Stressed This Holiday? Stop Pressuring Yourself

You have a lot to do — but not all of it has to be perfect
Stressed woman

Around Thanksgiving, the buildup of holiday stress begins for a lot of us. There are gifts to buy — which can be particularly stressful if you venture out on Black Friday — parties to plan, and lots of activities to try to squeeze in between now and New Year’s Day.

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But psychologist Michael McKee, PhD, says you can handle the stress by not putting too much pressure on yourself. You have a lot to do — but not all of it has to be perfect.

“You can make peace by not having to have an A for everything,” Dr. McKee says. “Not having to have an ‘A’ in the meal you serve. Not having to have an ‘A’ in house decoration. Not having to have an ‘A’ in the gifts you give. Not having to get an ‘A’ in the stories you tell. Not having to get an ‘A’ in how helpful you are to everybody else. Just drop all that self-grading and self-judgment.”

If family gatherings are a source of stress for you — as they are for many people — Dr. McKee offers a new approach to get through them: Change the way you react to the people you may not wish to be around.

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“You can make a game out of it,” he says. “Decide to be different. Decide to react differently to somebody who bugs you, and then stand back and watch. Watch what happens because it really is like a play. I mean, if you suddenly switch your lines, everybody else in the play wonders, ‘What do I say now?’”

Dr. McKee says consciously changing how you react to people will give you a sense of control and help keep you from letting stress get the better of you.

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