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Experts share tips for dealing with stress during the holiday season

by Hannah Lynn Robinson


While there are lots of good times to look forward to as the holidays approach, the season can also bring unwanted stress. Whether it be diet concerns, the pressure of planning events or even anxiety over family gatherings, stress triggers abound.

James Madison University professors Lori Britt and Jaime Kurtz are available to discuss helpful ways to make your audience feel more at ease this holiday season.

Invite politics and religion back to the table this holiday season

During the holidays, the saying “never discuss politics or religion at the dinner table” is the motto for most families. However, contrary to popular belief, Lori Britt, professor of communication studies at JMU, says it may prove beneficial to dive into heavier topics over a meal with loved ones.

Facilitating healing conversations is the focal point of Britt’s research. Her aim is to shape dialogue that positively impacts individuals and communities.

Her teaching with the Institute for Constructive Advocacy and Dialogue at JMU is infused with a passion for training students to design and facilitate conversations where people can tackle challenging issues and impede productive and healing conversations.

Be happy during the holidays and leave the stress behind

Happiness is among Kurtz’s research interests and she even looks at how people in other countries view happiness compared to Americans. 

Kurtz has authored more than 30 books and papers on the subject of happiness, including, “The Happy Traveler: Unpacking the Secrets of Better Vacations.”

A few suggestions Kurtz can pass along to ease holiday stress include:

  • Don’t procrastinate. Spread out your shopping and other holiday prep so you’re not overwhelmed and battling crowds at the last minute.
  • Anticipate likely challenges. Is there a particular relative you always butt heads with? A person who is especially hard to shop for? Travel headaches that leave you exhausted? You can strategize on how to manage these challenges ahead of time.
  • Consider what research says about gift giving: give gifts that connect you with your loved ones (such as a spa day together), gifts that save time for busy people (a meal delivery service), an experiential gift (movie tickets or a hot air balloon ride) or gifts that somehow really say, “I understand you.”
  • Most of all, just take the pressure off of yourself. The more you try to craft a perfect holiday, the more stressed, less present, less connected, and less happy you will be!

If you are interested in speaking to either or both experts, please feel free to contact me. I would be happy to connect you.

Media contact: Hannah Robinson,, 520-222-2808

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Published: Thursday, October 31, 2019

Last Updated: Friday, May 20, 2022

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