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Friday Fit Five

Five Tips for Handling Holiday Stress

By Jamie Spannhake

Ah, the holiday season! The best of times, but with all the cheer comes a lot of stress, which can sometimes make it feel like the worst of times. First, there are so many things to do: gifts to buy, decorations to manage, holiday parties, charitable activities, kids’ holiday performances — plus the end-of-year craziness of the legal profession.

Second, there’s family and friends, whom we love, but sometimes too much of a good thing can make us cranky. To top it all off, all these things make us tired and far less able to deal with the extra pressure.

Managing the Holiday Stress Meter

In the interest of keeping the season joyful, here are five tips to help you handle the extra stress.

1. Accept reality. We are most unhappy when we argue with reality — when we think things should be different than they are. But they aren’t. Especially when it comes to dealing with other people. Your mother-in-law shouldn’t correct the way you parent your children. Your uncle shouldn’t drink so much and be so loud. Your nephew shouldn’t sit at the dinner table with headphones. But they do. Accept that these things will happen. Try to develop compassion for these people or, at the very least, the ability to not judge and not be bothered. You’ll be much happier.

2. Keep your sense of humor. After you’ve accepted the reality of your holiday environment, remember not to be so serious about it. Oftentimes, things are funny later on, when we look back, even if they really were not funny when they were happening. Try to remember that, and go ahead and laugh about it now.

3. Step away from the chaos. Simply stepping out of the chaos — to walk, or sit, or meditate, or exercise — can help you calm your mind and improve your perspective. Whatever makes you feel more mindful and calm, do that. You’ll be able to manage your emotions better and connect with others more successfully, remaining calm when you return to the chaos without letting the holiday stress overwhelm you.

4. Say no sometimes. Don’t try to squeeze in more holiday than you can handle — physically or emotionally. We want to, or feel we need to, attend every holiday event. We want to have fun. We want to please others. We want to help. It’s the holidays, after all. But sometimes saying no is very important for your well-being. When you are selective, you’ll more fully enjoy events because you won’t be over-tired or emotionally drained. When you don’t attend an event, you can show the hosts you appreciate the invitation by sending a small thank-you gift, like a little box of chocolates with a handwritten note.

5. Give yourself a break. I often reiterate this tip, but that’s because it’s so important. We are all doing the best we can under the circumstances. So give yourself a break. Yes, you want to lose five pounds, but with champagne at every party and pumpkin pie after every holiday dinner, give yourself a break if you drink a bit and eat too much. No, you don’t want to snap at your sister when she pushes your buttons, but we often fall back into family dynamics without even thinking about it. So move on and try to do better.

Whatever you do, do your best, and when you don’t, just try again.

Cheers to all!

More Holiday (and Other Days) Stress-Busting Ideas

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Jamie Spannhake Jamie Spannhake

Jamie Jackson Spannhake is a writer, coach for lawyers, and speaker. She helps busy lawyers create lives they truly want, lives with time and space to do all the things she was told she couldn’t do as a successful lawyer. Her work with clients is based upon the principles in her book, “The Lawyer, the Lion, & the Laundry.” She spent nearly 20 years practicing law in New York and Connecticut, in BigLaw, as a solo, and as a partner in a small firm. Learn more about her at, or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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