Tips to Manage Holiday Stress

Holiday Stress

By Pam Gennings, Executive Director Special Projects*

The holidays can be demanding, overwhelming and for some, down right depressing. Bombarded with expectations and so many things to do, it is easy to fall victim to holiday stress.

If you let the stress of the holidays get to you, it is hard to stop and regroup. The key is to take steps to prevent stress or depression from occurring in the first place. Here are a few tips that just might help you get through the holidays.

  1. Be realistic: The holidays don’t have to be perfect!
  2. Set aside differences: Try and accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. As my dear mother-in-law used to say, “People aren’t always going to do to suit you.” Even if for one day, steer clear of topics that tend to cause upset in the family.
  3. Reach out: If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out social events. Volunteering your time to help others can lift your spirits and perhaps broaden your friendships.
  4. Acknowledge your feelings: If you can’t be with loved ones, or if someone close to you recently died, it is normal to feel sadness and grief. It is OK to take time to cry and express your feelings.
  5. Stick to a budget: Merchants start offering holiday sales earlier and earlier and the urge to overspend can be very tempting. Before you go shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend and stick to that amount.
  6. Plan ahead: Pick days you are going to shop, bake, decorate, gift-wrap, etc. Plan your menus so you can make a shopping list. You don’t want to have to run to the store for those last minutes items you forgot.
  7. Learn to say no: Saying yes to every project or activity can make you feel very resentful, overwhelmed and even take the joy out of the holidays.
  8. Don’t abandon healthy habits: Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Eat healthy snacks, get plenty of sleep and try and incorporate regular physical activity into each day.
  9. Take a breather: Make some time for yourself. Find something that can restore your inner calm.
  10. Seek professional help if needed: Sometimes your best efforts still leave you feeling persistently sad or anxious. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor.

It is important to recognize the holiday triggers that cause you stress or depression, and combat them before they lead you to a place where you lose the peace and joy of the holiday season.

Excerpts from Mayo Clinic, Healthy Lifestyle


*Pam Gennings has a Bachelor’s of Arts and has worked in the field of Geriatric Social Work and Care Coordination for more than 30 years. She started working for Oxford HealthCare in 1993. During the course of her career she has helped thousands of people find resources to remain in their homes as well as provided guidance to families that were facing difficulties with their aging loved ones.


George’s Beautiful Journey

By Marian Michaliszyn, Oxford Hospice Chaplain

Serene Forest PathWhen George was a child, his mom told him that “religion is good, but take it in small amounts.” So many years later, when he decided on hospice care, he declined chaplain visits for himself. He did request visits for his wife, because he thought it would help her after his death.

What George did not count on was the connection he and I made during the months I visited. Our visits began with general conversation, which then led to issues he’d had on his mind for decades.

George wanted to talk about his life journey starting with his childhood during World War II. He shared about high school and how he and his friends fixed up an old roadster and took turns driving it. He told me about a wonderful girl he met in high school who became his wife.

George spoke of his time in the Korean War and how the GI bill led to his career in communications. He considered himself a “self-made man” whose life choices and decisions brought him from California to Missouri.

Eventually, our conversations turned to religion. He told me about his experience at a tent revival at age 11 and about dismissing God and embracing science. Perhaps remembering his mother’s advice, George often said, “Religion had the last 3,000 years of rule in the lives of humans and now it’s time to let science have the next 100 years to shape society, and then see which is better.”

One day, we had a very powerful visit. When I arrived, George wanted to get away from his house so we could talk privately. We went to his boat dock, and George stated that he had a horrible night. He was confronted by the reality of his death and what happens afterword. There was a feeling of darkness and foreboding, and for the first time in his life he did not feel in control.

As we talked about the reality of death and making peace with God, I actively listened and offered faith resourcing as we discussed the meaning of life and George’s spiritual journey. As we shared with each other, George came to a place of resolving his questions of faith, religion and having peace in his spiritual life.

Not long after that visit, George died. When I went to see his wife and family, they shared how they all noticed George’s peaceful smile on his face. This was a great comfort to his family.

It was a privilege to share this part of George’s journey, and a privilege to continue the journey with bereavement support for his wife and children. With all the experiences, questions and concerns he shared, I was honored that he trusted me to be a non-judgmental listener.

What an amazing life he lived, and what a beautiful journey.


Coping with Grief and Loss During the Holiday Season


By Renee Jenkins, MSW, Oxford Bereavement Coordinator

If you are grieving the loss of a loved one, the holiday season can be a very difficult time. During the holidays, people tend to become acutely aware of the absence of someone they love. Painful feelings may be intensified and loneliness may become more profound. Following are a few suggestions to help you move forward and make the most of the holiday season.

  1. Accept Your Feelings and Acknowledge Your LossAttempting to bypass feelings requires a lot of energy, and it is not a good way to heal grief. If this is your first holiday since the loss, it may be especially important to talk with others and be honest about how you are feeling. Don’t be afraid of tears shed amongst family or with a friend; acknowledging what is in your heart provides relief and a sense of closeness. However you feel, accept it.
  2. Be Good to YourselfRemember that your sadness can drain your energy, which puts your health at risk. Shopping at peak times, attending lots of gatherings and otherwise attempting to “make merry” may increase fatigue and loneliness. This year, you might want to scale back—spending a quiet evening at home, listening to music or writing in a journal may be a more nurturing use of your time.
  3. Listen to Your Inner VoiceYour instincts may tell you that it’s a good day to have a friend over for coffee, or that perhaps you should skip the big New Year’s bash. Pay attention to this inner voice—it’s one of the best friends you have! Intuition may lead you to the perfect person or activity for that moment while keeping you from situations that are not helpful. This is a time to respond to your own needs, not to other’s expectations of you.
  4. Blend New Traditions with OldDecide which of your traditions you want to repeat this year. If an absent loved one was responsible for these traditions, decide to whom you might want to delegate these traditions. Rituals from past holidays may magnify the sense of loss of your friend or family member. Sometimes these traditions may feel comforting; if not, establish a new holiday tradition. Do what feels best to you.
  5. Make It Okay to be AloneWhile isolating yourself from others is not recommended, there are many times when solitude can be vital and deeply satisfying. Explore being alone and find out what is most compelling to do during your alone time. Loneliness can be triggered by the idea that “everyone else” is out having a good time, but use this quiet time to remember and think of the special people in your life.
  1. If Children are Part of Your Holidays – Focus on the KidsChildren, especially those younger than 13, grieve in a more intermittent way than adults. This is why they are still so excited to celebrate the holiday season. Children may be more interested in traditions and festivities than the adult members of your family this year. Ask your family members and friends to help provide that “holiday spirit” for the children in your family. Children need not be shielded from your times of sadness; their own grief is more understandable to them if they can see that you share the same feelings.

You are always welcome to join Oxford for our Grief Support Groups available in Southwest Missouri. You can also contact our Bereavement Department at

(417) 883-7500 for more information. If you live outside of Southwest Missouri and would like more information about a Grief Support Group near you, please visit