5 Ways to Reduce Holiday Stress in the Face of Divorce

While often called the “season of joy,” the holidays aren’t always merry for everyone, especially for those going through a major life change like a divorce. Relationship challenges and separation can make the holiday season instead feel overwhelming, stressful, and downright miserable. 

Maybe you are alone for the first time this holiday, following a split from your spouse, and trying to figure out how to take care of yourself while providing for the kids. Perhaps you feel extra pressure to maintain or rethink traditions. You might even be attending holiday parties alone for the first time in a long time, quietly declaring your relationship challenges publicly. 

Andra Davidson, Certified Divorce Coach, recently offered observations about the challenges faced by numerous families as they navigate the holiday season amidst significant life changes. In this post, we recap five valuable tips Andra offers to help you identify the emotions and reduce the stress you might experience in the face of divorce this holiday season.

1. Identify your triggers 

It’s not uncommon to feel generally overwhelmed with all that you are experiencing. If you can get clear and honest about the specific source of your stress, it will help you better address the  emotions that are coming up. Common sources of holiday stress include the following: 

  • Interactions with your ex  
  • Being worried about being alone while the kids are with the other parent
  • Changes in your family traditions 
  • Concerns about disappointing the kids because of financial or logistical strains.

Are there other questions that come up for you?

2. Create a plan 

After you clearly identify the source of your stress, sadness, or uncertainty during this time, it’s time to create a specific plan to address the issues. For example, if you’re worried about being alone during the holidays because it’s always been a time filled with social events and family gatherings, make plans now to address this concern. Reach out to other single friends to schedule holiday shopping dates, dinner plans, or outings to enjoy winter activities. Don’t forget about making connections with coworkers, neighbors, or even groups on Meetup or Facebook with common interests. Reach out to trusted friends who have strong holiday traditions and share your concerns about being alone. Chances are your friends and family would love to include you but may not know to ask. Be proactive about managing your triggers in order to create the best possible holiday experience based on your unique circumstances.

3. Set the tone 

Breaking the habit of engaging in arguments with your ex can be challenging. Consider setting aside differences and commit to taking the high road throughout the holidays. If you react less to your ex spouse, could you find more peace for yourself during this stressful time of year? Taking the high road could look like sending a simple text or email to say ‘happy holidays’ or reducing interactions to the bare minimum so that there are fewer triggering experiences that stir up emotions. Spend some time thinking about the tone you can set during the holiday season and how choosing peace might reduce your stress level.

4. Communicate with kids (in an age-appropriate way) 

If you're a parent, you probably bear the emotional weight of realizing that this year will be unlike previous ones for your children. There's no need to pretend that this year will mirror the past. In an age-appropriate way, talk to you kids early in the holiday season and acknowledge that this year looks different. Ask them what they’d like to do this year to celebrate the holidays in order to give them a sense of control over the situation. Make it a priority to incorporate new traditions that they suggest or go out of your way to maintain their favorite traditions. If finances are tight or the parenting agreement isn’t ideal, recognize that the most important thing you can do is give them the gift of your undivided attention. Work to create memorable experiences with them by being present to whatever is giving them joy this holiday season.  

5. Practice self-care and self-love 

Give yourself permission to be stressed and emotional during the holidays, and recognize how sometimes that stress is due to your own expectations. Use compassionate self-talk as if you are giving advice to your best friend as you reflect during this time. Reward your own strength and bravery with a gift to yourself. Maybe it’s a piece of jewelery to mark the occasion or simply a morning to sleep in. Consider a night out with friends, or investing time in a new, holiday activity you love. Acknowledge all that you are going through and honor yourself during this time.

Andra Davidson is a Certified Divorce Coach and trained mediator, specializing in helping anxious and overwhelmed men and women find the strength and skills to minimize the impact of divorce and come out better on the other side Friends and clients of A.M. Financial are invited to take advantage of a reduced rate of $300 on her 90-minute Kick-Start Session, which is normally $375. This offer is good through December 2023.