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Peggy L. Ferguson, Ph.D.Licensed Marriage/Family TherapistLicensed Alcohol/Drug Counselor405-707-9600/ peggyferguson@peggyferguson.com

Managing Holiday Stress Articles

Peggy L. Ferguson, Ph.D.
Licensed Marriage/Family Therapist
Licensed Alcohol/Drug Counselor

Articles on Managing Holiday Stress
By Peggy L. Ferguson, Ph.D.


The Recovering Person's Guide
To Surviving and Thriving Through the Holidays
Without Losing Your Sanity or Your Sobriety

(41 Pages)
By Peggy L. Ferguson Ph.D, LADC, LMFT
This guide for managing holiday stress covers reasons why we
experience extra stress during the holidays, how stress can impact
addiction recovery, and makes suggestions not only on
how to survive holiday stress, but how to move from anxiety and
stress into effective problem solving.  Includes worksheets.
PDF file format $7.95

Add to Cart

To access the articles, just click on the title of the article. It will open in a separate word document that can be saved to your computer and/or printed off.  All articles are copyrighted.  We welcome you to use them for your own information and to share them with others as long as you cite my authorship, provide website information/link, and do not edit them.

"The Holidays" are often a great source of stress and distress for many people.  I have regrouped articles previously and recently published, along with new articles and resources to assist you in managing  your holiday stress.  The Holidays can be particularly difficult for those who are newly sober, and those in life transitions.  Therefore, special emphasis is given to these issues. 

My ebook
"The Recovering Person's Guide to Surviving and Thriving Through The Holidays Without Losing Your Sobriety or Your Sanity" can be purchased and downloaded from the Services Provided page or this page.  The Table of Contents for this ebook is available on this page.  While this ebook was written especially for people in addiction recovery, it has helpful hints, tips, activities, and worksheets that would be beneficial for anyone experiencing holiday stress. 

Table of Contents

New:  Letting Go of Perfect:  One More Tool For Managing Holiday Stress

Reducing Holiday Stress: Escaping Family Triangles

The Holiday No Win Situation and How to Deal With It

What is Holiday Depression?

The Holidays as an Opportunities to Make Amends

Home For The Holidays:  The Realities

The Holiday Expenses Worksheet

The Recovering Person's Guide to Surviving and Thriving Through The Holidays Without Losing Your Sobriety or Your Sanity Table of Contents 
To purchase this Ebook Click here > Add to Cart

"Using the Cognitive Therapy For The Holidays Worksheet" to Manage Holiday Stress

Identifying Your  Real Holiday Values to Assist in Your Stress Management

Managing Holiday Stress and Growing In Recovery

Guidelines for Developing Patience and Tolerance for Your Family During The Holidays

Two Simple Tips to Manage Holiday Stress

Common Holiday Stressors for Families in Recovery and How to Manage Them.

Holiday Stress:

“It’s the Most Wonderful (Stressful) Time of the Year”

By Peggy L. Ferguson, Ph.D.

While it is generally acknowledged that “the holidays” are stressful, most people seem to just accept that it will be stressful and continue to do what they normally do during the "silly season".  A few people will have the notion that they don't have to keep subjecting themselves to the same level of stress and emotional distress year after year, and will start telling themselves "this year it will be different".  Of those, only a handful will actually take any action to reduce their stress by changing their old thinking, feelings, and behavior. 
“The Holidays” are stressful because we are called upon to do more with our time, energy and other resources, as the demands of the season increase.  During this time of the year, normal stressors (e.g., job, family, kids’ activities, ailing parents, paying bills) don’t go away because it is Christmastime or Thanksgiving.  We add in shopping, decorating, additional cleaning, Christmas cards, holiday travel, etc. and the demands just keep increasing. Stress is the perception that the supply of time, energy, money, and other resources are insufficient to handle the demand for them.  We don't believe that we will be up to the challenge.  To read the rest of the article, follow this link.


Dividing the Holidays: 


Deciding Where To Spend The Holidays



By Peggy L. Ferguson, Ph.D.

