By heatherericksonauthor.comThe Erickson Family

Stress During the Holidays: How to Cope

Holiday Stress

Holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas usually mean getting together with family. It’s part of what makes the holidays special. But, it can also be stressful. Sometimes family relationships are strained, adding anxiety to the mix. What makes this worse? How can you cope with stress within your family, especially during the holidays? Part of it will depend on personality.

What’s your personality type?

Are you typically:

  • Laid back, able to roll with whatever comes at you?
  • Uncomfortable with changes in your life, even positive changes?
  • Quick to see what could go wrong, and able to find solutions to those problems?
  • Always able to keep a positive outlook, even if that sometimes means avoiding the possibility that something could go wrong?
  • Prone to depression or anxiety, unable to cope with stress?
  • Quick with a joke to lighten even the bleakest mood—even if it’s sometimes inappropriate?

A Chemistry Lesson

Family members are really like individual chemicals. Because a family is comprised of multiple people, each with their own personality and coping mechanism. When different members of a family interact the result is the emotional equivalent to a chemical reaction.

Think about what happens when one person in the family is gone for a couple of days. Have you ever noticed how suddenly the hierarchy in your home changes? Even the volume in the house will change. When our daughter, Summer, began college, she was suddenly gone for over 12 hours a day. The house was suddenly much quieter. On the other hand, when my husband goes camping for a couple of days, our daughters and I get really loud.

Sometimes, like acid and alkaline, people will balance one another out, keeping the family stable. Other times, rather than balancing one another out, the way individuals cope with stress can combine like vinegar and baking soda, and the unstable combination[1] bubbles over.

Stress in families depends on your chemistry

How to Cope with Stress under Pressure

When a stressful situation arises, such as a cancer diagnosis, an individual’s tendencies become amplified. So will a family’s interactive response. Each family is different. The way the Smith family deals with a crisis won’t be the same way the Johnson family does. Yet, these unique systems usually enable the family that’s implementing them to cope with stress in their own way. It’s important to keep your family’s way of coping in mind.

Pray for your Family

The best prevention and weapon against stress is to take it to the Lord in prayer. Set aside time each day to pray, not only for the situation but for the members of your family. Often we want to change the way someone else does or sees things. I’ve found that it’s more helpful to ask God to open my eyes to see others’ perspectives.

Think about how this works within your family. How does each of you cope with ordinary stress? In what ways is this amplified when something major comes up? Can you be more gentle with one another and support each other in healthier ways? Let the answers to these questions help you to have a more, Merry Christmas and get through the crises of life better.

[1] Vinegar, which contains acetic acid. When you add it to baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), carbonic acid is produced. Carbonic acid is very unstable and immediately breaks down into carbon dioxide and water. This carbon dioxide gas escapes causing the “fizz” you see erupting from science fair volcanoes everywhere. If you’ve never done this experiment, try it!

What are YOUR thoughts?

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In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on

Also, check out Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Children Cope with Your Cancer.

Also, put your memories into words with The Memory Maker’s Journal.

I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker

The Erickson Family, Photo by Everbranch Photography

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