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Give Yourself a Break: Setting Priorities During the Holidays

Pressure. Stress. Anxiety. Whether we like it or not, every year we are greeted by these emotions, right as the holiday music starts playing on the radio – or maybe even sooner. It seems that each year, the holiday “season” is getting longer. Christmas and Hanukkah decorations are popping up in stores before we even put our Halloween costumes on to go out trick or treating.

We put pressure on ourselves – maybe we want the best decorated house on the block, or the perfect present for our kids, or we make our to-do list too long. It can all be a bit of a rat race. The good news is that, we get to decide just how much we want to participate in this rat race.

So how do we stop the pressure, the stress, and the anxiety? How about stopping and taking a break from it all and giving ourselves a break, too? Here are some ideas:


Make a list, check it twice

And then finalize it. Decide who you are buying presents for, make a list and stick to it – firmly. You have to draw the line somewhere, and then commit not to cross it.

Rock around the Christmas tree

Go to the parties, enjoy the season, see your friends – but that doesn’t mean you have to go to every gathering you are invited to. Prioritize, mark your calendars, and RSVP accordingly.

The gift doesn’t have to be perfect

We may not be able to get our children – or anyone on our list – everything they want. Take the pressure off and give something you think they will enjoy – and if you’re not sure give them a gift receipt to be safe and call it a day! Chances are, some years we’ll do better than others and that’s okay. It’s not a contest unless you make it one.

Silent Night

Find some time to relax, unplug, and unwind. Do something completely non-Holiday related – whether that means watching the football game by yourself, listening to rock music instead of holiday music, or just getting out to the park with your kids. And, find some peace in the spirituality of the season.

The most wonderful time of the year

Remember that the holiday season is supposed to be about family, friends, and togetherness. Try not to get caught up in the chaos and instead enjoy the fun. And try to laugh at it all - it is truly the best medicine.


Contributed by Albert John Sargent III, MD
Chief, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center, Vice Chair, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; Professor, Tufts University School of Medicine

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