Stress Less This Holiday Season


COLUMBUS, Ohio — If the holidays are supposed to be so great, why is everyone so stressed out this time of year?

There are plenty of reasons, said Jim Bates, field specialist in Family Wellness for Ohio State University Extension. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

“Expectations are high during the holidays, and trying to meet all of those expectations can be exhausting,” Bates said.

“We’re expected to travel to visit family and friends or host guests for meals or parties, which means preparing food for everyone. There are a lot of arrangements to make, and if you’re lucky you can take time off work, but that can mean negotiating with supervisors and co-workers. And when school lets out, working parents need to arrange for childcare.

“There’s also financial stress, trying to meet expectations others might have or that we put on ourselves to exchange gifts or spend extra on other things.”

But you don’t need to simply keep calm and carry the expectations on your back like an overstuffed sack of Santa’s toys. Bates recommends some tried-and-true techniques for navigating through the holidays:

  • Keep “the reason for the season” at top of mind. “Make time in your busy holiday schedule to focus on helping other people. By reaching out to those who are less fortunate or who need assistance, we provide a gift of selflessness, love and concern. Serving others is good for us because we are taking the focus off of our own situation and making others a priority. To get involved in a service opportunity, contact a local nonprofit organization that focuses on an issue you care about.”
  • Make sure you’re getting enough rest. Everything seems worse when you’re tired; everything seems brighter when you’re well-rested, Bates said.
  • Eat healthfully. “This time of year, it’s very easy to fill up on sweets and junk food,” Bates said. “That can throw us off and make us feel cranky. Remember to balance out what you’re eating with healthy options. Leafy greens, spinach, kale, broccoli – they can really be pick-me-ups. Choose fruit for dessert.”
  • Limit exposure to things that cause you stress. “Whether it’s turning off the news or work emails, set what you can aside to focus on relationships and on doing something fun with family and friends.”
  • Focus your time and energy on where they can make the biggest difference. “Older people especially can feel isolated at this time of year. Take the opportunity to ask older relatives and friends to reminisce and to make an audio or video recording of them. That can help them feel more connected, and can be precious memories for you later.”
  • Most of all, don’t overdo it. “For a lot of people, cooking special dishes or dozens and dozens of cookies is a comfortable and enjoyable activity, especially when you’re doing it with family or friends, but there’s no shame in getting a dish from your grocery’s deli, throwing it into a bowl and serving it to your guests.”



CFAES News Team
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Jim Bates