Health Advocate Blog

Have joyful holidays by tweaking your family’s traditions

Are you repeating holiday traditions out of habit that no longer hold the same pleasure or that leave you exhausted? Maybe the shuttling between extended families, the baking, frantic shopping, over-the-top decorating and attending multiple parties is overextending you physically, mentally and financially. You’re not alone. Many people find the holiday extravaganza overstimulating and more stressful than satisfying.

There’s still time to see if you can streamline your holiday traditions

Figure out what is causing you the most stress and see what you can tweak.  Talk to your family about brainstorming ideas to adopt new, simpler and more rewarding traditions that everyone can enjoy.  It takes courage to make changes and adjust expectations to tone down and reinvent traditions, but it can be done! Start small this year and see what works. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Introduce alternating parental visits. Discuss a plan to visit your parents on Christmas one year, and then your in-laws the next. Or one set of parents on Thanksgiving and the other on Christmas. Or try a 3-year rotation–your home, the parents’ home, and the in-laws’ home.

Scale back on gift-giving. For extended families, choose a name out of a hat and put a cap on the cost. Some families also enjoy “regifting”–giving something the giver received previously.

Give to charity in someone’s name. Have an animal lover in your circle? Give to a local shelter. An art lover?  Give to an organization dedicated to the preservation of the arts.

Use “free” wrapping paper. Using sheets cut from used brown paper bags, tied with twine and accented with a sprig clipped from a fir tree is very festive and has rustic charm.

Make memories with nature experiences. Taking the family for moonlit walks and tracking animal prints or spotting winter birds can be a magical experience. Bring along a thermos of peppermint hot chocolate!

Bring simple cheer to shut-in family members. Taking a favorite family photo as a gift to a relative in a nursing home or bringing a CD player to softly play a beloved tune can have great meaning for the whole family.

Simplify the baking. If you really love to bake, choose just the crowd-pleasing favorite recipe and skip the others.

Downsize the decorations. Covering all surfaces with garlands and holiday knickknacks can make it hard for the eye to find a resting place. Plus, an excess of decorations means more to pack up after the holiday is over! Consider streamlining what you display. A small, tabletop tree with tiny twinkling lights or a smattering of candles near a vase of hand-picked greens or a bowl of red pomegranates offers a pleasing focus.

Give yourself the gift of time. Schedule a massage or a yoga session, or a swim at the Y. It will re-energize you mentally and physically to better handle the festivities.

For Health Advocate members

  • If you’re a Health Advocate member with access to our EAP+Work/Life Program and have issues with stress this season or any time of year, talk to your Health Advocate Licensed Professional Counselor. You’ll receive free, confidential help, and if needed, referrals for additional support.
  • If you’re a Health Advocate member with our Advocacy services, contact us to speak with a Personal Health Advocate who specializes in behavioral health. The Personal Health Advocate can help you identify resources for help.