Last week I had the unique experience of participating in a Facebook Live conversation with PAL parents from around the country.  The topic was Coping with Holiday Stress.  The questions were excellent and while we did our best to answer them, there is never enough time to address everything related to the holidays and the pressure that comes to bear on a family.  So today I thought I would briefly mention a few follow-up thoughts on the topic.

  1. SET REASONABLE EXPECTATIONS: Acknowledge that the holidays will be different and plan accordingly.  Establish in your mind and actions that …

    –“perfect” is not an option nor a necessity

    –pleasing everyone is unworkable

    –“I shoulds” and “I musts” are the enemy of contentment


-Grieving loss is inevitable so acknowledge your pain with another and then refocus on your gratitude.

-Shift focus to who is in your life this holiday season.  Invest your energy and love into them.

-Avoid awfulizing as in “this is terrible”, “this is the worst”, or “I will never make it through”.  This extreme thinking is rarely true and compounds suffering.

-Avoid self-rating; the comparison game.  Comparing with past Christmases or other families is a guaranteed set up for unnecessary misery.

  1. PREVENT AND CONTAIN THE CHAOS:  Addicts have a knack for injecting their chaos into our lives at the most inopportune moments (holidays, birthdays, etc.).  It is imperative that you recognize and plan accordingly by….

communicating and agreeing in advance with spouse, siblings and others that these are the parameters for the holidays.  Boundaries regarding contact, gift-giving or other issues need to be clearly set in order to eliminate as much drama as possible.

  1. SELF- CARE: Whether or not you will enjoy the holidays starts with you, so …

    –Reach out and connect with the important people in your life; don’t isolate!

    –Do something different this season; a concert, church service or even an out of town experience.  Embrace the difference and enjoy it.

-Go deep into your faith and find God’s presence and comfort.

-Establish “Islands” of calm and joy by listening to music, watching a movie, baking cookies and inviting someone over.

    –Reach out to your PAL group for support.  You will always find someone who has gone through or has been where you are.

Christmas Blessings,

Ron Paterik

P.S.  If you haven’t viewed the Facebook Live event, be sure to check it out….I think you will find it valuable.  Click Here


Ron Paterik is a practicing psychotherapist in Phoenix, Arizona with over 20 years’ experience. He is a Licensed Independent Substance Abuse Counselor and a Whole Life Leadership Mentor at Grand Canyon Counseling.