December. The time of year where all I hear is NSYNC’s chorus of “Merry Christmas…Merry Christmas…Merry Christmas and Happ-eeeeey Ha-ah-lidays”. They go on to talk about how it’s a “wonderful feeling, from the love in the room from the floor to the ceiling…”. Maybe you’d rather stick your putter head into the garbage disposal than deal with holiday chaos. Or maybe you think the holidays are the “most wonderful time of the year”. 

Whatever your holiday feelings, the most important way to achieve a wonderful (or relatively painless) holiday season is through expectation setting. These strategies are a great way to take a golf strategy you should be using and apply it to whatever your family traditions are around this time of year. 

1. Make a plan.

Or if you live with a micromanager like myself, ask for and review the plan. The more you know, the easier it is to set expectations. 

2. Based on the overall plan, identify which parts require more or less energy.

If you want to get playful, power rank all the different parts of your plan from energy vampire to re-energizing. 

3. Where applicable, identify your role within each aspect.

I cook the feast and set the tablescape and my husband is in charge of making sure the bourbon selection is outstanding and wine glasses are always full. Knowing what others expect from you can help you manage your own expectations.

4. Know when you need to recharge and how you need to do that.

You may be someone who needs to escape for 30 minutes after dinner to get away from everyone. A fresh air walk after dinner is always a great way to do that. Or maybe you need to sleep for 12 hours after hosting. Do you, boo.

5. Make an effort to avoid miscommunication.

If you’re walking through the holiday season with a partner, identify code words or phrases to communicate when you’re reaching your limit to avoid miscommunication. Keep each other accountable for finding little ways to recharge when you indicate that your tank is getting empty.

6. It’s only a matter of time.

Remember that the hours may feel long but the holiday season flies by. The holidays can kick us right in the throat sometimes, but trust that the pain is temporary and the season will pass, giving us a whole year to begin preparing for the next.


Certainly, this can be more complex when new or more intense feelings that get stirred up during the holidays. Maybe you’re struggling with the grief of a recent family death. Maybe you’ve gone through a divorce and this is your year without the kids. We can honor those feelings and make time for them by setting expectations for ourselves with a low bar that allows space for us to bow out of things that feel overwhelming and making time to take care of ourselves. You cannot pour from an empty cup, so know your limits and use those as benchmarks for expectations.

And at the end of the day, remember your reason for the season. If you reflect back on why you engage with the holiday season in the ways you choose to, it can be easier to get through the more challenging aspects. 

Still need to do some holiday shopping? Check out our Stick & Hack Gift Guide for the golfer in your life. 

Dr. Chelsi Day

Dr. Day is a licensed clinical psychologist. She is an Ohio native who completed her Bachelor's degrees in Psychology and Health and Sport Studies at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio while competing on the Varsity Swimming and Diving team as a diver. She then went on to earn a Master's degree in Sport and Exercise Psychology from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology followed by a Master's degree and later a Doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology from Antioch University New England in Keene, NH.