidays, stress & family.  Often, they all seem to go hand in hand.  Carol Metcalfe on our excellent Counselling Team has some advice for us to take the stress out of the holidays with family.

Holiday-stress-family Penney Murphy & Associates Saskatoon SK

Having a Memorable Holiday Season with Your Family – Carol Metcalfe, B.A., M.S.W., R.S.W.

The Holiday season is upon us. A season filled with family gatherings, travel, dinner, expectations, and traditions. Whether you are hosting, planning for guests or gatherings in your home, or are a guest at a relative’s house, the holidays are filled with events and expectations that are typically higher than usual.

For some, the Holidays are a time of happy memories, while for others, the biggest source of stress is family – dinner, obligations, and the burden of family traditions. During the Holiday Season, it is important to ask yourself if your expectations are realistic? Are they practical?

As you are planning gatherings consider keeping your Holiday stress to a minimum. This involves bearing in mind many things such as:

* Family dynamics

* Interpersonal relationships and communication styles

* The possibility of conflict

* Gift giving and finances

* Setting limits and boundaries

* Anxiety and depression

* Hosting the family meal

Helpful Tips to Reduce Holiday Stress and Enhance Enjoyment:

Hosting the Family Meal? Share the Work.

Consider buffet style, or host a potluck, and ask guests to bring their favourite dish. Consider pre-made or frozen items that can be heated rather than preparing everything yourself. Is eating out or catering an option? Perhaps appetizers and snack foods can be served rather than a traditional meal. If you are planning a sit-down family dinner, think about where guests will be seated, and avoid seating those with differences together. Limiting alcohol consumption is also something to think about, as this tends to lower inhibitions, increase emotion, and can exacerbate tension between family members or relatives.  And avoid sensitive topics, such as politics and religion.

The Holidays can also bring up unhappy or painful childhood memories.  For some, the Holidays can highlight everything that has changed, for example, divorce or a death in the family. Similarly, they can reinforce sameness and monotony, doing the same tradition every year. Either situation can unsettle family gatherings. If someone suffers with depression or anxiety, the Holidays can often be a difficult time.

Perhaps think about creating a new tradition and focus on gratitude.

Gift giving is a wonderful tradition, and a means of expressing gratitude and appreciation.  However, we often feel a need to spend more than necessary. This can lead to stress and disappointment. Set limits for yourself, have a budget and stick to it. Some popular ideas to help with financial stress: drawing names or suggest a family gift rather than buying for everyone individually.  Do gifts even need to be exchanged?

The pressure of attending all family events can also cause a lot of stress, and tension between family members. Remember that the Holidays are meant to be joyous. Establishing boundaries by knowing your limits, and taking time for yourself is important. If you have multiple events to go to think about the following:

* Don’t try to attend all gatherings – reply that you are unable to attend, and send a thank you for the invitation.

* Limit the amount of time that you do spend together. Don,t be afraid to say no if you need time for yourself. Self- care is particularly important at this busy time of year.

* Making healthy food choices, get enough sleep, limit alcohol, and remember to exercise. Wise choices for your health makes all the difference in reducing stress.

* Above all – remember to laugh, and have fun together. May your Holiday season be filled with Peace, Happiness, Health, Joy, and Happy Memories.  If you do find yourself feeling stressed and need someone to talk to, please call us at Penney Murphy & Associates at (306) 242-1010, or book an appointment on our website at

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