How to Manage the Holiday of Expectations

How to Manage the Holiday of Expectations

By Bunny Young, MA, QMHP

‘Tis the season for giving, right?

In this time of giving how can we manage our expectations, lower our stress level, and set some healthy limits on how much we are willing to give of anything including ourselves. Expectations generally start with the word, “should.” For instance, “I should make everyone completely happy during the holidays.” When “should” occurs, so does stress. Focus on these three areas we’ve outlined below with simple advice for how to turn expectation into the joy of being present.


Even though it’s the holidays, we still have a job to do. Whether you’re trying to take time off or you’re the one picking up the slack for those who are taking time off, there’s always a list of things “to-do!” There are holiday parties to attend, cards to write, Secret Santa exchanges to participate in. The overall social expectation in a work setting can become overwhelming.

Let’s begin managing our expectations here. If you would rather be home than attend the office after-hours holiday party, that is not a must; it is a “should.” And if you are feeling pressure from co-workers to participate in Secret Santa or other holiday events, create some healthy expectations and boundaries to stay sane and communicate your needs. You might say “I need to be out of the office by 5 today, if you could email me what you need by 3 today, that would be really helpful,” or “I know we have a 4pm meeting and I need to be done by 5 so please understand when I begin packing up at 4:50 pm”.


The most important expectation to manage is your expectations of how much you can get done in the time you have. You are one person, with the same responsibilities as you had the rest of the year. This means that for each additional responsibility that you add, you will need to either put another on hold or find someone to delegate that responsibility to so that you have enough time and energy for what you are trying to accomplish.

Remember: It does not all need to be perfect! If you and your family are safe, and warm then you are doing great. Unfortunately December does not come with additional hours in the day, so take a deep breath and know that you are only one person, with only 24 hours, and that December is only 31 days.


This might be the easiest expectation to manage, however, the expectation of receiving a gift can even cause stress. If you think someone may be sending you a gift, remember – you do NOT have to reciprocate with a gift. Unless you find something that you really want to give that person, that makes you think of them and that you know they would love and enjoy, you are not required to buy every single person a gift. A call, a card, quality time are all great gifts to give and receive and do not cost nearly as much as trying to purchase gifts for every friend, family member, and co worker that you might encounter this season. If you are absolutely a gift-giver, then try staggering your gift purchases throughout the upcoming year so that the financial burden is spread throughout your paychecks rather than packed into one month or two months.

Your time is precious and valuable. Your expectations should include time for yourself, your family and for celebration this season. We hope that you found these ways to support your expectations helpful. Happy Holidays from all of us at Life Cycles Counseling.

Need more support this holiday season? Contact us today for a free consultation.

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