How to Cope with Stress During the Holidays 

Christmas isn’t the most wonderful time of the year for everyone. For some people, the holidays are a time of stress, anxiety, and worry. From the pressure of taking care of unwanted guests to the burden of gift-giving when finances are tight, whatever the cause of your tension this year, know that you’re not alone.

According to a 2015 Heatline survey, more than 60% of people feel stressed over the holidays, with just 10% of people stating they experience no stress at all. Almost half of holiday stress is caused by financial worries, followed by the need to maintain a healthy eating and exercise regime, choosing the perfect gift, and scheduling everything that goes on.

These are problems many people deal with every year. But if COVID-19 cases are high in your region, your stress levels could be even higher. Whether you’re concerned about your loved ones’ health or anxious about catching the virus by celebrating with others, the pandemic adds a whole new level of things to worry about daily. 

No matter how overburdened you’re feeling right now, you will get through this. You don’t have to throw the towel in and cancel the holidays. Use our tips to help minimize and manage your stress levels so you can join in and enjoy one of the most magical seasons of the year.

Five tips for coping with stress during the holidays

When your stress levels start rising, it can be challenging to take a step back and calm down. One task piles on top of another, and before you know it, things have escalated seemingly beyond control. Prevent disaster before it strikes by stopping anxiety before it takes hold.

1. Accept your feelings

DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) coping techniques (radical acceptance, in particular) can be remarkably helpful when you need to manage stress. Accept your current feelings, whatever they are. They’re valid. You don’t have to force yourself to be relaxed, calm, or excited just because it’s the holiday season. It’s healthy to express your feelings, even if they’re sad or angry ones. The key is to express them in a healthy way rather than taking them out inappropriately on others.  Talk about how you feel.  Journal about your feelings.  Meditate and go for a walk.  Don’t lash out at others, drink to mask your feelings, or overindulge in holiday treats as a means of self-medicating. 

2. Be understanding

No matter what the movies suggest, the holidays are never perfect, and your celebrations don’t need to be the same as last year. Situations change, people, grow, and traditions shift. Understand that you might not be able to celebrate in person with all your family members this year, and that’s okay.

Instead, consider meeting separately with different people for lots of mini celebrations. Or try organizing a group video call or even a holiday group message chat. It’s more complicated than ever to make plans you can stick to, given all the moving parts typical of this time of year.  Being open, flexible, and understanding is the key to having a good time during the holidays this year.

3. Budget

Avoid worrying about your finances by making a holiday budget and sticking to it. Be sure to include absolutely everything in your budget, from big gifts and stocking fillers to food and Christmas cards. It’s also worth putting a little aside for anything spontaneous or unexpected. 

When you’ve set your budget, be strict about it. By not spending more than you know you can afford, a weight will be lifted off your shoulders. You’ll also feel less stressed about buying gifts. If it doesn’t suit your budget, you can’t buy it. It’s as easy as that.

4. Have alone time

Holidays are often packed with family, friends, and neighbors. While this can seem like a great idea to begin with, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Instead of shutting yourself off from those around you, take some time out for yourself when your stress levels rise.

Take a walk around your neighborhood with your favorite music, cozy up on your couch with a book you recently treated yourself to, or even just watch an episode of your favorite TV show. Engage in any healthy activity that takes your mind off your to-do list and allows you just to be yourself and recharge. 

Spending just 30 minutes alone can be enough of a break for you to return to your guests refreshed and ready to socialize. When you’ve got a house full of people, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to slip away unnoticed, too.

5. Say no

It’s often said that you should be open to new experiences and try saying “Yes!” to every opportunity that comes your way. But it’s just as empowering and helpful to say no when you need to. Agreeing to something when you know you can’t or don’t want to can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Know your limits and respect them, and others will do the same.

The holidays are a busy time for everyone. Your friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues should understand when you have to turn down their offer because you’re busy doing something else.

If you want to participate in the activity, try dropping something else from your schedule. But if you don’t have time to do it, and don’t want to sacrifice something else to fit it in, just say no.

We’re here for you

If you need to talk to someone, we’re here for you. Schedule an appointment today, and you can speak with a therapist from wherever you feel comfortable. We understand that the holidays can be challenging, especially if you’re the one in charge. Give yourself the gift you deserve this year, and talk to someone who understands and can help you work through the next few weeks.

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. If you are in a crisis or any other person may be in danger,  these resources can provide you with immediate help:
Suicide and Crisis Lifeline 988
24 Hour Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1.800.273.8255
Crisis Text Line Text TALK to 741741