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  • Writer's pictureElissa Strassman

6 Tips to Help Families Cope with Holiday Stress

Updated: Dec 20, 2023


Tips to help families cope with stress during the holiday season.

December is National Stress-Free Family Holidays Month. I love this theme, not just because having a stress-free holiday sounds appealing, but because it takes into context the whole family, as a system, as a unit. For me, I interpret this as a reminder, to turn to each other and ask how can we support each other, look out for one another, during what can be a very busy, stressful, and overwhelming time of year.


Below are just a few ideas, to help perhaps plant some seeds, as to how we can support ourselves, and members of our family, cope with holiday stress. 


6 Tips to Help Families Cope with Holiday Stress


1 ) Check-in with yourself and with other members of your family and talk about the next couple of weeks ahead. 

  • Get organized: Talk about plans that are already on the calendar, things going on in and outside of the house, and make a list of what needs to be accomplished. 

  • Take a pulse for how people are feeling, with school, work, obligations, mood, thoughts, feelings. 

    • Based on what comes up in that conversation, co-plan how you can work together as a family to address what was discussed. 

      • How can we work together to get some of these tasks done?

        • Can some tasks be delegated/or can others pitch in, help, or take a task on? 

          • For super busy nights: can we think of some quick and easy meal ideas that we can purchase, make or have on hand?

      • Are people feeling nervous about social events/gatherings? 

        • How can we be a support for one another?

          • Taking a breather/time out

          • Getting out in fresh air/taking a walk

          • Coming up with things to talk about/a signal to let you know I need some assurance/additional help. 

      • How are people overall? How are we taking care of ourselves/our needs/our own self-care

        • What can we do to preserve our own sense of self? 


2) Be realistic and transparent with expectations you have on yourself/with others. 

  • Budget, presents, boundaries, time, etc. 

  • Embrace the perfectly imperfect.


3) Prioritize time/obligations/traditions to preserve family health:

  • Advocate for your family’s needs by checking in with others, before committing to plans,  saying “no”, or setting boundaries on things that will best support your family’s wellbeing. 

  • Make modifications to holiday traditions, if they feel too much this year, or in general, as a whole. 

    • Make one or two batches of your favorite cookies. 

    • Say good-bye to old traditions that no longer suit your family/work.

      • Remind yourself, you can always bring them back again. 


4. Ask for, and accept, help. 

  • When we do things for others, it can help us to feel good, so if asking for and accepting help feels like a challenge, keep this in mind, and reach out and ask for assistance, after all what is the worst that could happen?


5. Seek professional support when needed. 

  • Sometimes when we are going through tough, or stressful times, and our own self-care/coping strategies are not enough, we may find we need some additional support. Please know that that’s okay. You are not alone. 

    • The following people, organizations or services may be of help.

      • A doctor, counselor, or clergy member.

      • Your employer’s Employee Assistance Program.

      • Your insurance carrier. They may be able to provide you with more information about mental health resources/coverage, and offer a list of mental health providers in your network.

      • Mental Health Association of Rochester

        • Self-Help Drop-In Services 

        • MHA Crisis Text Line: available 24/7, text “HOME” to 741741, you will be connected to a trained counselor

      • National Alliance for Mental Illness: at 1-800-950-6264, text "NAMI" to 741741.

      • SAMHSA National Helpline:1-800-662-4357

      • SAMHSA Treatment Referral Helpline:1-877-726-4727

      • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, available 24/7, at 988


6. Repeat this process throughout the holiday season, and all throughout the year as well. 


I hope you found these tips to be useful.


What have you found to be most helpful for you and your family, when it comes to working through holiday stress?


Feel free to share in the comments below!

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