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Holiday headaches


Don’t let the holiday season go to your head.

The invites are pouring in, the in-laws are asking questions, the kids are getting excited — it’s the holidays once again. And with them can come an unwelcome guest: stress. Because stress is a headache and migraine trigger, try these five solves for some of the season’s biggest headaches.

The headache: Obligation overload
The solve: Plan ahead

“Before Thanksgiving, review last year’s season for what went right and wrong,” suggests Sharon O’Neill, a licensed marriage and family therapist and author of A Short Guide to a Happy Marriage. Was your family cranky and overwhelmed at the neighbor’s open house? Then that’s one you can skip. While there may be a few celebrations you’ll most likely have to make an appearance (like Grandma’s holiday potluck or the office party), saying a firm no to the “eh” events will help keep you excited for the ones you will enjoy.

The headache: Gift-giving uncertainty
The solve: Get off the list

Etiquette expert Jules Hirst recommends sending an email to acquaintances at the beginning of the season and asking them to leave you off their gift list. That way, you won’t have the awkward one-sided gift exchange. And instead of giving individual gifts to, say, your entire social circle, suggest getting together for a cookie exchange. And for that really-hard-to-buy-for friend or family member, donating to a charity in their name can also be a meaningful gesture.

The headache: School’s out syndrome
The solve: Make a schedule

A lot of pressure can come from expecting everyone to participate in all holiday traditions. O’Neill suggests discussing the “no choice” events in advance so everything’s clear. Then talk over the free-time options with the kids: Maybe a play date with a friend or a trip to the skating rink with classmates.

The headache: Writing the holiday card
The solve: Keep it simple

No need to write a feature-length update letter or produce an award-worthy video on what your crew has been up to—a simple card is always appreciated, especially if it’s signed by hand with a personal note at the bottom, says Hirst. Include a few fun anecdotes rather than a list of everything you and your family have done in the past year. And consider that a New Year’s card can always be an option if the extra time will relieve stress.

The headache: A too-full house
The solve: Send them out — and ask for help!

Getting guests out of the house for a few hours can work wonders on your sanity. O’Neill suggests asking them for input on what they might like to do and encourage them to visit a restaurant one night, or head to a local shop or attraction they haven’t seen. And don’t be afraid to ask for help, like asking the group to help with a sandwich bar one night or putting your cousin/aspiring chef in charge of the kitchen for a meal.

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