Skip to content

    Health & Balance

    Font Size

    Mind Matters: Unhappy Holidays?

    Surviving family gatherings and other seasonal stresses.

    WebMD Magazine - Feature

    Your holiday fantasy: You settle into a comfy chair with your feet up, a cup of eggnog in hand, firelight warming the room. Scents of rare and wonderful foods drift through your perfectly decorated house. You are comforted by thoughts of peace on earth, goodwill toward all, family harmony, and merry times spent with friends and relatives.

    The reality: Jostling crowds, traffic jams, shopping lists that grow ever longer. Extra cooking, cleaning, and decorating chores. Winter colds and flu. Travel. A stress level that just about sends you over the edge.

    Recommended Related to Mind, Body, Spirit

    Improve Your Memory

    Sometimes I think my memory is actually too good. Like when I realize I still know the lyrics to nearly every song released in the '80s. Or that I can recite, verbatim, lines from at least half a dozen episodes of Seinfeld and Sex and the City. But then I'll go to transfer a load of laundry into the dryer and discover that it's already dry; seems I forgot to ever turn on the washer. Or I'll forget my neighbor's name — again. Could it be that sitcom dialogue and song lyrics are taking...

    Read the Improve Your Memory article > >

    Can the holidays truly be happy? And more important, how can you cope with the stresses of the season? WebMD talked with the National Mental Health Association (NMHA), whose experts say the trick is to get real, lower your expectations, and remember that your family isn't perfect-and neither are you.

    Here are some helpful hints from the NMHA to help you make your holidays as happy -- and headache-free -- as possible.

    Set realistic goals
    This is key for keeping expectations simple -- for yourself and others.

    Make a budget and stick to it
    Financial worries add more stress. Don't try to keep up with everyone else. Spend what youcan afford. Seek out free activities.

    Don't overdo
    Try not to overeat or drink excessively to escape stressful feelings. Eat healthy foods and get plenty of exercise. Allow for extra time when traveling.

    Pace yourself
    The holidays are more than one day; spread enjoyable activities throughout the entire season.

    Try to stay in the present
    Look forward to the future. Life is full of change. Consider what is important in your life and good about these times. Don't set yourself up by comparing today with the good old days.

    Organize your time
    Make a list and star the important activities. Be realistic about what you can and cannot do.

    Honor your own feelings
    Remember that the holiday season does not banish reasons for feeling sad or lonely. There is room for these feelings to be present.

    Spend time with supportive and caring people
    Don't waste your energy on "toxic" people or distant acquaintances.

    Save time for yourself
    Recharge your batteries. Let others share some of the responsibilities.

    Reviewed on November 01, 2005

    Today on WebMD

    woman in yoga class
    6 health benefits of yoga.
    beautiful girl lying down of grass
    10 relaxation techniques to try.
    mature woman with glass of water
    Do you really need to drink 8 glasses of water a day?
    coffee beans in shape of mug
    Get the facts.
    Take your medication
    Hand appearing to hold the sun
    Hungover man
    Welcome mat and wellington boots
    Woman worn out on couch
    Happy and sad faces
    Fingertip with string tied in a bow
    laughing family