Holiday Stress Management

How to manage holiday stress through the practices of self reflection, discernment, and expectations.

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 As we move through the Holidays, many of us find ourselves balancing Joy and Stress.  We are excited about the gatherings, food, and magick of the season but nervous about the stress related to interpersonal conflict, to-do lists, boundaries/expectations,etc.  

So, I wanted to share a strategy that I used this pastThanksgiving that worked so well I’m double up on it for Christmas (I will have both sides of the family visiting in December, one before Christmas and one afterwards).  It is with pride and joy I share this with you in hopes that you may find support, so that you can create your most beautiful holiday gatherings as well.

This Thanksgiving my in-laws came to visit, all of us staying together in my home for 5 days, including 5 adults and 1 child in addition to my two children, my husband and myself.  I am fortunate to have lovely in-laws who are kind, helpful, and gracious.  However, no matter how wonderful we are, the combination of big gatherings and holiday expectations can create stress and conflict. Leading up to the visit, my Virgo energy wanted to be “The Hostess with the Mostess”, meaning planning and preparing gourmet meals (Thanksgiving Dinner being one of them of course), catering to everyone’s food/drink preferences, and maintaining a clean and beautiful space for everyone.  

So, my task was to create a balance between Self-Compassion and Accountability.  Meaning that my work was to discern where I needed to wrap myself in acceptance and Grace, releasing unrealistic ideas, and where I needed to direct energy and Action to accomplish my priorities.  

I reflected upon myself with as much clarity as possible, specifically around my circumstances and capabilities.  Currently, I am focused on raising two young children (9 months old and 2 years old), running a therapy/energy work practice, and preparing to launch a new Wellness business on New Year’sEve.  I am also healing and recovering after 2 pregnancies/births and COVID.  So, my physical energy, creativity, emotional bandwidth and other inner resources are limited.

GRACE – This is an ok place to be right now.  My current capacity is a direct result of choices that are in alignment with my goals and dreams and the needs of my body.  I have practices to support myself and I will use them.  I will also ask for support and with graciousness receive it.  

ACTION – I want to help prepare the house to be welcoming and warm and I want to plan and prep for a delicious Thanksgiving dinner (my husband spearheaded this like a King : ).  I also want to prioritize conversation and connection with family, focusing on love and gratitude.

Based on these reflections, I then created expectations that would help me stay present in the Beauty, Joy, and Love of the event.  For several days leading up to the visit, I repeated these expectations to myself daily, inwardly and outwardly when talking to people about the upcoming event.

EXPECTATIONS – I will have quality time with family as we enjoy meals together in my beautiful home, allowing everyone to deepen their relationships with my children, and each day we will enjoy the holiday Joy.  When I need to support myself, I will do yoga, meditation, breathwork and rituals. I will meet this experience with Gratitude and Love.  

With sincerity and integrity, I am so proud to say that it worked!!!!  I had a wonderfulThanksgiving with my in-laws.  We had delicious meals that everyone helped make and clean.  We had ample quality time because we all stayed together in the house.  We had deep and casual conversations, played games, went to holiday events, and truly enjoyed each other.  

I was never worried about the experience being terrible.  But it is clear to me, that using the practices of Self Reflection, Discernment, and Expectations supported the creation of the Best Possible Experience. These practices are not rocket science, but it takes awareness, intention, and effort.  If you find yourself thisHoliday season in the very common balance between Joy and Stress, I encourage you to engage in practices to create more Joy and Peace in your life.  If you are looking for a practice, try this one, and if you need more support reach out.


This world needs us to do our best to be vessels of Love and Light.

I stand by your side in this work, and I know that with effort we can all Shine!

Kathryn Whistler Austin LCSW




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