Preparing for the Holidays – Social + Emotional Intelligence Strategies to send your gremlins packing

Article contributed by Howard Fox, MA, ACC

As I sit at my computer writing this month’s ISEI™ blog contribution, I am aware that start of the holiday season is season is fast approaching; the actual holidays that is.  Even before they arrive, we can’t help but be confronted with the holidays whether we’re walking down Main Street, reading  the newspaper, watching television or listening to the radio.  Thoughts of in/out-of town family gatherings, travel planning, gift purchasing, parties, wonderful feasts, portion control, and resolutions for a new year await us.

My own stress level is rising just thinking about what’s to come, I’m sure yours is as well.  What we do know is that there is a connection between stress and illness, and a weakening of our immune system.  Our body provides us with defenses to protect us, which is very effective over short periods of time-seconds and minutes.  But if left unchecked over a longer duration – hours, days, and weeks, the debilitating effect makes us more vulnerable.

The Mayo Clinic Staff, in their online article, “Stress, depression and the holidays: Tips for coping” –, share 10 ten tips for preventing holiday stress and depression.

  1. Acknowledge your feelings
  2. Reach out
  3. Be realistic
  4. Set aside differences
  5. Stick to a budget
  6. Plan ahead
  7. Learn to say no
  8. Don’t abandon healthy habits
  9. Take a breather
  10. Seek professional help if you need it

Our model of S+EI complements very nicely with recommendations 1-9 offered by the Mayo Staff.  For # 10, if there are persistent feelings that are impacting your well-being, please do seek out your doctor or a mental health professional.

When we work with our clients on S+EI, we introduce them to a four-step process:

  1. Notice/Identify/Name the emotion
  2. Seek to understand the source of the emotion
  3. Ask yourself: How is this serving me? Or, how is this serving my relationship with others?
  4. Manage your response

The holiday season should be a time to slow down just a little, to reflect on the successes and challenges that you faced, and the opportunities and possibilities that await you in the new years.  Before you kick off the holidays, we hope that you’ll take some time to work your way through the tips that have been shared, and use our four-step process to map out your own strategy to minimize and even prevent the stress during this holiday season and beyond.

4 Responses to “Preparing for the Holidays – Social + Emotional Intelligence Strategies to send your gremlins packing”

  • Jen Marshall:

    Great reminder about naming the emotion. And the best question for me is how will my reaction to this emotion benefit anyone? If the answer is, “It will not benefit anyone, including myself”, then I work very hard at not responding in a negative manner. Of course this is all easier said than done! But I practice.

  • This is a great reminder for everyone for sure Howard, thank you! I know number one – Acknowledge your feelings- can be a tough one for me sometimes. We are so busy and caught up in life that we tend to just ‘bury’ our true feelings as we don’t want to; cause a problem, be overly sensitive or for so many other reasons. So I remind myself that by acknowleging how I feel I am being “true to myself”. It is who I am.

  • Virg Setzer:

    Howard – Excellent comments on preparing for and managing Holiday Stress. Also, I think another one of the SEI competencies that has a significant impact on our ability to recognize and manage our stress is “Realistic Optimism” which as you know is simply stated as:­ “expecting success rather than failure, seeing an opportunity rather than a threat; seeing others positively; expecting the future to bring positive change, that things will be better.”

    I can personally attest to the importance and value of developing this competency. Very early in my career I was the “nay sayer”, “the half empty glass guy”, a tendency towards “what was wrong”. Over many years I continued to work on and look at the world differently and now for the past 10 to 15 years, I have significantly shifted – in effect greatly increased my competency in Realistic Optimism. This in turn has done wonders for me in recognizing and managing my stress – under all circumstances and especially during potentially high stress periods like the holidays.

    My point – working to improve or increase one’s competency in Realistic Optimism will have a major impact on managing the stress of life as well as many other positive impacts. Of course as we well know improving our SEI competencies is not an event and not instant, but recognizing and working to improve each of these competencies, and including Realistic Optimism will have a very positive impact.


  • Hi Howard:

    You bring up a great point that the holidays are indeed times of greater stress for most of us, me included. Your four step process offers a strategy to help us reflect instead of react to our emotions. I also find that when coaching my clients on emotional self-control, I like to point out that emotions arise in the amygdala, which is the more primal part of the brain that controls our fight/flight response; however, our frontal lobe is where we are able to process rational thought. By giving ourselves more time to reflect, we can avoid impulsive actions that may actually increase our stress. This requires recognizing the emotion when it happens, preventing the amygdala from hijacking us, and allowing our frontal lobe more time to process what is going on.