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Andy Leonard

Andy Leonard is an author and engineer who enjoys building and automating data integration solutions. Andy is co-host of the Data Driven podcast. Andy is no longer updating this blog. His current blog is

Holiday Stress

Photo by Brian J. Matis

Ever have one of these days? I have. According to studies like this one, I am not alone.

This is a time of year when vacations loom right alongside project deadlines. There are parties to attend, additional expenses and work around the house, decisions about what to do for whom, and more. If you celebrate by decorating a house, tree, or lawn with lights; you may find yourself fighting them like the young lady pictured here! Stress at work, stress at home – stress everywhere!

I don’t know about you, but I always feel better when I know I’m not the only person to face something like stress. I’m not happy to learn others have experienced my pain. But I take some small comfort in realizing that it’s not unique to me. I wrote about a stress-filled and dark period in my life in a post entitled Hang In There. The depths of my depression struck during the holidays that year. I didn’t suffer like some have or do, but it was nonetheless a rough patch (for me).

Mayo Clinic has some helpful tips for dealing with holiday stress and depression. I encourage you to read the full article, but the main points are:

  • Acknowledge your feelings.
  • Reach out.
  • Be realistic.
  • Set aside differences.
  • Stick to a budget.
  • Plan ahead.
  • Learn to say no.
  • Don't abandon healthy habits.
  • Take a breather.
  • Seek professional help if you need it.

Reading the fourth bullet reminds me of a conversation I had with Brent Ozar (Blog | @BrentO | SQLPeople). Brent said “Bitterness is like swallowing poison and hoping the other person gets sick.” That is very true.

Forgiveness is Hard

But that is no excuse for not forgiving.

The concept of forgiving is often confused with other stuff. It may help some distinguish forgiveness from other stuff.

  • Forgiveness doesn’t imply agreement. It doesn’t mean you believe the other person was right and / or that you were wrong.
  • Forgiveness doesn’t excuse offense. Forgiveness does not justify the offense or sweep things under a rug.
  • Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting. “Forgive and forget” is a popular and impossible saying.
  • Forgiveness doesn’t change the other person. It changes the only person that you control: you.

So what is forgiveness?

  • Forgiveness is letting go of resentment.
  • Forgiveness is a choice. It is a decision to actively not allow the past actions of another to impede, infect, or affect the present or future.
  • Forgiveness is understanding. It’s part of a realization that we all offend at some time or another.
  • Forgiveness is not allowing someone else to live rent-free in your head.
  • Forgiveness is freeing. This statement makes more sense once you have forgiven someone. Trust me.

In the Bible, Paul reminds believers we should forgive others because the Lord forgave us (Colossians 3:13). Jesus, in the Lord’s Prayer, teaches believers to pray for forgiveness of our own “debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

Forgiveness is recognized as healthy apart from the spiritual considerations. Again, Mayo Clinic has a good article on the benefits of forgiveness. Reduced stress is a major health consideration, as stress leads to a plethora of health issues.


Saying “no” is also difficult. After all, what if we offend someone? I don’t want to offend anyone either. Raised in the South, I was taught to be polite. That means not offending people. Granted, we southerners have ways of politely expressing our disaffection (“Bless your heart”). Which would you rather have happen? Over-commit and not deliver? If the idea is that good, share the opportunity, take a reduced role – there are options! But if there are no options, saying “no” is the right thing to do.

Be honest with people. They may not want to hear what you have to say. That doesn’t make saying what they want to hear more honest. And it doesn’t make it noble, despite any emotions to the contrary.

Again, difficult is not an excuse.

Stay Healthy

This one hits home for me. It is one of the reasons two of my daughters and I signed up to run the Farmville YMCA Holiday Classic 5K. Yep, my first 5K. My goal? Have fun with my girls! My second goal? Finish. I don’t know if I’ll be able to achieve either, but those are the goals. The last goal? Run the entire distance.

Enough about me! We are fast approaching the time of year where folks make resolutions. I don’t like resolutions, so here’s what I suggest: Start tomorrow. It’s the first of the month, just not the first month. Plus, if you join a gym or Y, they are notoriously empty in December. You can get going in relative obscurity! Learn your way around. Try out the equipment. Try out stuff you don’t know how to use. Connect with a trainer, enlist in a program. Get a jump start on everyone waiting for resolutions to get started! You can be a month ahead come 1 Jan 2012.


Forgiveness is but one way to alleviate stress from your holidays – and life. It is not the only way, but it is a good start. Saying “no” can help you distinguish between the important and the merely urgent. Remember to take care of yourself! People love you and want you around.

I hope you have a stress-free, peaceful, and awesome holiday season!


Published Wednesday, November 30, 2011 8:00 AM by andyleonard

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John Hennesey said:

Fantastic post.  Over the past few years I have been learning the upsides and joys of this, while experiencing the pain and accomplishment of personal growth.  For anyone reading this who it doesn't make that much sense, bookmark it.  You will be (or should be) back sometime in the future. :)

The entire post resonated with me, but the one sentence I found myself shaking my head "yes" to:

"Forgiveness is freeing. This statement makes more sense once you have forgiven someone. Trust me."

Happy holidays and keep the great posts coming!

November 30, 2011 9:42 AM

Steve Jones said:

Excellent post

November 30, 2011 10:46 AM

Julie Smith said:

Great post and the right time of year for it!   My favorite Christmas memory is based on a "forgiveness" ceremony from my mother's (Polish American) family ;they have a beautiful tradition on Christmas Eve (called Wigilia).  That night a piece of wafer, Oplatek (like communion bread) is passed to everyone in the family.  "Family members and friends break off a small piece of the opłatek wafer and give it to one another along with a blessing. Breaking off and exchanging part of opłatek with someone is symbol of forgiveness between two people"   The idea is to start the year with a clean slate--to forgive all the "trespasses" of the year.  Merry Christmas Everyone!

November 30, 2011 11:34 AM

Peggy Strack said:

Forgiveness is freeing and you don't realize it until you experience it. It's like letting go of an incredible burden.

December 2, 2011 5:00 PM

Josiah said:

Using Stones to help manage stress during the holidays -

December 12, 2011 12:46 PM

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