Let the games begin.  Negotiating with your spouse and your respective families of origin about where you will spend Thanksgiving and Christmas can be tricky and can try the patience, tolerance, and communication skills of anyone.  

While it seems that your family of origin knows the “right” way to celebrate the holidays and that other families do things very strangely, you are actually comparing your own familiar family culture to others’ family cultures.  Just as other families’ ways of doing things seem stranger, keep in mind that your family culture may seem equally as stranger to others.  

As you try to problem solve about where the spend the holidays, keep in mind that your family does not have the market cornered on the “right way” to spend the holidays.  A fair and balanced approach will have you taking into account both families of origin and their family traditions when deciding on where to spend the holidays.  Alternately, it may also be the appropriate time and circumstance to develop your own family traditions and/or to spend the holidays at home.  


Holiday Traditions 

by Peggy L. Ferguson, Ph.D. 


            Families have their own unique traditions which provide order and structure to family living.  Traditions are beliefs, stories, customs, ways of doing things that are handed down from generation to generation.  These long established customs or practices take on the effect of unwritten laws or rules in the family.  Families typically do not question their traditions and view those customs as the "normal way of doing things" or as the way that "things are supposed to be done".

            Traditions seem to take on a life of their own.  Family traditions tend to be rooted in practicality and as they are passed down through the generations, they go unquestioned or unchallenged and may operate independently of the original circumstances which produced the custom.  They may also lead to a sense of "should".  The original context is lost over time, but the "should" remains.  To read the rest of the article, follow this link:  Holiday Traditions


Letting Go Of Perfect

One Major Tool For Managing Holiday Stress

By Peggy L. Ferguson, Ph.D.



One of the main reasons that many people experience so much holiday stress is that they have expectations that do not match reality and they keep trying to nudge reality to be more in line with their expectations.  The Holidays do not have to be perfect to be happy, merry, or enjoyable. 

When you spend your time, energy and money to try to find the perfect gift for each person, to plan and execute the perfect meal, and to host the perfect party with each guest enjoying every other guest, you will be exhausted and disappointed.  Instead of spending all that time and energy shopping for the perfect outfit to wear on Christmas or to that big Christmas party, consider adding a new holiday accessory to something that you that you already own, love and feel comfortable in.  That "perfect" Christmas card that you spent so much time and energy on last year is probably not remembered this year.  The fact that you sent a Christmas card probably will be remembered.  Allocate your resources of time, energy and money accordingly. To read the rest of the article, follow this link:  Letting Go of Perfect:  One More Tool For Managing Holiday Stress


The Holiday Stress Management Refrigerator List:

Or How to Reduce Your Holiday Stress With Bullet-point Suggestions

By Peggy L. Ferguson, Ph.D. 


If thoughts of The Holidays create a sense of pessimistic apprehension, angst, or even dread, now is the time to develop new Holiday Stress Management techniques that can remove you from the "overwhelmed zone" and assist you in regaining that long lost holiday spirit.

Here are some suggestions for making this Holiday Season less stressful.  You hear them each year.  You ignore the advice each year.  You get frazzled and stressed out each year.  Perhaps with daily visual reminders you will try some of these simple suggestions.  Feel free to add your own to the bottom.  Post this list to your refrigerator for a handy reminder.

  • Keep your expectations realistic and manageable.  Identify your old repeated expectations that never quite manifest.  Recall how those expectations cause you pain and resentment each year.  Allow your expectations to more closely resemble reality.   To continue to read this article please follow this link:  The Holidays Stress Management Refrigerator List


An Action Plan for Couples 

By Peggy L. Ferguson, Ph.D. 

