The Guy’s Guide to Beating Holiday Stress

The holidays are usually defined as a time of family get-togethers, good food and drink, and relaxation, but for a lot of Americans, the holidays are truly difficult in a number of ways.

Going into debt, dealing with family conflict, high stress, travel and marital discord, as well as depression and anxiety, characterize the experience of a lot of men these days. With a little planning and preparation, you can usher in the holiday season with minimal conflict, if you’re willing to consider these things:

  1. Know your limits: Whether that’s how much money you’re going to spend, how much time you can actually stay any one family member’s home, or how much alcohol you can consume, it’s important know your limits. If you’re not doing things in moderation, you might be burning the candle at both ends. The holidays are a time off from everything that’s stressful, and if you’re creating more stress, you’re not really enjoying the holidays and relaxing. Know your limits, be able to say ‘no’ to others, and to yourself. Practice moderation, and knowing what’s good for you.
  2. Watch for holiday mental health hazards: This is a memorable season, and for some, those memories are more haunting than festive. This is a time that we can reflect back on our year, for better for worse. If you’ve experienced a difficult year, whether that be a job loss, death of someone close to you, or general unhappiness or loneliness, the holidays have a way of amplifying those problems to make them seem worse.
    • If you succumb to depression or anxiety, the holidays have a way of bringing those out, too. Depression and anxiety peak around the holidays, so monitor yourself to make sure you don’t fall into these traps. Seek out help or support if you can’t for yourself.
  3. Practice effective communication skills: Whether this is to your boss or to your wife or girlfriend, communication is essential during the holiday season. There’s so much going on, and so many opportunities to miscommunicate. So often, our wires get crossed with others because we fail to talk about what we need from them, whether that’s time off from work, spending some time with our guy friends to watch football, or figuring out how to divide the chores and household responsibilities equally. If we can learn to communicate a little bit more effectively than usual, we should be able to glide through the holidays without too much conflict.
  4. Don’t avoid conflict: If you’re having an issue with someone, be direct with them and don’t beat around the bush. Holding in frustration or anger is only going to make things worse, whether you’re having an argument with a family member during Thanksgiving or squabbling in that pre-Christmas spat with your loved one, don’t avoid conflict. This is to those guys out there that are notorious conflict avoiders.
    • Also, if you’re drinking, watch the alcohol, because if there are things that are not being said, they may come out way worse if you’re drinking.  And you know how those holiday fights go…
  5. Developing a holiday stress management plan: Develop a small stress management program for yourself, and employ it throughout the holidays, even doing it once or twice a week. Whether that’s continuing to work out at the gym, taking a light jog or hike, or doing some yoga, practice stress management because the holidays have a way of eroding your physical and mental well-being. Especially if you’re traveling, you’re going to be subjected to a lot of stress, and so will your immune system. Getting the right sleep, and knowing your limits, are both ways to prevent taking in too much stress during the holidays.
  6. Plan: Good planning underlies everything, especially around this time of year. If you’re not a good planner, try to take some steps to help yourself by not creating more stress for yourself and those close to you. Whether that means budgeting for gifts, scheduling shopping, or getting your clothes ready before the morning of your flight out, you’ll be glad you set forth to take care of business before hand. Good planning is going to prevent you and your wife or girlfriend from inevitable stress and conflict, too, which will make her quite happy with you.
  7. Create an quick exit strategy: For a lot of people, the holidays spent with family and friends can be a little bit overwhelming, especially if you’re staying with others or they’re staying with you. If you need to get out of the situation, kindly excuse yourself for a bit to get some fresh air or take a quick trip into town. If you’re staying extensively with family for three or four days, it’s important to get a little bit of time away for yourself or for you and your wife, away from family, the kids, whatever. Pace yourself, especially if you’re feeling contentious with a family member or loved one. You’ll be glad you did.


About Jason

As "The Man That Men Will Talk To," Jason Fierstein, MA, LPC is a private practice counselor and psychotherapist for men and couples in the greater Phoenix, Arizona, area. He works with struggling men to find happiness in their lives, and with their wives.
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