Published On: August 15, 2014

High expectations for holidays can cause stress for families and individuals. One of the great myths of the season is that it is a time of uncomplicated joy and goodwill. Many factors can contribute to feelings anxiety should the holidays being less than perfect. Some causes of holiday stress and disappointment that have been identified are: too much food, lack of exercise, loss of sleep, stress from extra expenditures on presents and food, forced togetherness and extra people requiring your attention, recent family trauma such as a death, divorce or just separation by being away from home. These can have a major impact on the individual or entire family.

To counteract these stressors, sensible arrangements and boundaries need to be made about celebration of this special time of the year. Developing realistic expectations is one way to avoid the problem.

A holiday budget is very important. Don’t fall for society’s materialistic message that expensive gifts are a sign of love and caring. Be realistic about holiday commitments. Even with good time management, it would be impossible to get everything done for the “perfect” holiday without becoming exhausted and stressed.

Family dynamics can be complicated. It is not realistic to expect peace and harmony just because it is the holidays. Family problems do not magically disappear. Real people and real families are not perfect and disappointment is inevitable if you expect them to be.

Life brings changes and perhaps long-standing traditions need to change. Each holiday celebration can be different and be enjoyed in its own way. Focusing on how things “used to be” can heighten disappointment.

The holidays can reinforce an individual’s or family’s emotions to a positive or negative degree. It is beneficial to recognize the stress and cope with appropriate techniques to reduce the pressure.


  • Don’t buy gifts out of guilt and avoid overspending.
  • Don’t feel like you have to keep up with everyone else.
  • Don’t let the unexpected ruin your attitude.
  • Focus on people and having quality experiences. Extend your focus on people to others around you who need some holiday cheer.

These suggestions are meant to help make your experience of the holidays more enjoyable, both for yourself and for your family.