MU Extension offers tips to manage stress during holiday season


Columbia, Mo. – We expect the winter holidays to be full of happiness and good will. Just like Charles Dickens’ "A Christmas Carol," we want a fairytale ending where troubles disappear and everyone basks in the glow of holiday spirit. But, "A Tale of Two Cities" might better represent typical holiday madness for many.

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. It was the season of light; it was the season of darkness … It was the spring of hope; it was the winter of despair …


Too often, we run ourselves ragged trying to make everything ideal.

“I think it’s really important for people to give themselves slack and be nice to themselves. For many families this is such a high stress time,” said Lucy Schrader, University of Missouri Extension human environmental sciences specialist.

Families are dynamic and often don’t fit an ideal mold. They can include uncles that drink too much, siblings that can’t stand to be in the same room, grandfathers that grouch about things being better in their day and in-laws that criticize everything. Truth is, no one’s family reaches perfection. So, give yourself a break.

“Realize that there may be more arguments. There may be a higher stress level in the home,” Schrader said. “Remember to forgive each other for that.”

Too often, winter holidays push us to do more than we can, or spend more than we can afford.

“With the economy being the way it is, that adds an extra burden on families," Schrader said. "They feel like they have to do certain things because of the way it’s supposed to be and then not being able to do that.”

Stress can keep you from taking proper care of yourself. Getting plenty of sleep and eating right can help keep you in shape during the holiday marathon.

“Some of the things that we teach in managing stress, through "Building Strong Families," are deep breathing exercises that can help revitalize you,” Schrader said. “We also have a new Missouri Extension program called "Taking Care of You," which helps people understand that your mind can sometimes be a chatterbox that keeps you fretting over expectations.”

A few deep breaths, taking time for yourself and, perhaps, a chant of “this too shall pass” will help keep the holiday madness at bay. Then you’ll be able to relax and enjoy your family and friends.