Here’s How to Avoid 6 of the Most Common Sources of Holiday Stress, from Supply Chain Issues to Awkward Dinner Table Convos

holiday stress cat

Ah, the holidays. That glorious season of gift-giving, cookie-eating, general merriment and, often, major stress. We don’t mean to be a bunch of Grinches, but for all the fabulous parts of the most festive time of year, there are lots of not-so-fabulous parts, including supply chain issues (how very 2021), too-packed social calendars and financial worries. Luckily, there are antidotes. Read on to learn some straightforward methods for dealing with some of the less pleasant parts of the most wonderful time of the year.

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1. The Stressor: Awkward Dinner Table Talk

The Fix: Prepare some safe conversation starters  

Whether it’s a rant about vaccine mandates or deeply personal questions about when you and your spouse are going to give your parents grandchildren (side note: what a weird way to put that), the holidays are ripe for uncomfortable conversations. And as much as we’d love to absolutely obliterate a distant cousin in a debate about immigration policy, a holiday gathering is not the time. So when Aunt Karen brings up her objections to a livable minimum wage, it’s best to have a few ‘I’m changing the subject right now’ questions locked and loaded. Here are five creative options we like to keep in our back pocket.

2. The Stressor: Supply Chain Issues

The Fix: Get on top of your shopping now 

You’ve likely heard rumblings about how pandemic-related supply chain issues are going to negatively impact holiday shopping. Think: shipping delays, low inventory and higher prices—yikes. In fact, a recent survey by Oracle, which provides cloud services for large retailers, founds that a third of the more than 5,700 people surveyed are worried they either won’t get the items they want or they’ll have to pay higher prices. Unfortunately, we don’t have too many courses of action to take to get around it, other than shopping online early or in stores (remember stores?). Speaking to The Washington Post, Mark Kapczynski, chief marketing officer of Gooten, a supply chain solutions company, said that consumers should plan to get their shopping done well ahead of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday window if they want gifts to arrive on time—especially if the gifts they’re hoping to get are of the ultra-popular variety.

3. The Stressor: A Too-Full Social Calendar

The Fix: Setting boundaries with loved ones  

Especially for introverts, the holidays can be mega-stressful. All those cocktail parties and cookie swaps and multi-course dinners? No thanks. To avoid burnout, work on setting boundaries with your friends and family. Remember to prioritize yourself and your sanity, and that it’s OK to say no from time to time. Maybe you go to your parents’ house for Christmas Eve dinner but politely decline their invite to open presents with your nieces and nephews the next morning. An important part of self-care is knowing your own boundaries and respecting them.

4. The Stressor: Booze-Fueled Activities

The Fix: Have sober strategies in place

‘Tis the season for spiked eggnog and mulled wine and festive punch bowls. If you’re sober—or even just trying to imbibe less—this can cause a ton of added stress. You don’t want to be a buzzkill, but you also want to stay true to your goals and what you need to be healthy and happy. Having a plan in place will provide you with some peace of mind as you embark on holiday festivities. This plan should help you avoid any potential triggers and can include attending a meeting amidst the craziness of holiday parties, ensuring your sponsor or other support system is available to be on-call should you need them or feeling empowered to remove yourself from a situation if it’s beginning to feel like too much. For more tips, check out this helpful list by the folks at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation.

5. The Stressor: Spending *Tons* of Money on Presents

The Fix: Creative gifting

Holiday shopping is pretty much always an expensive endeavor, but even more so when you factor in supply chain issues. But just because you might not be in a position to splurge on fancy presents for friends and family doesn’t mean you have to show up to the gift swap empty handed. There are quite a few zero- or low-cost options, from whipping up a batch of a delicious holiday treat (we’re partial to no-bake sugar cookie truffles) or DIY-ing a gift like a hand-knit beanie or a photo album to offering free babysitting services for a night or making a small donation to a charity in their honor. It is, after all, the thought that counts.

6. The Stressor: Wanting Everything to Be Perfect

The Fix: Cut yourself some slack

There’s a saying that originated within 12-step programs, but it really applies quite broadly: “Expectations are just premeditated resentments.” Think about it: If you go into anything with sky-high expectations, you’re setting yourself up to be disappointed. We’re not saying to go into the holidays believing that they’re going to suck, but try to remember that perfection isn’t the goal. Your Thanksgiving dinner probably won’t resemble a Norman Rockwell painting, and that’s totally fine. As long as you spend the next month and a half surrounded by people you love, you’re golden. 

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sarah stiefvater

Wellness Director

Sarah Stiefvater is PureWow's Wellness Director. She's been at PureWow for ten years, and in that time has written and edited stories across all categories, but currently focuses...