As we get closer to the holidays, do you find yourself getting grumpy, resentful, and short fused?  Are you making a list in your mind of the things that your spouse typically does not help you with during the holidays?  Are you remembering all the ways that s/he let you down last year or in previous years?  Are you blaming your spouse for feeling overwhelmed and stressed out?  Do you find yourself getting defensive when s/he asks you a simple question?  If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you could benefit by communicating with your spouse about managing holiday stress together.  To read the rest of the article, follow this link:  Managing Holiday Stress Together



Reducing Holiday Stress:  Escaping Family Triangles 

By Peggy L. Ferguson, Ph.D. 


The "triangle" is a three person communication system in a family.  It involves an attempt to reduce stress and tension in the system by reducing the direct expression of uncomfortable feelings between two people.  The communication triangle involves a third person to carry messages between two people.

Dysfunctional families often use communication triangles to avoid direct confrontation or communication about conflict.  Ultimately, dragging a third person into a relationship between two other people is about avoidance of adult responsibility.  To read the rest of this article, follow this link:  Reducing Holiday Stress: Escaping Family Triangles


The Holiday No Win Situation and How to Deal With It 

By Peggy L. Ferguson, Ph.D.

A double bind is one of those experiences that everyone has had at one time or another.  It is the classic "Damned if you; damned if you don't" experience.  It is the "no-win" situation.  Some families have double bind situations built into the structure and functioning of the system.  It is standard operating procedure for various family members in their interactions with others in the family.  What it creates, of course, is elevated stress/anxiety, relationship tension, low self-esteem, resentment, guilt, shame, and all other manner of emotional/psychological pestilence.  It is so damaging that some psychologists once believed that it caused schizophrenia. To read the rest of this article, follow this link: The Holiday No Win Situation and How to Deal With It


What is Holiday Depression?

 By Peggy L. Ferguson, Ph.D. 

The melancholia associated with the holiday season can be a combination of several emotional/mental health factors that join together to compound symptoms of depression. “Holiday depression” can occur just before, during, or after the holidays. It is largely the “holiday season” timing of the appearance of, or worsening of symptoms that leads to the label “holiday depression. Seasonal activities, memories, and additional stress also contribute.  To read the rest of the article, follow this link:  What is Holiday Depression?


Post - Holiday Let Downs - How to Survive and Thrive

By Peggy L. Ferguson, Ph.D.

            If the holidays have left you feeling a little let down and depressed, you can restore your sense of balance and contentment by shifting your focus to the new year ahead. The torn, ragged wrapping papers, bows, and empty boxes create a sense of emptiness. A desire to fill up this void with something can create a craving to spend money. Trying to recreate that spending euphoria experienced during the holiday shopping season by compulsive spending just leads to another let down. To get over the post-holiday blues, try making a list of the things that you accomplished this year. Or, better yet, make a list of the blessings you received this year. A little gratitude goes a long way in reducing depression and disappointment.

            If you are kicking yourself over the goals of 2008 that you did not accomplish, then spend some time and energy figuring out what went wrong. Did you make progress toward those goals? Did you get completely sidetracked? Did unforeseen obstacles get in the way? Figure out what happened, but most of all, move from telling yourself that you are a failure, to using it as a problem solving exercise. Then decide what your goals for the New Year will be. Are your goals left overs from last year's goals? Are they completely different or something in between?  To read the rest of the article, follow this link:  PostHolidayLetDowns

Home For The Holidays: The Realities

By Peggy L. Ferguson, Ph.D.

The holidays are the time of the year when Americans most think about spending time with extended family. We seem to be engaged in a huge conspiratorial collusion of “shoulds” that demand that individuals and nuclear families take to the roads and skies for the yearly pilgrimage in search of the “perfect family holiday”. While visions of Norman Rockwell paintings dance through our collective heads, a nagging memory of what family holidays have really been like
offsets excitement and joy.

The difference between what we think the holidays should be like and the reality of holidays past can create a sense of longing, sadness, and resentment. Many people grieve the loss of the fantasy of “the holidays”, either as something gone that once was, or of something that never was. With only about 4% of American families representing the Ozzie and Harriet household, most people’s experience with the family “shoulds” of the holidays fall short.  To read the rest of this article follow this link: 
Home For The Holidays:  The Realities


Managing Holiday Stress and Growing In Recovery

By Peggy L. Ferguson, Ph.D.

