Stress free vibes in the fall

Caring For Yourself During the Holiday Season

Hi, I’m Dr. Laura. The holiday season is in full swing and so is the pressure to create and spread holiday cheer. For many, this season is full of fun activities and traditions with loved ones. The implications that holidays equate to positive experiences are abound through stereotypes and consumerism, whether you are watching television, grabbing coffee, running an errand at the store, or engaging in small talk with a co-worker about upcoming holiday plans. 

However, the holiday season is also a time of year where people experience an increase in anxiety, depression, grief, and loneliness. If you are coping with grief and loss, financial stress, interpersonal conflict, or mental health concerns, the push and pull to partake in holiday activities can feel frustrating rather than festive. According to the American Psychological Association, at least 38% of adults have reported the holiday season greatly increased feelings of anxiety and tension. These negative feelings often stem from the following pressures:

  • Creating the perfect holiday experience
  • Mediating challenging family dynamics
  • Masking pain with a cheery attitude while you cope with loss or interpersonal conflict
  • Financial strain or job insecurity with pressure to purchase gifts, engage in costly activities
  • The toll of shorter days, and the impact seasonal change can have on mood

Read on to see if any of these common experiences are causing you to feel less holly jolly and more humbug.

Sources of Common Holiday Stress

Social Expectations

The pressure to attend gatherings, host parties, and engage in gift-giving can lead to feelings of overwhelm. The fear of missing out or not meeting societal expectations can be anxiety-inducing:

  • “Keeping Up with the Joneses” – the pressure to partake in holiday cheer and consumerism that may not truly align with your financial, emotional goals and realities
  • Various activities that make completing mandatory professional and personal tasks more stressful or less likely

Family Dynamics

Reuniting with family members can stir up unresolved conflicts, leading to strained relationships and emotional distress. These issues can resurface during holiday gatherings, causing tension and discomfort. Grief, conflict, and feeling pulled back into hurtful dynamics due to reuniting during the holidays can leave many to associate these times with negativity:

  • The loss of a loved one
  • Relationship breakup, divorce, co-parenting conflict/splitting holidays
  • Facing or sharing space with challenging family members


Financial Strain

The cost of holiday shopping, travel, and hosting events can be financially burdensome. Worrying about overspending or going into debt can lead to stress and anxiety.

Time Management

Trying to juggle work, family obligations, and holiday preparations can be exhausting. Time management challenges can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed and rushed.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

The shorter days and reduced exposure to sunlight can trigger Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression. This can contribute to low energy and increased stress during the holiday season.

How Do I Get Through The Holiday Chaos?

A common approach to holiday discomfort is to isolate due to feelings of guilt and burnt out. However, it can also be validating and normalizing to know that many people have similar experiences. As a result, it can be empowering to realize that you are not alone and there are many actionable steps you can take to improve your mood and functioning to get through the holiday season in a way that ensures your mental health is a priority. Read on to determine which coping strategies best meet your needs:

Set Realistic Expectations

Recognize that no holiday season is perfect. Focus on what truly matters, and set realistic expectations for yourself and others. You don’t have to be the perfect host or have the most elaborate decorations to create meaningful holiday memories. 

Prioritize Self-Care

Make self-care a priority during the holidays. Set aside time for activities that bring you true joy and relaxation, such as reading, taking a bath, or going for a walk. Take care of your physical and emotional well-being.

Establish Boundaries

Communicate your boundaries to family and friends. Let them know what you are comfortable with and what you need to make the holidays more enjoyable. It’s okay to say no to certain events or commitments if they cause you excessive stress.

Create a Budget

Plan your holiday spending in advance by creating a budget. Stick to it as closely as possible to avoid financial strain. Remember that thoughtful, meaningful gifts don’t have to be expensive.

Lean on Support Systems

Seek support from friends, therapists, or support groups. Talking about your feelings and experiences with others can provide validation and a fresh perspective on your challenges.

Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga, can help you stay grounded and reduce stress during the holiday season. Mindfulness can also help you let go of negative emotions and thoughts.

Make Time for (Your) Fun

Intentionally plan enjoyable activities and traditions that bring joy to your holiday season. This can include watching your favorite holiday movies, participating in festive crafts, or simply spending quality time with loved ones.

How to Cope: Specifics

Everyone can use extra support during the holiday seasons and beyond. To obtain the help you need in addressing your concerns, book a free, 15-minute consultation with Dr. Laura