Share or Save this page

Stress and the Holidays: What would the Griswolds Say?

National Center for Telehealth and Technology
National Center for Telehealth & Technology (T2)

In the holiday comedy movie “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” Clark Griswold (played by actor Chevy Chase) wants a perfect family Christmas; however, things go awry quickly.

We think movies like this are funny because most of us can relate to the tales of holiday stress (aka holiday traditions) as spun on our viewing screens. Most of us have had something go wrong during a holiday gathering, particularly during a family holiday gathering.

“You set standards that no family can live up to.” – Ellen Griswold

Webster’s dictionary defines “holiday” as a special day of celebration... a day when most people do not have to work… as a period of relief.

No work? Relief? In reality, and in quite a contrast from the traditional definition, we’ve come to view the holidays – basically the time between mid-November to mid-January – as a period of great stress and anxiety with more work to be done.

“Will you please take it easy, Ellen. I’m in complete control.” – Clark Griswold

We shop, cook, clean, wrap, decorate, sing, party, entertain houseguests, drink (too much), eat (too much), spend (too much), deploy (or prepare for deployments), travel (or prepare for family separation), and [take a breath here]… did I mention deployments and family separation?

The stress of military life can be intense under normal circumstances and even more so under other-than-normal circumstances. A short time out for some needed stress relief should be added to our to-do lists like everything else.

There’s an App for That: “…the gift that keeps on giving the whole year.” – Cousin Eddie

Just like using a mobile app for your daily dose of news from around the world, there are many apps available for stress relief…and they are accessible any time of day or night, from the privacy and comfort of our homes or during a break from work or school.

A quick search in any app store provides a handful of stress relief apps, such as ones to relieve the stress of cooking dinner each night; music to help with sleeping; games designed to relieve stress; virtual vacation spots; Zen puzzles; and there are even apps where you can tickle a virtual cat or dog.

The National Center for Telehealth & Technology (T2) designs and builds mobile applications for the benefit of service members, veterans and their families.

T2 Mood Tracker

You can monitor, track and reference your moods to see how environmental influences and life stress may be affecting your psychological health. Unique features make it easy to keep a record of your emotional experience for your own awareness, or to share with your therapist or health care provider.


This app provides easily accessible relief for stress and anxiety. It guides you through a series of breathing exercises to help reduce symptoms of anxiety or stress. Practice regularly on your own or in tandem with clinical care directed by your health care provider. One of the most interesting parts of Breathe2Relax is the “body scanner” feature that allows you to review an image of the human body to learn the effects of stress on its various systems. In understanding the negative and often unseen consequences of stress, users may be more motivated to use the app on a daily basis to develop a beneficial stress relief habit. This app is of particular value to people coping with posttraumatic stress disorder.

Tactical Breather

This customizable stress management tool introduces you to the benefits of controlled breathing through tutorial and guided exercises. Primarily created for service members during intense combat situations, the app teaches you how to gain control of your heart rate, emotions, concentration, and other psychological and physiological responses to your body during any challenging situation in life.

CBT-i Coach

This app guides users through the process of learning about sleep, developing positive sleep routines and improving sleep environments. It provides a structured program that teaches strategies proven to improve sleep and help alleviate symptoms of insomnia.

For more mobile apps, or other psychological health tools developed by T2 visit the T2 website and new Mobile Health Blog.

More ideas to reduce stress:

  • Simplify: keep things as simple as possible and try not to put too much pressure on yourself
  • Plan Ahead: Get as much done in advance as you can to help with time management the day of your events
  • Enlist Help: This time of year you are usually surrounded by friends and family—don’t bear the burden of planning alone, ask for help.
  • Plan time for yourself: It’s easy to feel overwhelmed during the holidays--don’t forget about your needs and taking some time for yourself.

“Joy to the World…” – Clark Griswold

Most importantly, don’t forget to enjoy the holidays. Smile, laugh, hug, sing, play, frolic outside, volunteer — do one thing that makes your heart sing.

For additional ways to cope with stress, contact the DCoE Outreach Center at 866-966-1020, or live chat.

Comments (2)

  • Three helpful articles on PTSD and Holidays
    PDF: PDF: PDF: .pdf
  • Thank you for sharing with us!

Add new comment

DCoE welcomes your comments.

Please do not include personally identifiable information, such as Social Security numbers, phone numbers, addresses, or e-mail addresses in the body of your comment. Comments that include profanity, personal attacks, or any other material deemed inappropriate by site administrators will be removed. Your comments should be in accordance with our full comment policy regulations. Your participation indicates acceptance of these terms.

Please read our full Comment Policy.

You must have Javascript enabled to use this form.
This page was last updated on: September 14, 2017.