The "Holidays" present unique opportunities to develop and practice new living skills in recovery.   Most people experience an increase in stress around the holidays for a variety of reasons.  This increase in stress brings about the proverbial blessing of an opportunity for growth.  Increased stress leads to increased need and opportunity to practice new stress management skills.  This time of year creates a demand for learning how to maintain balance while juggling conflicting life demands, and a pressure to begin to repair damaged relationships. Addiction puts tremendous strain on even the closest families.

Although the holidays have the potential to be hazardous to the health of a recovering alcoholic/addict, they also serve as a golden opportunity for healing the harm caused by addiction. Because most people hold the value that these special days "should" be spent with family, people in early recovery will be seeing some of their relatives for the first time since abstinence.  To read the rest of this article, follow this link:  Managing Holiday Stress and Growing In Recovery


Using The “Cognitive Therapy for the Holidays” Worksheet
To Reduce Your Holiday Stress

By Peggy L. Ferguson, Ph.D.

Try a little cognitive therapy to reduce your holiday stress. Cognitive therapy examines  the thoughts and beliefs that lead to feelings, and thus to behavior.  Everyone has some cognitive distortions which are irrational ideas, thoughts, or beliefs, that get in the way of optimal functioning. People acquire these cognitive distortions in many ways, including family of origin, cultural norms or biases, and personal experiences. Cognitive distortions are often a major symptom of mental health problems such as depression, anxiety disorders, and personality disorders. The things that we believe color how we take in the information in our lives. Our beliefs shape or distort the meaning that we give to events, interactions, and perceptions.  To read the rest of this article, follow this link:  "Using the Cognitive Therapy For The Holidays Worksheet" to Manage Holiday Stress

Common Holiday Stressors for

Families in Recovery and How to Manage Them

By Peggy L. Ferguson, Ph.D.

Most people and most families experience increased stress around the holidays. For families where there is addiction and/or where there is addiction recovery, holiday get-togethers can be especially difficult. Active addiction carries its own trauma in family holidays, with acting out, self-perpetuating conflicts, and self-imposed or family-imposed exile of the addict from the family.

Family members erroneously believe that once the drinking/drugging stops, that holidays will be smooth sailing from then on. Recovery in the family, especially early recovery, has its own stressors. Below are common examples of stressors that families in early recovery experience:

  • When parts of the family know about the recovery of one its members and others do not, it can create an underlying tension and anxiety among some family members.
  • While the non-addicted spouse has forgiven the alcoholic/addict, the in-laws perhaps have not. The newly recovering person may not even be welcome in the in-laws' home. To read the rest of the article, follow this link:  Common Holiday Stressors for Families in Recovery and How to Manage Them. 

The Holidays as an Opportunity to Make Amends 

By Peggy L. Ferguson, Ph.D.

"The Holidays", while stressful for many people, also offers opportunities that can enrich the lives of people recovering from addiction. Addiction brings about devastation and emotional damage to the loved ones of alcoholics and addicts, as well as to the addicted.

Some people in recovery use the opportunity of the holidays to make direct amends to those they have harmed. Yet, some in early recovery, especially, may not yet be ready to make amends. When this is the case, the recovering person should attempt to keep interactions light and to avoid old grievances.  To read the rest of the article, follow this link:  The Holidays as an Opportunities to Make Amends

Developing New Traditions For a Sober July 4th 

By Peggy L. Ferguson, Ph.D. 

The fourth of July is typically a drinking holiday for alcoholics/addicts and their families. When one person in a family of alcoholics gets sober, they often struggle to deal with the ongoing drinking traditions within that family.

It can be quite a challenge to deal with the feelings of loyalty to the family and the hurt that the newly recovering person may experience when family members do not make accommodation for their sobriety needs. On one hand the newly sober person may not want to impose on the family by asking that they not drink or not have alcohol available. On the other hand, they may hope that family members would be considerate enough to host family get togethers without alcohol to help safeguard his or her sobriety. The recovering person, like anyone else, wants to be accepted, approved of, and important to others. When someone has worked diligently in recovery to maintain his or her sobriety, s/he wants others to notice and to give credit for those efforts.

