Monday, December 09, 2013


Avoid the holiday hype and stress that comes along with it

The holidays are here and friends of mine are already feeling the stress.  One even said, “I can’t wait for the holidays to be over.” 
She said she wishes she could go back to a time when we were children, unaware of the pressure to cook big holiday feasts, host or attend numerous holiday parties, shop for the perfect presents for friends, family, and co-workers, and more.  Many of us can identify with this feeling. 

My primary care provider, Dr. Terry Baksh, recently told me his patients present with an increasing amount of stress, anxiety and depression as the holidays approach, especially his older patients.   He suggests that we look for signs of depression in our family and friends and perhaps spend more time with them. They might also welcome being called more frequently.  

Two things might help us focus our efforts on de-stressing:  prioritizing and simplifying.  Our intentions are good; we tend to want to make everyone happy.

But we need to accept that we can’t do it all. We need to write down the absolute “must do” tasks, and cross off the “nice to do but unnecessary” things off our list.
My colleague Dr. Eric Sandberg of the Backus Center for Mental Health suggests simplifying the gift giving and holiday hype. For example, it doesn’t have to be a Currier and Ives perfect picture with dozens of gifts under the tree. He had a great suggestion, one that worked for his family:  each family member gives one — and only one — meaningful gift to each other. 

Getting the family involved in purchasing and donating gifts to one needy family, identified by the local social service agency, is a good way to recapture the holiday spirit. 

Many workplaces are foregoing the co-worker gift-giving tradition and donating the money to their “adopted” family.  Every day this month, The Day is publishing “Make a Difference” on the front page describing a local person or family needing some assistance for the holidays and how we can help.

With a little less holiday hype and stress, we will be better able to focus on the true meaning of the holiday season: thankfulness and gratitude for the blessings we have been given. 

Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal healthcare provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

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