By Jude Bijou MA, MF

Many of us are glad when the holidays are over. That’s because they trigger difficult emotions, such as loneliness, depression, and anxiety. We spend too much, we eat too much, and we fret too much. And holidays upset our routine.

The goal of the holidays is to feel joy, love, and peace so you can enjoy time off with family and friends. Here are strategies to help you have a saner holiday this year.

Be Choosy with Your Yeses.

Every organization and group you’re involved with will throw a holiday party. So will your office, your friends, and certain family members. Too many parties lead to burnout, so limit yourself. Listen to your gut, and if you feel hesitant, don’t say yes. If someone wants you to host an event, only agree if you have a helper.

Make a Chores List.

Make a list of everything you need to do. For example, card writing, party organizing, shopping, cooking, work deadlines, travel/lodging arrangements, and family/friend communications. Schedule tasks on your calendar so they get done, bit by bit. Being organized helps with holiday agitation.

Deal with Your Emotions.

Don’t shove emotions under the rug. Handle them physically and constructively. If you feel sadness, perhaps because a loved one has passed, allow yourself a good cry. If you’re angry with a nasty in-law, pound or stomp out the anger when you’re in a private place. And if you feel scared because you’re meeting your partner’s family for the first time, allow yourself to shake and shiver before knocking on the door.

Listen to Your Heart.

Many of us get panicky about gift giving. If this happens, close your eyes and think about each person for a moment. A gift that’s personal and comes from your heart will be the most meaningful. Sometimes nonmaterial gifts are the best: a hand-drawn card with a message, a personalized poem, or a short video with 10 reasons you appreciate this person.

Give of Yourself.

If holidays make you annoyed, remember that this time of year is about joy, love, and peace. Ask yourself what you can do to help another person. Offer to babysit so a friend can have a night out, or bring an elderly friend homemade soup. Giving neutralizes negative feelings.

Want to find out more about attitudes and reactions that may affect your holidays? Take a quick self-quiz here, and then try the coping strategies designed to address them.

Jude Bijou, MA, MFT, is a respected psychotherapist, professional educator, consultant, and workshop leader. Her theory of Attitude Reconstruction® evolved over the course of more than 30 years working with clients as a licensed marriage and family therapist, and is the subject of her award-winning book, Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life. Learn more at