July Fourth, presents a vulnerability to relapse for the newly recovering person on a number of levels. Family and cultural events can immerse the recovering person in a cultural environment where drinking is not only available, it is considered the norm. The alcoholic is not only balking at tradition by not drinking, s/he may feel inferior for not being able to drink like non-alcoholics, feel singled out and punished by "not getting to drink" while others are, or feeling conflicted about having to choose between subjecting yourself to uncomfortable feelings or to not attend traditional gatherings or events.

The recovering person in very early recovery often feels like drinking is something precious they are sacrificing, or like they are being punished by "having to give up drinking". Being exposed to others in the family or in your circle of friends that also have a problem (at least as serious as yours), can feel painful and degrading to the recovering alcoholic.

There are alternatives to dealing with these conflicting feelings. The newly recovering person and his immediate (and even extended) family can plan an alcohol-free get together, whether it is an outdoor barbeque, boating on the lake, or attending a community fireworks show. The alcoholic in recovery can also choose to develop a whole new tradition for a sober Fourth of July.

Some suggestions as alternatives include:

1) Attend 12 step recovery events,

2) Go to the movies,

3) Have a movie marathon at home,

4) Go bowling,

5) Have a ceremony declaring your freedom from bondage of addiction,

6) Attend church 4th of July celebration,

7) Do karaoke at home with family and friends,

8) Identify anything that you like to do and ask someone you love to share that activity with you,

9) Have a gratitude celebration (maybe like Thanksgiving) for being sober,

10) Do something that your loved ones want to do that may not be your favorite thing to do, and think of it as one step in getting out of self.

Don't relapse during the Fourth of July holiday. With a little planning, creativity, honesty, and proactive problem solving, you can develop a plan to reduce the triggers and to replace old behavior with a new recovering enhancing activity that can be transformed into a new recovery tradition.

People trying to find their way into recovery (and maintain that recovery) need all the help they can get. See also my Addiction Articles and Recovery Solutions for Families with Addiction Articles




Holiday Stress Management Credit Card Debt Shopping Holiday Stress Management Visiting Family Baking Holiday Depression Shopping Feeling Overwhelmed Managing Holiday Stress Multi-tasking sadness Deciding Where to Spend The Holidays
Cognitive Therapy for the Holidays" Worksheet  Decorating  How to Manage Holiday Stress Family Get-Togethers Stressed out!  The Recovering Person's Guide to Surviving and Thriving Through The Holidays Without Losing Your Sobriety Or Your Sanity Sober Holiday Family Dynamics Shopping Stress Cooking Cleaning help  Holiday Traditions


Copyright: Peggy L. Ferguson, Ph.D., 116 W. 7th, Suite 211, Stillwater, OK 74074, phone 405-707-9600, fax 405-707-9601, email peggyferguson@hotmail.com, http://www.peggyferguson..com


Serving Stillwater (74074, 74075, 74076), Perry (73077), Perkins (74059), Cushing (74023), Pawnee (74058), Guthrie (73044), Ponca City (74601, 74602, 74604), Morrison (73061), and other local communities.

Providing services for Alcoholism, Drug Addiction, Chemical Dependency, Sex Addiction, Mental Health Issues, Depression, Anxiety, Stress Management, Addiction Recovery, Drug Abuse, Spouse of sex addict, Relapse prevention, Drug cravings, Family Business Issues, Couple Money Issues, Co-dependency, Adult Children of Alcoholism Issues, Cross-addiction, Co-occurring disorders, marital family therapy, marriage family counseling, step-parenting, step-family issues, couple money issues, grief, mid-life issues, infidelity.  Providing individual, group, marriage, family, and couples sessions.  Providing professional supervision and training and consultation services.


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