ADVICE FOR A STRESS-FREE HOLIDAY SEASON An Interview With Relationships Coach Lesli Doares by Virginia Haynes Montgomery

An Interview With Relationships Coach
Lesli Doares

In Home Depot last week, I came upon a huge display of Christmas décor — trees, wreaths, ornaments, etc. It wasn’t even Halloween yet but I did feel a little panic. While I love the holidays and the good feelings they elicit in people, I do get overwhelmed with shopping for the perfect gift, appearing at holiday parties and even wrapping presents. So I asked Lesli Doares, well-known relationships counselor, coach and author of “Blueprint For A Lasting Marriage,” if she had any advice for us as we head into what many of us consider the most stressful time of the year.

A graduate of Stanford University, after undertaking years of professional study and a marriage of over thirty years, Lesli has found some answers. She is known as an expert in what makes couples and family relationships successful. Since 2002, couples and individuals have been coming to her to learn how to make their relationship dreams come true.

VHM – “Is there one thing we can do to make ourselves less stressed in such a busy time as the holidays when our lives are crowded with more ‘stuff’?”

LD – “It’s really important to engage in regular self-care during the holidays. Making sure you stay on routine — sleep schedule, exercise schedule, meditation, regular meal times and menus, etc. — is critical. This means something else will have to go by the wayside. Trying to do everything you always do AND do the additional things associated with the holidays is a recipe for overload and overwhelm. Finding where you can (or need to) say ‘no’ is critical.

“Also, don’t try to do everything yourself. Ask for help and be able to accept it openly, even if it’s not perfect.”

VHM – “If you feel overwhelmed, how do you keep those close to you from feeling overwhelmed also or feeling sad because you are overwhelmed?”

LD – “Part of being overwhelmed is taking on other people’s feelings. You are not responsible for how others choose to feel. If you are concerned about the impact of your being overwhelmed, figure out why you are taking on more than you can handle. If trying to make everything perfect for everyone is what’s driving you, you need to recognize that your being frustrated, anxious, angry, depressed, etc., is in direct opposition to anyone having a good time. You will make the holidays memorable but not in the way you hope.”

VHM – “Do men feel as overwhelmed with the busy-ness of the holidays as women usually do?”

LD – “Men can feel overwhelmed in a different way. For a lot of men, the overwhelm is around time and finances. There are also a lot of individual differences involved here so it’s hard to generalize between men and women. Many people, both men and women, feel the pressure from extended family to go, go, go, go. Being caught between ‘the way it’s always been’ and what makes sense now is a source of stress and overwhelm for a lot of people. Trying to please everyone never works but it’s the driving force for many.”

VHM – “If you are visiting in-laws or other relatives over the holidays (or if they are visiting you) is there anything you should be doing to ensure there are no arguments, which can make everyone feel uncomfortable and leave a bad taste about the holiday?”

LD – “Again, you are never responsible for anyone else’s behavior. All you can do is decide what you will do if a particular scenario occurs. If an unpleasant situation arises, the best way is to divert to something else. Keep diverting until it works and then let it go. Where we all have power is in deciding how to behave. No one can make you say, do, or feel anything you don’t want to.

“I recommend not staying in the same house, if at all possible. Having a place to go to relax and recharge can be very helpful. It gives everyone a break from enforced togetherness. This is critically important for any introverts in the family. If you are all in the same place, make sure you have some time everyday where you and your family (or subsets of it) can be separate. This can be going for walks, taking in some sights, going shopping, exercising, whatever it is that you find calming.”

VHM – “If you work in an office where there is a holiday party that can get out of hand, how do you stay above it all — other than not attending?”

LD – “It can be important for your career to at least make an appearance. Have a plan for how long you will stay and what you will do while there. You don’t need to defend or justify why you are not drinking or leaving at a certain time. The more confident you are about your plans, the less others will question it. It is about being matter of fact, not aggressive. Being calm and professional in your demeanor is always acceptable in a work situation, even a social one.”

After talking with Lesli, I’m going to take another crack at Home Depot’s Christmas displays. And this time, I’ll remember to breathe!


All books are available at as well as Lesli Doares’s’ website. Click on title to learn more.

Blueprint For A Lasting Marriage
by Lesli Doares
(also available at

Common Marriage Challenges (audio series)
by Lesli Doares

Lesli Doares –

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