Managing Holiday Stress

Monday, December 10th, 2018
woman stressed from holiday shopping

The holidays present a dizzying array of demands — parties, shopping, baking, cleaning and entertaining. Stress and depression can creep up on you and ruin your holidays. Proper planning, being realistic, and seeking support can help ward off the woes of the holidays.

With some practical tips, you can minimize the stress that accompanies the holidays. You may even end up enjoying the season more than you thought you would.

Tips to prevent Stress and Depression

When stress is at its peak, it’s difficult to stop and evaluate the situation. Try to prevent stress and depression in the first place, especially if the holidays have taken an emotional toll on you in the past.


  1. Acknowledge Your Feelings. It’s normal to feel some sadness or grief if a loved one has recently past, or you have gone through a major life change such as divorce or moving away from your family. It’s ok to take some time to express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holidays. If you truly feel like you just can’t face the holidays, change things up. Take a trip, go exploring, visit friends, donate your time at your local homeless shelter.

  3. Get Involved. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events to attend. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others is also a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendship base. Head over to your local homeless shelter, nursing home or even animal shelter to be with others that also need cheering up.

  5. Set Realistic Expectations. The holidays probably won’t be perfect (they never are) or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to; be open to creating new ones. If your adult children and grandchildren can’t be with you, use Skype or Facetime to connect with them on Christmas morning to be part of the festivities.

  7. Accept Your Differences. Appreciate family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. Take a walk if you need to blow off steam. Be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are, they are feeling the effects of holiday stress and blues as well.

  9. Budget Your Funds. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget! Don’t go into debt buying gifts, that’s not what the holidays are all about. Most gifts are forgotten in the short run anyway. Think about making memories instead. The aftermath of maxed out credit cards will carry your stress and depression out longer, so just don’t overspend.

  11. Plan Ahead. Schedule your shopping, baking, visiting friends/family and activities. Plan out your shopping for both gifts and groceries so you get everything you need up front and don’t have to do any last-minute running around.

  13. Say NO. It’s ok to say no. Saying yes to everything can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in everything. Pick and choose those things that are most important to you. Yet, leave a little bit of flexibility so if something pops up that you need to accommodate, you can, and it won’t kill you.

  15. Don’t Abandon Healthy Habits. Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. But at the same time, don’t admonish yourself for having that sugar cookie. Just don’t over indulge as it will add to your stress and guilt feelings. Make sure you get plenty of rest and physical activity.

  17. Take Time for Yourself. Carve out time to reduce your stress, clear your mind and slow your breathing and actions. Take a walk, do some yoga, stretching, meditation, go for a run or take the motorcycle out for a ride. Whatever works for you, to give you a moment to reflect and find some inner peace.

  19. Seek Professional Help if Needed. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or mental health professional.

Take Control of the Holidays

Don’t let the holidays become something you dread. Instead, take steps to prevent the stress and depression that can descend during these times. Learn to recognize your holiday triggers, such as financial pressures or personal demands, so you can combat them before they lead to a meltdown. With a little planning and some positive thinking, you can find peace and joy during the holidays.

Don’t be afraid to take some moments for yourself. Sit back, watch your favorite Christmas movie or binge a little with the Hallmark channel, enjoy a glass or two of wine and absorb the warmth and kindness of the season.

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Source: Mayo Clinic, “Stress, Depression and the Holidays; Tips for Coping”