Expectations and Holiday Stress

by: Rusty Fleischer, Program Director –

stress and dinner

It never fails, holiday season somehow creeps up on us every year, almost unexpected. And here we are, again. WE get caught up in the hustle and bustle and often don’t give any thought as to what the holiday season is about for us, particularly from the stress side of it. We know we are stressed out, but do we ever try to look at the sources of our stress?

A while back we had a group discussion on handling holiday stress and when we asked the participants to describe what holiday stress looks and feels like for them, here are some of the words they used:

  • loneliness
  • confusion
  • overwhelm
  • expenses and stress on family budget
  • juggling family relationships
  • time management
  • anxiety
  • being Jewish in a Christian society
  • missing loved ones who have passed

Many questioned the meaning of the holidays, grieving over the loss of true connection and expressing anger and frustration over the commercialization of the holidays, turning the holidays into a consumer machine filled with expectations.

A red light went on for me when I realized what a large role expectations play in our lives, especially around holiday time. Just stop and think for a moment how we are surrounded by expectations. They are coming at us from all directions, externally and internally/

Here is a list of just a few those expectations:

  • buying all the merchandise the media is throwing at us
  • fulfilling other people’s wishes
  • juggling our time between work and family
  • wearing the right clothes
  • being the right weight and exercising
  • eating healthy and feeding our kids healthy


Oh, and by the way, as we do all of this, we are also expected to smile.

In my work as Program Director of Anger Alternatives, here is what I have learned about expectations:

  • They are hidden, unspoken assumptions about what you or someone else should or shouldn’t do.
  • They leave you or someone else vulnerable to disappointment.
  • When expectations are not met, blame and shame kick in.
  • They can become a deadly trap in a relationship.
  • When not fulfilled, expectation leads to frustration, resentment, anger and being in a constant mode of super stress.

It would be both healthy and beneficial for us see the expectations for what they really are – a form of control and manipulation.

As I wish you all a very happy holiday season, I invite you to join me and really celebrate; let’s drop the expectations and help ourselves deal more affectively with the holiday stress.

And while you are at it, I would love to hear about your holiday stress and how you deal with it. And if you are need help handling the stress and other issues that come up for you at holiday time, contact us and let us support you :

816-753-5118 or rusty@anger.or


  1. I am exploring being grateful this holiday season. I have chosen to focus more on what I can give than on what I can get.
    For Christnas, I will be helping Salvation Army deliver meals to.homebound folks.

    • Thanks Paul for sharing tht. It is an very inspiring. Giving of yourself, your time and effort, is a great way to lower the stress level.

    • Thank you, for sharing that. I often get lost on the meaning during the holidays. I get trapped in the falsity of the season. Maybe that’s just it. I’ll find my own meaning, through my own confusion. That’s beautiful.

    • I am glad we are able to support you during this time. Have a happy holiday.

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