Managing Holiday Stress – a repost

My extended family was recently in town visiting. As nine of us entered the crowded Bonnie Brae Ice Cream store we had pre-agreed to buy nine single sugar cones. That would allow us to move through the crowded space and make our choices quickly. Each person could pick their flavor, take their cone and exit the store leaving room for others, and one person could easily pay. As we approached the counter, one by one, my family started deviating from the plan and I felt myself becoming distressed. I looked over at my nephew getting a double-scoop waffle cone dipped in chocolate, and then saw my father-in-law ordering two large waffle cones. I felt myself losing the joy of the moment. I was struck by how quickly a fun outing to the ice cream store caused me to feel such tension.

As we approach the holidays, we anticipate more family togetherness. A national survey found that 36 percent of Americans would rather be anywhere but home for the holidays. In contrast, 26 percent of adults say that the best gift they could receive this holiday season would be having their family live closer. The thought of spending time with family and friends during the holidays may conjure up mixed emotions for many people.

There are many reasons why being with the people we love can cause us to feel stressed and emotionally out of control. High expectations, excess food and alcohol, tight-knit quarters, and too many opinions, can cause us to feel frenzied. Here are some tips for keeping your cool as the holidays approach:

Set Limits: “No” is a complete sentence. Feel free to say no to staying up late just because everyone else is. No to participating in political conversations that you know will just make you feel angry. No to engaging in gossip or negative talk. No to meeting up with the other relatives that will anger or frustrate you. Be aware of, and stick to your limits. This includes knowing what you can and can’t handle, and extends to spending on gifts in response to feeling obligated by others.

Have a Strategy: Be aware that when you are with your parents and siblings it’s easy to revert to familiar roles. Families are systems and when they are reunited it seems that everyone knows their place. Perhaps you become the conforming little girl or the bossy older brother. Tell yourself ahead of time that this is not who you are any more and you don’t have to play that part. When you know someone is going to say something that always irritates you, plan a response ahead of time. This shields you from the pain and keeps you in control.

Install Humor: As you gaze at your family, learn to laugh at their idiosyncrasies. Look to your spouse for a private smile or giggle. Realize that there really are no “normal” families. Every family has its characters and that is what makes us human. Rent some funny movies and watch them together. The shared laughter will create bonds between you and distract from the negativity. Some of my favorites are “What About Bob?” and “Waking Ned Divine.”

Self Care: Take time out away from family members to nurture yourself. Take a bubble bath or hot tub. Steal away for some alone time (napping, reading a really good book, or listening to soothing music). Try not to overeat. Limit your alcohol, fat and sugar intake. Exercise is probably the best thing you can do because it helps lower blood pressure, allows you to refocus your thoughts, and releases endorphins – the body’s natural painkiller.

Consider Getting a Hotel: This allows you much more control over the situation…the money spent may be a wise investment. You will have freedom to come and go at will, and have a place to escape when you see yourself falling into old patterns, or engaging in destructive talk or behaviors.

Looking for more tips click here 

 How do you keep from getting stressed over the holidays? 

*Originally published in the Columbine Courier December 2006

Advice for Couples: Dealing with Boundary Crossing In-Laws

Now that the holiday season is almost here, let’s talk In-laws…

I can’t tell you how many clients come to me with problems related to their parents or parents-in-law.

For instance, one woman felt pressure to go into debt and buy very expensive gifts for her husband’s parents because the parents spent so much money on her children. I told her to stick to her budget and not change her behavior based on someone else’s. I also asked her to have her husband tell his parent’s they didn’t want their children spoiled with such expensive gifts.

Yesterday, I was watching Dr. Phil and there was a woman that had to be the most intrusive and mean person I’ve ever seen on television. I kept thinking it had to be an act. She hated her daughter’s choice of a husband and made sure she told everyone…every 30 seconds.

Dr. Phil threatened to take her off-stage so he could talk to her daughter. He added this great advice:

When there’s trouble in a marriage, it’s your job to handle your people.

In other words, the wife needs to deal with the trouble-makers in her family and set firm boundaries with them, and the husband should to do the same with his family.

Then he told the young woman,

Your people are out of control!

Gretchen Rubin at The Happiness Project just happened to post on this same subject today. Here’s another article I wrote about managing holiday stress.

What advice would you give newlyweds for dealing with boundary-crossing inlaws? What advice would you offer for dealing with holiday stress? 

Tea for Two


It is the season for stress. 


You know how I’m always tellin’ ya to take a mini-vacation….


Well, have I ever got the mini-vacation for you (if you live in the Denver area).


I just took my son to the tea place he told me about: InTea (click here).  We shared a pot of vanilla black and a cinnamon crisp.  For some reason, teenage boys flock to this joint. Maybe it’s because Carol and Michelle are so friendly – they greet every customer and chat with them like family. 


Oh, and did I tell you there is free WiFi?


It’s so much fun to smell tea from the different bins, before you have a pot brewed.  The aroma is like candy, only better.  The combination of friendly owners, gourmet smells, and yummy treats make this a great place to hang out (this ain’t your noisy Starbucks).


Now if that wasn’t mini-vacation enough, there was a massage therapist from Whole Health next door, giving free massages in his chair…in the tea shop!


What the heck.  I took him up on it.








That pot-o’-tea, cinnamon delight, and massage put me over the top.  That 15 minutes changed my day.


For only $6, you too can have this experience.  If Jeff, the masseuse isn’t there, go next door to Whole Health.  I saw his free 15-minute massage sign on the door.


What are you waiting for?  Go get your sanity back this season!