Six Tips to Survive Holiday Stress | | Loyola Medicine
Thursday, December 7, 2017

Six Tips to Survive Holiday Stress

Maywood, IL - Often referred to as the most wonderful time of the year, the holidays also can be the most stressful. According to a 2015 holiday poll conducted by Consumer Reports, Americans are most stressed during the holidays by long lines (68 percent), racking up debt (32 percent) and seeing certain relatives (20 percent).

Loyola Medicine psychologist Michael Hakimi, PsyD, who specializes in stress and anxiety management, offers these tips to help survive the holidays. 

Keeping the Peace

Family members don't always get along. "Keep the interaction with difficult relatives to a bare minimum," Dr. Hakimi said. "Stay busy by interacting with family members you care about. "If a difficult relative is adamant about being in your space, avoid engaging, and don't take the bait." Instead, excuse yourself and move on to do something else.   

Coping with Loneliness

The holidays can be the loneliest time of the year because they can trigger feelings of grief and loss. Dr. Hakimi suggests reaching out to people you are close to and talk with them about your feelings.

Dr. Hakimi also recommends doing activities that bring you joy. "Make an effort to engage in activities you really enjoy," Dr. Hakimi said "For example, listening to relaxing music, reading and watching movies—especially comedies."

And if you know someone who's having a hard time during the holidays, let them know that they are not alone. A simple gesture such as a phone call or a dinner invite can make a huge difference for someone coping with grief.

Dinner and Politics Don't Mix

What's happening in Washington, D.C., seems to be on everyone's mind and can cause tension among those with opposing views.

"Avoid engaging in any conversation with individuals who have different religious or political views," said Dr. Hakimi. "Let them know you don't feel comfortable talking about religious or political topics. You can also politely ask if there is another topic they would like to discuss."

Bucking Tradition

This may be your first year to host a holiday and you want to please everyone, but it's okay to forgo family traditions to make way for new ones.

"Simply inform your family that you definitely respect holiday customs, however you have decided to do something new and just as fun," Dr. Hakimi said.

Setting Realistic Goals

You may have lofty plans of serving a 12-course meal with all the trimmings, but meeting and setting realistic goals can be just as satisfying. Things don’t have to be perfect for a great time.

"Invite people for desserts and coffee, instead of dinner. Another option is to do a potluck and have everyone bring something to share," said Dr. Hakimi. "This lets everyone feel like they're involved and you can reduce your stress."

Setting & Sticking to a Budget

Dr. Hakimi suggests a less-is-more approach to holiday traditions.

"Simplify as much as possible," he said. "Not everything has to be so elaborate. Set a budget that is workable for you without going into debt."

You can escape the drama of gift giving altogether by giving to those who need it the most.

"Let your family know you decided not to participate in any gift exchange," Dr. Hakimi said. "Instead, you have decided to contribute to a charity or a cause of your choice."

Dr. Hakimi is an assistant professor in Loyola's department of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences. He has more than 30 years of experience in a variety of treatment settings. 

About Loyola Medicine and Trinity Health

Loyola Medicine, a member of Trinity Health, is a quaternary care system based in the western suburbs of Chicago that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC), Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, MacNeal Hospital and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services from 1,877 physicians throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital in Maywood that includes the William G. and Mary A. Ryan Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, Illinois's largest burn center, a certified comprehensive stroke center and a children’s hospital. Having delivered compassionate care for over 50 years, Loyola also trains the next generation of caregivers through its teaching affiliation with Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine and Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. Gottlieb is a 247-licensed-bed community hospital in Melrose Park with 150 physician offices, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park. MacNeal Hospital is a 374-bed teaching hospital in Berwyn with advanced inpatient and outpatient medical, surgical and psychiatric services, advanced diagnostics and treatments. MacNeal has a 12-bed acute rehabilitation unit, a 25-bed inpatient skilled nursing facility, and a 68-bed behavioral health program and community clinics. MacNeal has provided quality, patient-centered care to the near west suburbs since 1919.

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic healthcare systems in the nation, serving diverse communities that include more than 30 million people across 22 states. Trinity Health includes 94 hospitals, as well as 109 continuing care locations that include PACE programs, senior living facilities and home care and hospice services. Its continuing care programs provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually. Based in Livonia, Mich., and with annual operating revenues of $18.3 billion and assets of $26.2 billion, the organization returns $1.1 billion to its communities annually in the form of charity care and other community benefit programs. Trinity employs about 133,000 colleagues, including 7,800 employed physicians and clinicians. Committed to those who are poor and underserved in its communities, Trinity is known for its focus on the country's aging population. As a single, unified ministry, the organization is the innovator of Senior Emergency Departments, the largest not-for-profit provider of home health care services—ranked by number of visits—in the nation, as well as the nation’s leading provider of PACE (Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly) based on the number of available programs.