The holidays are meant to be a joyous time spent with loved ones, full of meaningful traditions, delicious food, and precious memories. Yet, for many women, the season often brings an avalanche of additional stress and anxiety.
According to a Harvard study, a staggering 62% of respondents described their stress level as “very or somewhat elevated” during the holidays. The pressure to create picture-perfect Hallmark moments, along with the burden of extra responsibilities like shopping, cooking, cleaning, hosting, and family gatherings, can quickly become overwhelming, especially for women who still shoulder the majority of domestic and emotional labor during the holidays despite shifting gender roles.
On top of these existing obligations, unresolved family conflicts, differences in expectations, and strained relationships tend to boil over amid forced holiday cheer. Financial worries and trying to balance family time with work or school commitments further amplify stress.
Without proactive stress management, the holidays can quickly go from holly-jolly to wholly stressful for women trying to do it all.
Watch Out for Holiday Triggers
The holidays can magnify any existing family stresses or conflicts. Certain triggers are common during this time of year:
- Poor communication and mismanaged expectations
- Political disagreements
- Uneven distribution of hosting responsibilities
- Family members with addiction issues
- Grief over lost loved ones
- Financial struggles
To help avoid tensions boiling over:
- Have open conversations about expectations and boundaries beforehand
- Listen and validate each other’s emotions and perspectives
- Compromise on traditions, if needed, to reduce pressure
- Offer to share hosting and preparation responsibilities
- Remind family to focus on togetherness rather than perfection
- Seek counseling if relationships are significantly strained
Set Healthy Boundaries
Boundaries are crucial for minimizing holiday havoc. Determine what personal limits, time constraints, and physical spaces feel healthy to you. Communicate these boundaries clearly and consistently. For example, if a full house of relatives for a week sounds overwhelming, limit visits to a couple of days. If politics ruins dinner, set a “no politics” ground rule.
It’s okay to say no to traditions or activities that exacerbate stress. Your mental health should take priority over the expectation to attend every holiday function or frantically deep clean your home before hosting. Find ways to pare down obligations and build in time for self-care.
Balance Other Responsibilities
Don’t let work, school, or household chores devour your holiday season. Be honest with employers about taking time off to be with family. Set school study schedules that incorporate holiday plans. Use time management techniques like schedules, priority lists, and time blocking to fit everything in. Outsource cleaning or cooking help if you can.
Most importantly, listen to your mind and body. Stress manifests both emotionally and physically. Make self-care like exercise, healthy food, meditation, and rest top priorities — not luxuries you’ll “get around to someday.” Avoid burning yourself out in the name of holiday hustle. The dishes can wait, but your mental health cannot.
Get Ahead of Holiday Expenses
Money issues can quickly derail holiday tranquility. The costs of gifts, food, decor, and travel add up fast. According to surveys, buying gifts is by far the number one source of financial stress during the holidays, with 46% citing it as their top money-related concern. This year, curb financial stress with some savvy planning:
- Set a group budget for gifts and meal ingredients.
- Draw names for a Secret Santa gift exchange.
- Make homemade coupons or gifts like baked goods.
- Start a holiday savings fund throughout the year.
- Look for ways to trim costs on decor and meals.
- Shop sales and use coupons for necessary purchases.
- Discuss expenses openly to avoid misunderstandings.
- Build an emergency fund for unexpected costs.
Seek Support When Needed
Despite best efforts, some stressful family dynamics cannot be solved solo. Should tensions escalate or conflicts turn toxic, know that help is available. Many therapists and counselors specialize in family counseling, even offering emergency holiday sessions. Support groups provide solidarity and advice from others navigating difficult family relationships.
With the right coping tools and emotional reinforcement, you can sensitively but firmly establish the healthy boundaries needed to protect your mental health, even amidst the pressure cooker of family during the holidays. Be confident advocating for your needs. The healthiest holiday gift you can give your loved ones — and yourself — is preserving your own joy, peace, and well-being during this magical but demanding time of year.
Get Support Managing Holiday Family Stress from Brevard Health Alliance
This holiday season, lean on Brevard Health Alliance’s compassionate mental health team to help manage family stressors and dynamics. We offer the tools and support needed to set healthy boundaries, communicate effectively, balance responsibilities, and prioritize self-care. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.