Take the Stress Out of Holidays

Musicians' Assistance Program

Volume CVIII, No. 11November, 2008

Cindy Green, LCSW

The holidays are approaching and once again it seems that we are thrown into a whirlwind of activities — holiday parties, family obligations and shopping. While the season is meant to bring feelings of peace and joy, it can also be a stressful time. When we are in the middle of a busy or stressful time it can be difficult to step back and look at what we need to do to help ourselves cope better. This article is part one of a two-part series focusing on how to financially and emotionally manage through the holiday season and hopefully find some serenity for yourself. 

In recent weeks, there has been a lot of talk about money and debt. Money problems cause stress in relationships at home, at work and with friends. It’s bound to have an impact even if you haven’t been directly affected, and with the holiday season approaching our personal financial pressures will certainly intensify. A recent survey by the American Psychological Association found that 75 percent of participants found money to be the number-one source of stress in their lives. So if you think you’re alone with your money problems, you’re not. Most people have had financial problems at some point in their lives. And while managing money issues during the holiday season can be a challenge, financial experts agree that you can minimize tensions by planning ahead and managing expectations. 

Here are some tips on managing during this time of year. 

  • Work on developing realistic expectations for the holidays. Plan ahead. Don’t forget that you still need to pay your bills in January, February and March. Think about your personal financial needs for the next few months. What are your costs? What are your priorities? How much money do you need to survive with the least amount of stress? Let these answers inform your decisions about how you’re spending and budgeting during the holidays. 
  • Use cash instead of credit as much as possible. This will help you to live in the here-and-now and maintain an awareness of your resources and your needs. It will also help keep you from incurring debt that could trouble you not only financially, but also emotionally throughout the year. 
  • Talk to your family. Money problems do not go away if you pretend they’re not there. Discussing them will clarify expectations. Perhaps you can agree on a spending limit that makes sense to you. It might not be easy to adjust your expectations, after all this is the time of year when we like to treat others as well as ourselves, but by bringing these issues out into the open, it will eliminate surprises and disappointments. 
  • Recognize and accept how you’re actually feeling. Being mindful of the decisions that you make and how you feel about those decisions can help you stick to your plan.

It’s not unusual for people to feel sad or frustrated during this “joyous” time. But if you’re feeling persistently stressed or anxious or would just like to speak with someone, please feel free to call the MAP office at (212) 397-4802. We are now fully staffed, with Dorothy Gibson, social work intern Heather de Castro and myself. We are here to provide support in a variety of areas. We’re happy to spend time with you and discuss each of your individual situations and connect you with resources that can help. 

Some information in this article was drawn from, and Ebony magazine (via and