Anxiety & Stress

5 tips to Manage Holiday Stress

A woman resting her chin on her hand sits looking into the distance looking stressed

Why are holidays so stressful?

45% of Americans report feeling stressed about their mental health during the holiday season. While the winter holidays and their traditions can certainly bring joy, comfort, and nostalgia, they also tend to cause stress and overwhelm. There’s the pressure of shopping for gifts, the busy social calendar, less time to maintain routines, and more time spent with family – which for many people means confronting strained or complicated relationships. 

Mindfully accept (or decline) invitations

Part of what can make the holidays stressful is the uptick in socializing that can leave us feeling drained. Here’s your permission slip: you don’t have to accept every invitation to every gathering over the holidays.

Some people are dealing with increased social anxiety after a long stretch of time with limited social contact. Even if you’re not anxious in social situations, your social stamina might not be as steadfast as it used to be, and you may notice yourself feeling more drained after socializing.

So take a moment to consider invitations when they come to you. Only commit to events you’re looking forward to. This will help you to preserve your much-needed energy over the holidays.

Nervous about turning down invitations? That’s understandable, but remember that it’s absolutely okay to do so. Here’s a tip: keep your response brief, and don’t feel the need to over-explain your reasoning. For example, you might say, “Thanks for thinking of me, but I will need to pass this time,” or “That sounds great, but I already have plans.”

Make Time for Self Care

The holidays are a busy time, and beyond that, the long list of demands might threaten to shake up your routine. Don’t make the mistake of sacrificing your own self-care when the days get busy and your to-do list long.

Drink plenty of water and eat nutritious foods. Make time to exercise. Leave time to wind down before bed, and try to stick to a regular sleep schedule as much as possible. By taking care of yourself in this way, you’re protecting yourself against burnout, and you’re also protecting yourself from building resentment toward others when you put their needs ahead of your own.

Expect family dynamics to remain the same

According to family systems theory, family dynamics are predictable, and the way you feel around your family is likely to be as well.

So if you tend to feel irritated around your family, expect to feel irritated around your family. When it comes time to visit with them, periodically check in with yourself. Are you feeling tense? Drained? Overwhelmed? Take opportunities to take breaks when you need them. Volunteer to run any needed errands. Take a walk or step outside for some fresh air and stillness. And remember to breathe.

Finally, don’t expect conflicts or old patterns to be resolved over the holidays. This can be a stressful time for families, and thus likely not the ideal time to try to work out long-standing issues. It’s not a personal failure if you can’t “fix” your family. Focus on taking care of yourself.

Set and Stick to a Holiday Budget

While money can be a stressor year round, the pressure to maintain a budget and get the perfect gifts for friends and family can make that anxiety even more intense. 

By preparing ahead of time, you can decide how much money you are able to spend on gifts, and buy accordingly. Or, if the budget is tighter this year, you can opt to make homemade gifts or do a gift exchange to limit the amount of gifts you and your loved ones are expected to buy. 

Talk to a Therapist

Whether you’re stressed about your family dynamic, money, or anything else, going to therapy during the holidays can help keep you grounded and ready for any upcoming stressors. If you already attend therapy, make sure to schedule an appointment before things get too hectic. 

If you are looking to start counseling, check out our network of providers here. GLPG’s network of therapists have options for online and in-person appointments. GLPG’s network is made up of many therapists with a variety of specialities to make sure you’re matched with the right therapist for you.