These Holidays Could Be The Most Stressful In Memory

Rebecca White  |  12/2/2005 3:15:21 AM

News You Can Use For December 2005

This holiday season may be more stressful than ever for some people and families. Stress resulting from our recent disasters combined with the usual holiday stress may become overwhelming.

It is important for people to take preventive measures before they are weighed down by stress, according to LSU AgCenter family development professor Dr. Rebecca White.

"Think about developing a plan for how you and your family will handle the coming holiday stress," White says.

Effective coping strategies for people and families are unique. Coping techniques that work well for one person or family may not be the best approaches for another person or family. It is up to the individual and family to determine what strategies to undertake to manage stress this holiday season.

Research in family stress provides us insights on managing the stressful times in our lives. Family life authorities Wesley Burr and Shirley Klein and their associates have reviewed decades of stress management research and have determined practices individuals can use to cope with stress. They recommend a number of strategies.

  • Accept that you are overstressed. Recognition that you are overstressed is important. Be proactive and take positive steps to cope.
  • Be accepting of others. Accept the differences in family members’ responses to the stressfulness of this holiday and the recent hurricanes.
  • Gain useful knowledge. Find information and facts about stress as it relates to holidays and crises to aid you in taking additional steps in managing your stress.
  • Change how you view or define the holiday and disaster. Reframe the situation by defining your problems in more positive ways.
  • Express feelings and affection. Clear and direct verbal expressions of commitment are important. For some, a hug or tender comforting touch can help. Seeking out and incorporating laughter in your life can be therapeutic.
  • Avoid or resolve disabling expressions of emotion. Taking a break or respite may be called for, a brief time to get away from anxiety and be passive. This can be done individually, as couple or as a whole family. Try to avoid excessive crying, shouting and expressions of anger.
  • Be aware of and sensitive to each other’s emotional needs. Effective families recognize the need for conciliation, patience and consideration during times of stress. Some find by focusing on and meeting others’ needs that they, in turn, benefit.
  • Develop family unity and togetherness. Purposefully spend more fun time with one another. Create new holiday rituals for your family.
  • Cooperate as a family. View being overstressed as a family concern. Determine to work as a unit to manage the stressfulness of the holidays. Be willing to adapt and take on new roles and responsibilities when necessary to help out another family member.
  • Build and improve trusting relationships with others. Be willing to let others help you when you are feeling down or overstressed. Seek outside help from a professional when needed.
  • Increase tolerance of each other. Be patient and understanding with others.
  • Increase adaptability. Be flexible and willing to change family roles, behaviors and attitudes.
  • Be open and honest. When overstressed, be clear and direct about how you are feeling with family and friends.
  • Listen to each other. Try to concentrate and really hear what others are saying. Avoid interrupting when someone is talking.
  • Be more aware of nonverbal communication. Pay attention to body language of your family members to aid in understanding what they are feeling.
  • Seek help and support from others. The most effective families were those able to draw upon individual and family resources (interpersonal and material) and non-family resources without difficulty and with little or no sense of embarrassment.
  • Fulfill your expectations in organizations. Try to continue participating in the community activities you are committed to. Drawing upon already existing organizational networks is key for some.
  • Be more involved in religious activities. Find ways to increase your participation in faith-based events.
  • Increase faith or seek help from a higher being. Some individuals find it helpful to pray, meditate and ask for aid during stressful times.
  • Develop independence and self-sufficiency. Learn new skills that help you feel competent, empowered and more in control of your life.
  • Keep active in hobbies. Try to think of healthy pastimes that are free or cost little and can be done easily, like walking, listening to relaxing music, singing, reading, meditation and exercising.

For related family and holiday topics, click on the Family and Home link on the LSU AgCenter homepage, at For local information and educational programs, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.


On the Internet: LSU AgCenter:

Source: Rebecca White (225) 578-6701, or

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