8 Ways To Deal With Holiday Stress


The holidays roll around every year and yet for some reason we’re never prepared for the stress and anxiety they bring us. A perfect storm of physical, mental, and emotional triggers hits all at once. Here are eight ways you can keep from getting overwhelmed by the holidays.

Make a plan to deal with it

You know it’s coming, so why not be prepared for it? Self-care is important, but it’s also vital at this time (when caring for yourself tends to be shoved aside in favor of doing things for others). Think of it as that oxygen mask on the airplane: you have to fit your own on first so you can help someone else with theirs, right? So, set up coping strategies you can use when needed, like taking a walk in the park or curling up with a book—but also schedule self-care routines just like you would schedule any other appointment: write them on the calendar, look forward to them, and most importantly, keep them.

Don’t forget to sleep

Sleep loss and depression are linked. So try not to cut back on sleep even though you’ll be tempted to stay up to get all your preparations done. The best way to do this is to keep your regular sleep schedule like normal and make sure you leave the television and electronic devices out of the bedroom. Sleep is the one thing you cannot skimp on; it’s your brain’s fuel.

Moderate food and alcohol intake

Unlike sleep, food is something you cannot let yourself overindulge in. That’s not to say you can’t enjoy the offerings of the season, but don’t gorge yourself on it. Also if you have a regular exercise routine, make sure you don’t slack off; between that and the calorie count of most holiday foods, you can put on some quick and unnecessary poundage before you know it.

Your friend the sun

In the northern hemisphere, the holidays are a wintertime event, and sunlight is less powerful due to the tilt of the earth. Sunlight is a source of vitamin D, and the lack of it can lead to tiredness or the aptly named Seasonal Affection Disorder or SAD. Taking a vitamin D supplement can help with the symptoms of sunlight deficiency, but only a doctor can diagnose SAD. Just remember the sun is your friend, even in the winter.

There are only 24 hours in a day

The temptation to “Do All The Things” during the holidays is overwhelming, but unless you have a time machine, things will get left undone. This is okay. Stress from unrealistic expectations over what you “should” do versus what you “can” do is a big problem. If you’ve already sectioned off self-care time and plans on your calendar, do not move them around to make room for the other things, even if they’re fun. Self-care routines will keep you functioning so that you can do the holiday things, so learn to triage your plans and prioritize the ones that have more meaning for you.

Perfect is the opposite of good

A lot of holiday stress centers on the family. Even if you get along great the rest of the year, the pressure cooker of the holidays can stress out even the best relationships. And the anxiety of dealing with “that one problem relative” – everyone has them, but it’s never for the same reason – can overshadow the pleasure of getting together with the rest of the family. On top of that, movies and television shows can create a stress point over the unrealistic expectations of the “perfect family.” If you weren’t perfect the other 10 months of the year, November and December won’t suddenly make your relationships any different, so why be hard on yourself about it? Aim for having a good holiday, instead of a perfect one.

Ghosts of Christmas Past

Unfortunately, if you’ve lost loved ones during the last part of the year, that loss seems indelibly linked to the holiday season from there on out. If it’s a recent bereavement, give yourself permission to grieve how you see fit, even if it means sitting out events. Some people incorporate memorial events into their holiday traditions, but that’s hardly mandatory or even necessary. Sometimes the loss can lead to a feeling of abandonment during a time when it’s all about being together. No one can tell you how to manage your loss, but if you need someone to listen to you about it, there are resources available.

What’s in your stocking?

One thing that causes anxiety all year round, but never moreso than during the holidays, is financial stress. The urge and expectation to spend like there’s no tomorrow when you know January will bring the bills can be crushing. Do not send yourself into debt buying the latest and hottest presents. Do not take on new credit cards, and for goodness sake do not get a payday loan. The one gift you do not want to give your loved ones is you working overtime to pay the bills off.