Getting A Handle on Holiday Stress

We all know the festive season from Thanksgiving through to New Year is supposed to be a time of joy, but often by October holiday stress already has many of us stressed, particularly if last year didn’t run so smoothly.

Hand in Hand Instructor Stephanie Parker talked to one mum, Jessie, who has two children, about how holiday stress was affecting her, and the tools she used to get creative with this year’s big event.

One Mum Shares How She Dealt With Her Holiday Stress

Stephanie: I know that Christmas was a little bit of concern for you wasn’t that a few weeks ago. You were already starting to feel a bit worried about it. Can you tell us a bit about why?

Jessie: Yeah I think it was largely based on my experience last year. I was really caught by surprise because my 4 year-old-daughter was completely wild with excitement for days and weeks around Christmas. I felt it was very materialistic, there were way too many presents and then we also had a really difficult day on actual Christmas day.

Stephanie: Oh! Why was that?  

Jessie: I had separated from my partner a couple of months before Christmas and kind of as a gesture of goodwill and reassurance to everyone we went to his parents with the whole extended family for Christmas day, and it was really stressful!

Stephanie: Do you want to tell us a bit about was stressful?

Jessie: Yes, I think the day was designed around adults really and we had this big long complicated proper Christmas dinner which my children don’t like – they don’t like the food!

My daughter has a difficult relationship with a younger cousin which ran the whole day – we had several major screaming meltdowns – and after the meal, the walk, the coffee and the mince pies, the whatever, it was early evening and I thought it was time to start going home. But then I realised that we actually had still got to open all the presents! So we had this mad frenzy of present opening, and then we still had to light the candles on Christmas tree and sing songs, and then we eventually extracted ourselves and came home. Phew!

Stephanie: No wonder you’re feeling a bit worried about it this year. How did you approach it?

Jessie: I talked about Christmas in my listening partnership. I ranted and raved about Christmas and I think that really helped shift things a bit. In a way it also gave me permission to say I could do something about it, that I could take control of the situation, and so I started talking a bit at home about Christmas and what would we do.

Soon after, my children had this inspired idea that they wanted to jump around on the bed with bits of leftover tinsel that we’ve had kicking around all year. We jumped and danced and swung tinsel about on the bed and I’m sure that helped as well to create some space so that we could then start making a plan.

Stephanie: Did you come up with a good plan?

Jessie: My children were really clear that they wanted to have Christmas at home, just us.

Stephanie: How does that feel?

Jessie: It’s great! That’s really simple and that’s what we are going to do, we don’t have to worry about anything. It’s fine to have cheesy pasta on Christmas day!

Another part was that some of our extended family had this idea last year that rather than them all giving individual gifts to their children, they’d ask people to give a contribution towards one big present. I thought that maybe we could do that too, but my kids didn’t want that. They turned the idea upside down and said they’d like to have just one present from Mama and Dadda this year. Just one.

Stephanie: Wow! Sounds like they’re really clear about how they want it to be and it sounds like it’s going to be much more child-led this year which is what Christmas is all about really.

Jessie: That’s right. I’ll have to come back and tell you how it goes!

How it Worked:

Jessie used Listening Partnerships to work through her initial stress about the holidays, ranting and raving about how the negative backlog she had surrounding it. Once she had the capacity to move beyond frustration, she moved to laughter, another big stress reliever. Jumping and dancing around with her kids brought more relief, and connected them with the idea of moving in their own direction. Once Jessie had freed up space, she found she could make decisions about what would work best for her family, and willingly accepted their ideas, even if they were a bit different from the standard traditions. 

You can listen to Stephanie’s interview with Jessie on audio here.


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