November 30, 2015

The holiday season is supposed to be a celebration, but for many, it simply doesn’t play out like that.


Deadlines, budgets, family visits, travel plans, food preparations, and various other factors make the holiday season one of the most stressful times of the year. I’ve suffered from the stresses firsthand—one year my holiday almost got called off altogether!

Years ago, my grandmother wrote a sincere letter to the family, voicing her desire to cancel the holidays. She was sure everyone felt the same and certain no one really wanted to celebrate. “Is it really worth the investment in the end? Does the stress outweigh the payoff?” To her, it didn’t.

While our family jokes about this letter now, at the time, we strongly detected the overwhelmingness and darkness that some with depression feel, especially around the holidays. It was quite unnerving! While our holiday eventually went off without a hitch and everybody had a great time, my grandmother’s earlier sentiments didn’t go unnoticed. The stresses around holidays can cause serious disturbances, and you don’t have to wait until they hit close to home to start thinking about them.

Here are three ways you can help make this holiday season happy, loving, and stress-free.

  1. Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’

To me, this is the most crucial point to keep in mind as we progress throughout the holiday season. Many families are large and geographically spaced out. Add a spouse, and your family doubles. Add some kids and suddenly everyone wants to see you today.

You have to learn how to say “no.” I’m not suggesting you outright turn down family members, and you definitely don’t want to be rude, but politely explain your schedule and situation. If you can make it to every event, that’s great. But if you can’t, letting them know ahead of time without stringing them along until the last minute will greatly reduce your stress. It’s much easier to focus on tasks at hand when you’re not stressing future events as well.

Learn to prioritize and clearly plan your travels, parties, and visits, and enjoy smooth sailing this holiday season.

  1. Make gifts personal, not expensive

The people who say “It’s the thought that counts” are onto something. While that phrase is generally used in a negative way, meaning that somebody gave an iffy gift but, “Hey, they tried,” a personal, intimate gift really can provide the most lasting impression.

It’s not important to blow out the budget and buy the biggest, most expensive items. The gifts that matter most are the ones your family members truly remember. Whether it’s something they’ll put to use every day or something that reminds them of a happy day/period of their life, take a little extra time to find or create something personal and lasting.

You’ll create warmer hearts, bigger smiles, and a happier overall mood for your loved ones, all while saving some cash and strengthening relationships.

  1. Avoid the shopping frenzy

People literally get injured while shopping on Black Friday. Isn’t that unbelievable? If you need any proof of the devastating effects of stress during the holiday season, look no further than the frenzy that occurs every year on the day after Thanksgiving.

It is important to maintain a budget throughout the holiday. Going over your spending limit will only create more stress now and into the future, so I understand the appeal of the day’s hottest deals and offers.  But don’t get caught up in the madness.

Online shopping is more efficient and more budget-friendly than ever, and many online megastores, such as, offer deals all throughout the holiday season that compete withand, in many cases, beatin-store Black Friday deals. There’s also Cyber Monday, where several retailers offer deals comparable to their Black Friday offers.

You can find virtually anything you’ll need online, and you won’t have to deal with the rush of customers. Instead, stay at home, enjoy some extra time with your family, and relax while you shop.

This year in particular, there was a huge push to get people out of the stores on Black Friday and into the wild, where they kicked back and enjoyed some quality time with loved ones. Outdoor outfitter REI started this trend with “#OptOutside.” They closed their stores on Black Friday to encourage their employees and customers to slow down and enjoy the world around them instead. California state parks threw their hats into this movement as well, by giving plenty of options for ways to burn off that Thanksgiving feast that don’t involve scorching your budget.  

How do you reduce stress around the holidays? What works for you and your family? Leave a comment, and we’ll discuss this topic!

AHf, staff, Michele Silverthorn, grassroots, grant processes, board of directors’ activities, community engagement– Michele Silverthorn 
Alliance Healthcare Foundation

About Alliance Healthcare Foundation

Alliance Healthcare Foundation is a San Diego-based nonprofit which works with nonprofit, government and community agencies to advance health and wellness throughout the San Diego and Imperial Counties. AHF works to serve the most vulnerable – the poor, working poor, children and homeless by providing grants, advocacy and education to support its region.

To learn more about AHF, visit:   AHF on Facebook, AHF on LinkedInAHF on Google+, AHF on Youtube, AHF on Twitter

To learn more about our grantees, visit AHF’s Grantee Page. 

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