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Stress less: What NOT to do this holiday season to help lighten your load

‘Tis the season of giving, and this year, Devereux Center for Resilient Children Director Susan Damico, M.A. suggests giving yourself the gift of self-care.

Instead of getting lost in the hustle and bustle, trying to cram as many activities as you can into your holiday schedule, Damico recommends paying attention to your own needs. She offers the following tips for having a happy – and less stressful – holiday season.

Don’t try to make up for lost time

Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic may have prevented you from seeing family and friends in person with many traditional gatherings either canceled or held virtually. While you may be tempted to go all out this year – know your limits.

“You may think you need to say ‘yes’ to every invitation that comes your way, but having too many places to go, and activities to participate in, can take the fun out of the holidays and leave you feeling overwhelmed,” Damico explained. “Don’t try to make up for the missed dinners and parties from last year. Prioritize the ones that are important to you and politely decline the rest.”

Don’t do everything yourself

If you have a long holiday to-do list, delegate some of the tasks. Ask family and friends to help decorate, wrap gifts and prepare the holiday meal to ease some of the burden.

“Don’t feel like you need to do it all. Delegate more than you think you should, and let others step up and lend a helping hand,” Damico noted. “Remember, when you accept help from family and friends, you are letting go of those responsibilities. If your child offers to wrap gifts, don’t go back and rewrap them. Show appreciation and gratitude for their assistance.”

Don’t feel guilty

There is no such thing as a perfect holiday. View any missteps, such as cancellations or delays in travel, an overcooked turkey or an unwanted present, as opportunities to exercise your flexibility and build your resilience.

“Do the best you can without pressuring yourself, and let that be enough,” Damico shared. “The holidays don’t have to be perfect, and never will be. Set realistic expectations and let go of the ones that are a bit too high. By relaxing your standards, you might find time to sit back and actually enjoy the holidays.”

Don’t forget your mental health

For some, the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year, but for individuals and families coping with grief, loss or mental health challenges, the holiday season can be sad, lonely and stressful. Acknowledge your feelings and seek support if you are struggling.

“Check in with yourself. Don’t feel obligated to be upbeat and festive,” Damico said. “If you are having a hard time, lean on your support system. Talk with a family member, friend or healthcare provider about how you are feeling.”

Don’t worry about past/future traditions

The best present you can give yourself and others this holiday season is to stay present in the moment.

“You may start to reminisce about what the holidays were like pre-COVID-19 and how everything has changed, or you may wonder what the world will be like post-COVID,” Damico noted. “Try to keep your focus on what is happening here and now. Don’t dwell on the past or worry about the future. Enjoy the time you have with family and friends, and you may just find your holiday cheer.”

Learn more about the Devereux Center for Resilient Children, and learn more about Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health.


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