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More joy, stress less this holiday season

By Lisa Lakey

For the U of A System Division of Agriculture

Fast Facts:

  • Schrick: Don’t try to make your holidays picture perfect
  • Holiday stress can lead to unhealthy eating, lack of sleep
  • Schrick: Laugh! Enjoy the holidays

(550 words)

LITTLE ROCK -- As the turkeys are carved and the twinkling lights of decorated trees fill homes, expectations and stress also go up with the wreaths, ornaments and the inflatable Santa. Although the holiday season is meant to be a joyful occasion, many find themselves having a blue Christmas.

Dr. Brittney Schrick, an extension family life specialist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said there are a variety of reasons that people feel more stress during the holiday season. From heightened expectations and added financial burdens to disrupted routines, feeling overwhelmed can quickly zap the joy from festivities. And comparisons to another’s holiday experience can quickly exacerbate those feelings.

“We see perfect holiday meals and décor, family photos and gifts all over social media and everywhere we look,” Schrick said, “and we may feel like our efforts aren’t good enough. There is also the expectation of maintaining or creating traditions. This can be especially stressful when dealing with extended family, traveling and budgeting.”

For those who have lost loved ones, are dealing with divorce or are experiencing other emotional setbacks, she said the holidays often bring up feelings of loneliness or depression. As well as during the rest of the year, the added stress of the holidays can impact not just one’s emotional health but physical as well.

“Excess stress can lead to unhealthy eating, which is already common during the holidays,” Schrick said, “lack of sleep, difficulty interacting with others, depression, physical pain and a host of other issues.”

With a packed schedule of events, posts filled with Christmas perfection and a seemingly endless list of holiday to-do’s, how does the average person handle this demanding time of year? Schrick suggests starting with putting our dreams of the “perfect” holiday in check.

“Try to keep your expectations realistic,” she said. “Don’t attempt to make your holidays ‘Pinterest Perfect.’”

Schrick shares some advice on limiting the stress to keep the joy this holiday season:

  • Budget – “Work within a budget to limit financial stressors,” she said. “Do what you can within your means, your time constraints and your desire.”
  • Ditch “keeping up with the Joneses” – “Avoid comparing your holidays to see what you see on social media.” Schrick advised. “Just because people post pictures of all of their children dressed in matching outfits lined up by the fireplace, doesn’t mean they weren’t all screaming three seconds before that.”
  • Reach Out – “If you feel lonely or isolated during the holidays, reach out to friends, family or a community group to find connection,” she said. “If you have a loved one you are worried about, get in touch.”
  • Breathe – “Laugh,” Schrick said. “Enjoy each other, and enjoy the fun of the holiday season.”

For more information about dealing with stress, contact your county extension office, or visit

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
(501) 671-2126

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