Taking the Stress Out of Your Holiday Season

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My mantra around the holidays is the same every season:

This year, I’m going to manage my holidays better so I don’t feel overwhelmed.

It was sometime in my 30s, when I was working morning drive in San Francisco, that my holiday celebrating took a huge turn.  My parents lived in a flat beneath us in Bernal Heights, and my siblings (I have five of them, and their families) would come out to share the holidays with them and, in turn, us.  In broadcasting, I rarely got the precise days off I wanted, so instead of being cozy and hanging out with my extended family around Christmas, I’d be tip-toeing off to work at 2:40am while they’d be snoozing all over the house.  The dinners, the kids, the gifts, the outings: well, it was a recipe for a lot of stress. So one of my family members came up with a great idea, how about if we get together during the summer, away from any major holiday, and leave the holidays to each family?  Brilliant.  For the most part, this is how we’ve maintained our strong, healthy relationships with each other since then, hanging out for our family reunions every other year.

This is just one way our family is trying to ease the tension that so many of us feel around the holidays.  And how we all live through the holidays definitely impacts how well we enjoy these times of togetherness.

(Kerri and Graeme McAfoos)

(Kerri and Graeme McAfoos)

“Every year I try to get organized earlier.  This year I did most of my shopping in mid-November, because I hate going to the mall in December,” says Kerri McAfoos, who’s watching her youngest of three sons this morning on his off-day from pre-school.

“And truthfully I buy almost everything online, on Amazon. That takes so much stress off.”

As far as entertaining over the holidays, McAfoos says instead of a big Christmas party, she hosts a dinner with 12 people, “but we’ve all learned to keep it low key.  We keep the meal simple. ”  And for the kids, “we have a group of six couples who all went to school together at C-U and we have kids the same age.  We rotate the family party at different homes, and Santa comes to the dinner.  This year, the party will be during a Broncos game, so we’ll all have fun and not get overwhelmed.”

Kerri’s tips:

  1. Re-think having a perfect blissful holiday, just enjoy the season.
  2. At dinners with kids, make things they like to go with your meals.  For her boys: sushi, spaghetti and meatballs, twice baked potatoes
  3. Get to it when you get to it.  If the decorations are just getting up now, fabulous!

Because holidays are such a mix of emotions for many of us, it’s easy to become resentful when we do things we really don’t want to do.  It’s the ‘should’ or ‘have to’ syndrome, and I’m thrilled that Dr. Ken Duckworth, medical director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness offers some great insights on Web MD on how to let these things go.

Ask yourself, ‘Why am I doing things that make me miserable?’ Think about the reasons. He suggests that you draw up a list of reasons why you engage in these holiday traditions, and then a list of reasons why you shouldn’t. Just making a simple pro and con list will remind you that you do have a choice.

photo (41)Instead of stringing up so many lights, how about a visit to the Denver Botanic Gardens “Blossoms of Light” event that’s running through New Year’s Day.

photo (42)

Maybe you’d like to take your kids and buy presents for children of homeless or needy parents.  There are many options, but here’s one Christmas Toy Outreach event that’s taking place on December 20th in Denver.


(Frozen Ice Palace, Cherry Creek Shopping Center)

(Frozen Ice Palace, Cherry Creek Shopping Center)

Or head over to Cherry Creek Shopping Center to check out what they’re calling a Frozen Ice Palace experience where you and your kids can leave your handprints in ice.


“Being more simple,” says Kerri McAfoos, is making her holidays much more manageable. “I’ve changed and I’m glad I’m learning it now.”


Email: lois.melkonian@kdvr.com                                                                                                                 Twitter: www.twitter.com/LoisMelkonian                                                                                          Facebook: www.facebook.com/LoisMelkonianFOX31

Lois’ Living Through It blogs are posted on Mondays and Thursdays.  Join her Monday mornings around 8:45am on Good Day Colorado.


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