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  • Sonya Deol

How to Cope With Holiday Stress

Updated: Jun 2, 2023

a girl wearing winter clothes with her back turned

What is "holiday stress"?

Holidays are often portrayed as happy and exciting times with family/friends, but they can also be a time of added stress. If you already experience anxiety or depression, it can be especially challenging to manage during this season. Read ahead for ways to cope with holiday stress and learn what it is.

Reasons for holiday stress

1. Ongoing pandemic

Although restrictions have eased in many places, COVID-19 continues to be a risk. It can be stressful to think of attending larger gatherings for fear of getting sick.

2. Family obligations

Balancing various family events can make your schedule feel hectic! Not to mention if there are challenging family dynamics involved.

3. High expectations

Keeping up with past family traditions, posting images on social media, and trying to have a “perfect” holiday can create stress.

4. Loss/grief

This time of year can be a reminder of a lost family member or anyone close to you. Whatever your relationship was, it can bring up many different feelings.

5. Feeling isolated

Many people may not have others to celebrate with because they may be far from home, may have difficult relationships with their families, or may be alone. This can increase feelings of isolation.

6. Pressure around gift-buying

Going to crowded malls, picking the “right” gift, financial stress, and having a long list of people to buy for can add to holiday stress.

7. Increased workload

Some workplaces are extremely busy during the holidays and end of year which can mean long hours, additional tasks, and tight deadlines.

8. Reflecting on accomplishments

Last year's resolutions that may have not been completed can increase anxiety/stress around not feeling accomplished.

What are the symptoms of holiday stress?

  • anxiety

  • sadness

  • body aches

  • headaches

  • fatigue

  • irritability

  • sleep difficulties

  • excessive drinking

  • overeating

candy canes and christmas decorations on a table

Ways to cope with holiday stress

1. Set aside time for yourself

Engage in a self-care activity like a massage, a relaxing hobby, or being with friends.

2. Focus on your health

Limit alcohol, avoid using food to cope with stress, and don’t withdraw from others.

3. Exercise

Exercising can reduce anxiety, lower stress, and is good for your overall wellbeing!

4. Get good rest

Practice going to bed and waking up at a consistent time, relaxing before bed, and reducing screen time at least 30 minutes before sleep.

5. Be aware of your feelings

Notice the signs of stress before they get too overwhelming (challenging thoughts, feelings, or behaviours).

6. Learn to say “no”

Be mindful of taking on too much responsibility or spending too much time with people who cause you stress.

7. Get organized

Give yourself enough time so you are not rushed, plan ahead for events/outings, share tasks with others, and make organized lists.

8. Focus on what you can control

Shift your attention to how you react to problems, and not on the areas where you have little or no control.

9. Reframe how you see things

Try to view problems from different angles and restructure your thoughts.

10. Help others in need

Volunteering or donating to a cause you care about can add value to your time and make you feel part of a community.

11. Focus on the big picture

Reflect on whether it’s worth stressing out about a specific situation in the long run.

12. Get support

Talk to someone you trust like a family member, friend, or professional.

pile of christmas gifts wrapped

A mindful approach

Be okay with imperfection

We are not perfect beings and that's okay! Some imperfection along the way is expected and is normal.

Take opportunities to reflect

If something is causing you stress, it might be a good idea to reflect on why and what changes you can make.

Be kind

Reminding yourself to be understanding of your experience can be helpful, as well as responding to others with kindness.

Create small, realistic goals

Breaking down large tasks into smaller actions can alleviate your stress.

Realize that some stress if expected

Prepare yourself this holiday season by recognizing that some stress is normal.

Last of all, try to have some fun. You deserve it!


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