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Dr. Bobbi Wegner is a MA and NY licensed clinical psychologist with expertise in health psychology and behavioral medicine.

Managing Holiday Stress

Managing Holiday Stress

The holiday buzz is in the air and the dark nights are lit with twinkly trees and festive decorations. But just below the surface, joy and excitement may feel whitewashed with the stress of busy schedules and a sense that there is not enough time ‘to get ready.’ Pause. Breathe. Relax your shoulders. Let’s re-evaluate and refocus.   

Things to consider:

Be Emotionally Aware: Notice your thoughts and feelings – they are probably more mixed than you would like, and that is okay. It is normal to have conflicting feelings (“I love the holiday spirit and hate the busyness!”). Accept those feelings and practice self-compassion.

Assess and Protect Time: Assess your schedule and protect your time. Are you over committed? Ask yourself what you want to say ‘no’ to, and say NO.

Reflect on Important Traditions: What holiday traditions are most important to you and your family? Make sure you plan time for those. Ask yourself: how do you want to remember the holidays? What is most important – togetherness, the decorations, the food? What was most important to you growing up? Reflect on what you want to focus on versus what the reality is. Make adjustment so those are more aligned.

Be Realistic: Expect tears, potential disappointment, and tardiness. That is often part of the holidays. Practicing a healthy dose of realism and flexibility will save you strife.

Maintain Healthy Habits: Time gets short but prioritize and maintain healthy habits. Your mind and body will thank you. Sleep. Eat. Exercise. They are the holy grail of health. 

Plan: What can you organize/order/do ahead of time that will make it easier to enjoy the holidays? Do it.

Manage Expectations Around Family: Often, the holidays are spent with family. For many, this is challenging. Acknowledge and anticipate the difficult parts of being with family and re-focus on what is gained. Think about what you appreciate about each person. Commit to not talking about contentious topics (politics, money, religion…you know what they are). Shift focus from “I” to “We.” Also, be realistic about the amount of time you can comfortably spend with extended family and respect that. Practice hygge. 

More is Not Better: Psychology researchers at Virginia Tech found that bundling a ‘big’ gift with ‘small’ ones dilutes the overall perceived value of the larger one. From a psychological perspective, you are better off giving a nicer gift and leaving the smaller, fill-in gifts aside. Save yourself the time and headache and simplify shopping. Buy what you can afford and leave the rest.   

Remember the Holidays Are About Giving (Not Receiving): Help your child learn this concept early by focusing on what he/she can do for others – donate to a local charity, collect toys or food for the drives at school, volunteer at The Milton Food Pantry. Resist the urge to overbuy your child gifts. Instead, keep the focus where it should be – celebrating together. Dr. Timmins at East Milton Pediatrics recommends this approach to gift giving: “Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read.”

    


Super Simple (Almost) Fudge

(adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Express, 2007)

I often make this around the holidays to bring to a last-minute cocktail party or to pack in a small box and give as a gift. Making traditional fudge requires the use of candy thermometer and can be a bit finicky. This is a quick and delicious substitute. 

12 ounces of chocolate chips (I prefer a mix of mostly bittersweet chocolate and some milk chocolate)

1 14-ounce can of condensed milk

A pinch of salt

1 cup of shelled nuts (pistachios make it salty and festive, walnuts or pecans are deliciously traditional)

Melt the chocolate chips, condensed milk, and salt over low heat. Chop the nuts into medium sized pieces.  Add the nuts to the pot and stir well. Pour this mixture into a 9-inch square foil tray, smoothing the top. Cool the fudge and then refrigerate until firm. Cut into small pieces and serve.  Extra fudge freezes well for later.

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