Wendy Hawkins, LCSW

Empower! Educate! Evolve!

Holiday gatherings don’t have to be stressful!

Holiday gatherings don’t have to be stressful!


Holiday gatherings and Stress

Family gatherings can be stressful and I mean to the max! Why is that? We should be looking forward to time with our friends and loved ones to slow down, catch up and be in the moment but sometimes it doesn’t quite happen that way. When I think of family gatherings as a young child the number of plates at the table was low. We had small intimate gatherings with a handful of my mom’s friends that included low maintenance food preparation and lots of laughter. Times were different and not so stressful. It’s not like that anymore. Things are complicated. Families are complicated. Family tradition has been lost. People don’t sit down and eat at the table together anymore! So here’s some ideas that will hopefully make your holiday gatherings more enjoyable.

Tips to help!

Be open-minded!!
Cultural norms and traditions look different to different people. With multi-cultural families growing, things may look different than what you’re used to. What you do may not be what someone else does and vice versa but that’s okay! Go with the flow and be open to new dishes, flavors, customs, music and conversation. Relax and be in the moment.

Leave your expectations at the door!!
Many times we go into a situation with an already developed expectation of how things are going to play out. Just stop! This goes back to being open-minded. If you go go into an event with the perception that the night is going to be negative and horrible guess what? It will be! So smile and be positive. You may have the time of your life!

If you’re hosting-Enlist help!
One of the most tiring aspects of get togethers is the preparation. You don’t have to do it all yourself!! You can ask others to assist you with the expense, preparation and clean-up but they won’t know you need help unless you ask! Plan ahead and delegate. You may even consider investing in a service to help with cleaning your home before and after the big day.

Prepare for the kids!
When in public, one of the most annoying and frustrating things is to hear a child whine or cry because a parent didn’t plan ahead to keep them content and occupied. Whether you’re attending or hosting, make sure you plan for the little people. When my kids were small, I used to carry a playpen and walker in my trunk so I could contain and control where they were at all times so I didn’t have to carry them around for the night. Have kid-friendly snacks ready to go as well as plastic flatware to minimize the possibility of breakage. With the slew of electronics available, having entertainment is a no brainer! If you’re hosting, carve out space that can be kid-friendly. You could even pay a neighborhood teen to be the designated sitter for a couple of hours. Mom and dad throw the jammies in the bag to change the little ones before heading home so when they fall asleep in the car it’s an easy transition to bed.

Be in the moment!
Probably the most important thing to remember is to be in the moment and enjoy your time with friends and family. Laugh and smile ALOT. Remember when a large group of different people get together it can get loud and messy. Be patient, be kind and breathe!

Holiday gatherings are stressful by nature but you can control the extent of that stress. Here’s some additional tips and suggestions to keep your anxiety at bay. Enjoy your time together and make some memories to last a lifetime. Whatever stress or anxiety you may feel it’s important to remember that those feelings are temporary and will pass. You could be anywhere in the world so enjoy the choice you made and eat an extra piece of chocolate pie for me!




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